14 April 2020

Building new eCommerce capabilities fast

Despite the downturn in in-store/physical purchases during the COVID-19 crisis, there has been significant growth in digital commerce.

Deliveries are up 59%, and subscription services are up 183%. And it’s not just virtual products and delivery services doing well; 46% of consumers are more likely to buy clothing online, and nearly 65% are more likely to head to the internet to buy personal care products, according to recent data from Red Points.

Some brands are finding new ways to continue business through digital commerce, either by developing greater eCommerce strategies and shifting comms to promote online ordering, or by adapting the products they sell in order to fulfil consumers changing needs.

So, here are our four recommendations of how to increase sales through digital commerce:

Close the gap between comms and commerce – make every touchpoint shoppable

Communicate to your existing and new consumers that orders can still be placed, whilst ensuring that all forms of digital communications are not more than one click away from facilitating that purchase.

Brands are offering new digital commerce opportunities through all their owned channels, such as phone, WhatsApp, email or leveraging customer service teams.

For a brand to do this, they need to either fulfil orders directly through their owned channels, or by directing traffic from every digital touchpoint to a 3rd party seller.

Harvey Nichols in the UAE launched ‘WhatsApp to Wardrobe’ allowing consumers to browse its product range on social, liaise with its customer services team via Messenger, Phone or WhatsApp and benefit from quick delivery with pay on arrival options.

Switch physical distribution to eCommerce platforms

Online platforms like Amazon marketplace, Etsy and Deliveroo allow businesses to begin selling at both speed and scale. The typical marketplace model allows brands to continue to own and manage their own stock until it’s sold (from either their own warehouse or on a consignment model).

No matter the category or market, there are plenty of online partners available. Some examples of brands who have quickly pivoted to leverage this are:

  • Supermarkets: A UK supermarket has recently partnered with Deliveroo to scale its online revenues, with over 120 of its stores now easily accessible to the masses via the Deliveroo App.
  • Restaurants: With footfall to restaurants significantly down, online takeaway orders are a key focus to continue business operations. Within 48hours a platform called Support Local Restaurants launched overnight, onboarding 300 restaurants in 48 hours to provide marketing, ordering and delivery capabilities.
  • Deposits & Vouchers: Businesses that do not have physical products to sell online can continue business growth through leveraging credit, deposit and voucher sales on Marketplaces such as Amazon and Tmall. This allows orders and revenue to continue with a delayed fulfilment of the actual product or service.

An important consideration is evolving consumer shopping behaviours during this pandemic. Successful businesses are combining products with other products in their portfolio that sell well together to make buying easier and maximise basket value.

Additionally, as consumers are tending to buy more, but in fewer buying occasions, it is important to offer product bundles in line with shopping behaviour. There has been a 300% increase in searches around ‘bulk buying’ and ‘multi-packs’, so offering larger bundles, perhaps with a bulk discount, can help keep sales volume up.

Launch a Direct-To-Consumer eCommerce platform

Businesses are quickly activating their own direct-to-consumer (DTC) eCommerce proposition. The process is achievable in the short-term by using a ‘plug and play’ eCommerce provider like Shopify, WooCommerce or Squarespace. It is also important to adapt the existing brand website, making it ‘eCommerce ready’ with a shoppable catalogue, online payment integration, order management system and delivery options.

An important consideration when investing in DTC eCommerce is to ensure there is sufficient traffic-driving online media, particularly if this is brand new for the business. Online media consumption is up, as is search traffic for home delivered products, so brands employing DTC methods need to invest, or redirect budgets from other activities, to promote their new commerce facility.

Fulfilment of online orders is another key consideration, so it is important to factor in delivery services, or partner with an existing delivery operation to fulfil on orders placed.

Adjust your product portfolio to suit evolving requirements

For many businesses, simply switching to selling online won’t be the only answer, particularly where the use of the actual product or service is less in demand during periods of lockdown.

Brands need to reconsider what their core product range needs to be during these times. It is important to profile potential shoppers’ new purchase behaviour and refine routes to market (RTM), products, packaging (physical/virtual), retail communication and supply chain.

There are several examples of brands switching focus from their core range to something more in demand. For example, luxury fashion brands have switched to making hospital gowns, whilst beer manufacturer, Brewdog, is now creating hand sanitizers.

Whereas these pursuits actively look to help the global health pandemic, there are opportunities for brands to adjust their product focus from within their own product portfolio. Perhaps even switching from a product offer to a service offer, to keep the brand salient.

New service models, such as webinars, online training, and content access have all been utilised by brands that are adapting to new consumer requirements. With these new services, it is important to also consider payment models, such as subscriptions, instalments, or pay-later.

Key takeouts 

  • Ensure all digital touchpoints are clickable and drive to specific commerce opportunities
  • Provide new routes to commerce where they haven’t existed before, including ordering via social channels such as WhatsApp or Messenger
  • Partner with businesses with existing delivery networks to provide fulfilment of orders
  • Create product bundles to make buying easier and consider bulk orders to satisfy consumer buying habits
  • Consider building a DTC operation and ensuring the website is eCommerce-ready with full catalogue, online payment integration and delivery options (perhaps with an existing 3rd party delivery network)
  • Re-assess the product range and identify if there are other products in your range that are currently more in demand
  • Consider evolving your product offering to virtual services such as webinars, online training and content access, with new payment models such as subscriptions


Stefanie Cunningham, General Manager MENA

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