By Bharath Sastry
The e-commerce industry has been experiencing significant traction over time and covid has been a great catalyst. It’s essential for e-commerce marketers whether they are marketplaces or subscription sites or online services to engage with consumers and build a brand. Hence it’s essential to have a winning marketing strategy. Here’s a simple step by step guide for e-commerce marketers under the broad framework of “Go Narrow… then Wide”.
1. Focus: The first step that needs to be clear is the strategic area of focus for the brand. The area of focus needs to be narrowed down from a larger set of consumer opportunities. While there can be many consumer opportunities which are sizeable and seemingly attractive, it’s essential to narrow down on the opportunity where your brand can win. This requires a deep understanding of the needs of the consumer and an honest assessment of what the brand can offer and cannot. This is the step where most e-commerce startups fail as they tend to expand into many areas without understanding the strengths and limits of their brand.
2. Brand proposition: Once the area of focus is identified, the brand proposition or brand message or brand promise can be framed. This starts with identifying the consumer need or the ‘insight’. The benefits that the brand provides to satisfy this need is the brand proposition. A great way to frame the brand proposition is to write down the features and benefits which make the offer compelling to the consumer based on the insight.
The above two steps are long term in nature, they are seeds that you must sow for the tree that’s about to grow. Now it’s time to scale up.
…. then Wide
3. Communication: The brand message now needs to be communicated to consumers. For e-commerce brands, it’s obvious that digital media is going to play the primary role of communication. The first step is to leverage the brand’s owned media itself, namely the website or social media pages or blogs by providing relevant information and building on content, and then leverage free channels like SEO and emails to communicate the brand
message to consumers. Once this is maximised, there is opportunity to invest in brand building through video advertising in a sustainable manner, and performance channels like paid search.
4. Innovation: Consumer wants are constantly evolving and it is essential for brands to innovate to address them. Identifying these changes and formulating relevant products and services is vital to scale up. For example, with the pandemic leading to a behavioural shift of remote working, an e-commerce player in furniture can innovate to provide home-office solutions. Similarly, a traditional wealth management firm can attempt to provide remote wealth advisory, a traditional ad agency can start creating quick and snappy digital videos for their clients, etc.
The above steps are the water that is regularly needed for the tree to grow and yield those fruits. Finally, it’s important to measure the marketing efficiency. There are many analytical tools and research methodologies to track efficiency of a campaign, from tracking improvement in site metrics as well as brand studies. Apart from these, an excellent way to measure the efficiency of marketing spend is to calculate the time taken for a new consumer or a cohort of new consumers to break-even and then become profitable. The point of break-even is the time when profits from the consumer purchases equals the marketing spend.
The framework also implies that marketers need to behave differently at different stages. To go narrow, marketers need to be razor sharp and choiceful. And to go wide, they need to be creative and expansionist. So go forth with ‘Go Narrow… then wide’ and enjoy the process of significantly scaling up an e-commerce business and building a brand for the ages.
The author is CEO of Vistaprint India
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