Surekha Ragavan
Apr 30, 2020

How to succeed in ecommerce during a pandemic: Reprise

Handy tips for brands from the agency’s global ecommerce heads.

A JD.com staff preparing shipments at a warehouse in China
A JD.com staff preparing shipments at a warehouse in China

Reprise’s regional ecommerce heads around the globe joined heads for some expert advice on dealing with significant changes to retail during COVID-19, plus advice on leveraging the surge in ecommerce spend. Here are some takeaways.

Don’t go dark

This isn’t the first time that brands are told to keep their lights on at this time. This particular report echoes that by explaining that when ecommerce brands shut down their advertising, it creates a void. And when competitors see a void, they rush to fill it. This is especially apparent among small, nimble challenger brands who are rapidly evaluating category and competitor keywords and moving quickly when they see a gap they can fill.

One example is coffee brand Barsetto which has been taking advantage of an increase in caffeine demand as many work from home. In February, the brand increased its sponsored products spend, and as a result, its organic share of shelf went from 0.54% to 3.67%. Quickly and surely, the brand managed to push out more established competitors (who may have cut back on spend) and pay its way to sales and share.

Of course, when a product goes dark on ecommerce, it also forces the algorithm to shift. As algorithm is still monitoring the product history, less traffic on a brand page means that organic search ranking declines as a result. And instead of a positive feedback loop, the product is now on a downward spiral, allowing its competitors to rise.  

The report predicts that it may take months for brands to reclaim the share lost to competitors, which shows that a few weeks of going dark can lead to decreased revenue for months.

Redistribute assets in ecommerce

The report says that while brands are enoucouraged to still spend, it’s important that they realise gains by putting additional resources into ecommerce.

One example is Chinese cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan, which was forced to close 40% of its stores in Wuhan during the crisis. However, the company redeployed over a hundred beauty advisors from those stores to become online influencers using platforms such as WeChat. As a result, its sales in Wuhan grew 200% in that period compared to the previous year.

Having said that, it’s also important for brands to continue to invest D2C relationships.

Practice a ‘war room’ mentality

The report says that now is the time for brands to treat the next few weeks like each day was Singles Day. Instead of monitoring KPIs weekly or monthly, they should be checked daily with all hands on deck.

This, according to Reprise, is important to ensure that correct KPIs are in place and to understand shifting consumer demands. As information around COVID-19 is changing daily at a rapid pace, this will ensure that brands are reacting to the most current information. Three metrics the report suggests revenue, search ranking, and pricing.

Plus, a relevant and continually shifting content strategy is important for brands, and this could make or break a brand’s performance post-outbreak. One suggestion is to focus on store pages and push the limitations of rich media in this areas. On Lazada, for instance, product ranking is highly depended on product content, so this makes content strategy essential.

Stay ahead of stock

Stock has been erratic during this period and as a result, brands and retailers have reduced or stopped inbound shipments of non-essential items. This unpredictability means brands could be shifting spend from one ecommerce platform to another. This is another reason the ‘war room’ mentality as mentioned above is key.

Out-of-stock products can hurt a brand’s rankings on a platform, so the report suggests sellers to temporarily shut down a product listing and when the stock is back, it can be reactivated with existing data in place. This process may not affect the algorithm in all marketplaces, but any period longer than seven days isn’t advisable as it could negatively affect rankings.

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