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eCommerce Sales Strategy: Shift From Brick-and-Mortar to Online

In 2023, 19% of global retail sales occurred online, underscoring the critical importance for established brands to embrace an effective eCommerce sales strategy as they make their foray into the digital arena.

Transitioning from brick-and-mortar selling to an eCommerce sales strategy is a significant pivot for brands and introduces a virtual marketplace that operates under a different set of rules. The shift challenges brands to adapt to platforms like Amazon, where success demands an active presence and a strategic approach tailored to online retail.

In this article, we tap into the insights gleaned from our interview with James Thomson, an authority on eCommerce sales strategy with a background in shaping online retail for businesses. We’ll explore all aspects of undergoing this transition, from developing a well-rounded plan for Amazon to mastering active brand management and harnessing the power of data for insightful market expansion.

The need for an Amazon eCommerce sales strategy

James Thomson stresses how “every brand needs to have an Amazon channel strategy.” That assertion highlights the platform’s critical role in contemporary retail.

Amazon is more than a sales channel; it’s a laboratory for experimentation, growth, and customer engagement. As such, brands that were once staples of physical retail stores must integrate into Amazon’s complex ecosystem, which offers both unparalleled opportunities and new challenges.

Thomson’s distinction between brands that predate Amazon and those born on the platform underscores a significant shift in retail strategy: “The world—my world has been divided into two different groups of brands: One is the brand that was already alive and well in physical retail, and the other one was the entrepreneur who decided, ‘I want to run a business, I want to build a brand, or I want to be a reseller, and I’m gonna start on Amazon to make that happen’.”

Understanding the Amazon ecosystem

Thriving on the Amazon marketplace as part of an eCommerce sales strategy is more complicated than simply listing your products for sale. Businesses must also learn and employ Amazon’s tools and services to their benefit. Two key elements of Amazon’s ecosystem are the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program and Amazon Prime eligibility.

Amazon FBA

FBA lets sellers store their products in Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon then handles the shipping, customer service, and returns for those items. This service is great for sellers because it eliminates the logistical headache and helps them grow their businesses more easily.

James Thomson shared his experiences from the early days of FBA, explaining how showing off Amazon’s large network of warehouses convinced many brands to join. They realized that, even if they had their own warehouses, Amazon’s setup across the country would enable them to deliver items quickly and secure the Prime label, which made them stand out to shoppers.

The importance of prime eligibility

Being Prime eligible is incredibly important, as it opens access to Amazon Prime members, who pay for benefits like fast, free shipping. These subscribers also tend to buy more due to the trust they ascribe to the Prime badge (and its accompanying benefits), so Prime-eligible products often sell better.

When deciding whether to use FBA and aim for Prime eligibility, brands also need to consider the costs and benefits. They have to determine if the increased sales from Prime eligibility are worth the fees and loss of some control over how their products are shipped and handled.

Making the most of Amazon

Besides enrolling in FBA and taking advantage of the Prime badge, to see lucrative results on Amazon, brands also need to craft enticing product listings, respond to customer reviews, manage their prices wisely, and keep an eye on their inventory. Applying Amazon’s advertising options can also help products gain more notice. Amazon also offers tools to help brands protect their products and ensure customers receive the right information to help them make their eCommerce sales strategy successful.

Ready to make a strong first impression? Learn more about optimizing your product listings.

Multi-channel eCommerce sales strategy and diversification

With their vast customer base and sophisticated logistics, Amazon presents a rich opportunity for brands to flourish. However, James Thomson challenges brands to think beyond the Amazon ecosystem, asking, “Once a brand gets to a stable state on Amazon, how do you help that brand think about expanding into other channels?”

This call for channel diversification is intended to increase sales avenues as well as fortify a brand’s presence and narrative across the retail spectrum. A robust multi-channel strategy can leverage brand success on Amazon to explore and conquer new territories, whether it’s through direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels, other online marketplaces, or even international platforms.

Diversification in an eCommerce sales strategy also allows brands to connect with a wider audience, reduce their dependency on a single sales avenue, and mitigate risks associated with changes in market conditions or platform policies.

However, expanding to new channels requires a level of marketing insight beyond what’s necessary for success on Amazon. It involves mastering different tools and strategies, from search engine optimization (SEO) for your web store to engaging with customers on social media platforms and adhering to international eCommerce regulations (for those who branch out into global markets).

Each channel has its own set of rules and customer expectations. As such, Thomson emphasizes the need for brands to be agile and adaptable, ready to learn and apply new marketing techniques that cater to diverse audiences and platforms. That might mean developing new skills in content marketing, customer relationship management, or digital advertising.

Active brand management

Maintaining control over your brand is another critical component of an eCommerce sales strategy’s success, as sellers and platforms can blur brand messaging and undermine pricing strategies. Thanks to his work with businesses that have struggled against unauthorized sellers and inconsistent branding, James Thomson understands the intricate challenges of managing a brand online.

He poses them important questions such as, “How do you clean up your channel?” and “How do you take back control of the branding contents to ensure consistent branding across all channels?” Cleaning up a channel and regaining control involves several steps, each aimed at solidifying the brand’s presence and integrity.

It starts with identifying and addressing unauthorized sellers who may dilute the brand’s value by selling counterfeit products or diverting sales through gray market activities. Brands must leverage legal solutions and platform policies to protect their intellectual property and ensure only authorized sellers offer their products.

Equally important is taking back control of the brand’s narrative. This entails auditing product listings across all platforms to ensure product descriptions, images, and pricing align with company standards. Discrepancies in branding content can confuse customers and weaken brand loyalty. To aid in this endeavor, tools like Amazon’s Brand Registry are designed to help brands protect their trademarks and control their product listings to maintain a consistent brand representation.

Active brand management extends beyond defensive measures though. It encompasses proactive strategies like engaging directly with customers through social media, buyer reviews, and Q&A sections on product pages. These interactions expand brand visibility and build trust and loyalty by showing consumers that the company is attentive and responsive to their needs and feedback.

Additionally, brands must monitor the marketplace continuously for new threats and opportunities. That means keeping an eye on competitive dynamics, customer preferences, and changes in platform policies. It also requires flexibility in marketing and branding strategies.

Leverage data for market expansion

Gathering and analyzing data from online platforms like Amazon can give brands valuable insights into who their customers are, what they prefer, and how they behave. This information is crucial for understanding the market, spotting trends, and identifying new opportunities for product development.

James Thomson stresses Amazon as a key resource for this kind of data, pointing out their unique position in the eCommerce sales strategy landscape. He remarked on the abundance of public information available through the marketplace, stating, “There’s really no other huge destination like this that has so much public data that brands can leverage.” This supports the platform’s unmatched ability to provide insights that can drive strategic decisions and market expansion for brands.

By analyzing customer reviews, search terms, sales data, and competitive performance, brands can learn customer needs and preferences. They can then tailor their items and marketing strategies more effectively, develop new products that fulfill unmet needs, and improve existing offerings.

Also, tracking how competitors price their products, what promotions they’re running, and how they position themselves in the market can reveal valuable insights for strategic planning. Brands can identify opportunities to differentiate themselves and find niches where they can dominate.

The role of advertising in eCommerce

Advertising in an eCommerce sales strategy has transformed significantly with the advent of targeted advertising techniques. Amazon has been at the forefront of this shift by leveraging their extensive first-party data to place ads strategically.

That information allows Amazon to understand consumer behaviors and preferences, which enables brands to tailor their advertising messages to specific market segments.

In the interview, Thomson pointed out the innovative aspect of reaching diverse customer groups through mass media while delivering personalized messages to each segment: “That’s really interesting to be able to target different customers in mass media and send them different messages.” This evolution in advertising empowers brands to communicate more directly and meaningfully with potential buyers, enhancing the relevance of their marketing efforts and improving the efficiency of their ad spend.

As eCommerce continues to grow, the ability to synthesize data-driven insights to craft and deliver customized advertising content is critical to capture consumer attention and drive sales. That not only helps brands stand out in a crowded marketplace but also fosters a closer connection with their audience by addressing specific needs and interests, thus elevating the overall shopping experience.

James Thomson’s strategy for investing in global eCommerce is all about helping online shopping grow around the world, especially in places where it’s not yet fully developed. He supports companies that improve eCommerce, like making delivery faster or improving marketplace infrastructure.

Thomson believes everyone, no matter where they are, wants a wide range of products, low prices, and quick delivery. These tenets drive his investments and show brands how they can reach new customers in different countries. He focuses on underserved markets, suggesting there’s a big opportunity for brands to grow by addressing these gaps.

By investing in technologies and platforms that address the specific challenges of these markets, such as logistical hurdles or payment processing issues, brands can expand their reach but also contribute to the growth of the global eCommerce landscape. This not only positions brands to capitalize on emerging market potentials but helps shape the future of retail worldwide so eCommerce becomes more accessible and satisfying for consumers everywhere.

Looking ahead

Staying ahead in digital retail requires brands to be vigilant and adaptive. Thomson stresses the need to maintain strong control over how a brand is represented online and ensure its message remains uniform across platforms. This coherence is vital to prevent inconsistencies that can dilute a brand’s identity and negatively affect pricing strategies.

“Brands need to control their channels so that they don’t have price erosion across channels,” Thomson cautions, highlighting the risk of letting others dictate your brand’s narrative and value. He also notes the importance of being flexible and responsive to changes, especially in how products are marketed and advertised online.

As new advertising technologies and platforms emerge, brands must be ready to embrace these innovations to stay relevant and connect with their target audiences. This adaptability isn’t just about keeping up with trends but also leveraging new opportunities to engage customers more effectively and stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Looking ahead, the key for brands lies in their ability to manage their online presence meticulously. They must ensure uniformity in how they’re perceived across various channels while being nimble enough to capitalize on new marketing avenues. This balanced approach is crucial for brands to thrive in digital retail, where control, consistency, and adaptability are key to sustained success and growth.

Wrapping up — Make the transition from brick-and-mortar to an eCommerce sales strategy

The journey from brick-and-mortar to an eCommerce sales strategy is fraught with challenges but also ripe with opportunities. James Thomson’s insights draw a roadmap for established brands to navigate this transition successfully.

Companies can enjoy lucrative results on the digital marketplace by embracing a comprehensive Amazon strategy, actively managing their brand presence, leveraging data, and adapting to new advertising patterns.