e-Commerce Perfect Store is an evolution of the traditional retail Perfect Store philosophy, updated for the online channel.
Perfect Store – or variations on the theme – is central to the offline retail channel go-to-market strategies of some of the world’s largest FMCG companies, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble. Like its offline-equivalent, e-Commerce Perfect Store defines a shopping experience – based on a set of actionable and measurable fundamentals – designed to maximize a brand’s chances of sell-out in an online retailer. It is founded on responding to the features of e‑commerce platforms, the behaviors of online shoppers, and measuring and improving execution over time.
e-Commerce Perfect Store Success Criteria
e-Commerce Perfect Store strategy hinges on a number of essential success criteria, some of which mirror Perfect Store parameters in offline retail. Fundamentally, consumers need to be able to easily find your products amongst the vast array of options available in online stores; understand and engage with the offering without being able to touch and feel a physical product; and purchase available items for ‘click and collect’, or delivery.
The success criteria for the online channel are segmented into six key actionable parameters – Portfolio & Availability, Content, Visibility (Search & Category placement) , Price, Ratings & Reviews, and Promotions, including iMedia. To achieve e-Commerce Perfect Store performance, all of these elements need to be optimized to one degree or another. The relative importance of each depends on product category, level of competition, e-commerce site, and market e‑commerce maturity.
Portfolio and Availability
Understating why 100% product Availability is essential for success online is easy. It’s the same issue as offline, consumers can’t buy your product if it’s not available. However, many online retailers carry less stock than traditional retailers so keeping key items in stock and available for purchase requires closer attention than it might offline.
At the same time, products that sell well offline do not necessarily perform in online retailers. As such, your perfect e-commerce channel portfolio could vary significantly from the offline equivalent.
Content is King! We never tire of repeating this cliché because it is true when it comes to e‑commerce. Product detail page Content is central to product discovery (driving online store search results), shopper reassurance and conversion (in place of physical product), and brand awareness (web search results, first-moment-of-truth).
The development, maintenance, and distribution of product Content for the e-commerce channel is one of the greatest challenges for brands in the current retail environment. Great content – the right combination of keywords, imagery, videos and product descriptions – can be the key differentiator for your products, helping consumers understand what they are about to buy. Your e-Commerce Perfect Store strategy needs plans and goals around the creation, management, hosting, distribution and monitoring of content.
Visibility - Search & Category Placement
In the not too distant past, when brick and mortar retail dominated, Search results were not on the agenda. Today, as online platforms become the retailers of choice for consumers, product manufacturers recognize Search as an essential Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
Top of the Search results page is equivalent to eye-level on the retail shelf. Anywhere beyond the first page is like languishing on the bottom shelf, at the back of the store, gathering dust. To maximize e-commerce sales, a product needs to land as close to the top of the Search results page as possible for specific keywords related to its category.
While most shoppers use free text search to find products on e-commerce platforms, a significant proportion of consumers forgo search to browse through the category menu. Indeed, in vertically focused e-retailers such as pet or electronics retailers browsing from category to subcategory is often more popular than search. If your product is featured in the wrong category/subcategory pathway, these browsing consumers won’t be able to find it and buy it.
Category, or menu-rank, is a key Visibility performance indicator in e-commerce because of the virtuous circle that sees correct categorization and placement drive conversion, and conversion and sales being rewarded with better placement by e-commerce sites.
Pricing strategy is always a balancing act. Brands want to maximize their average selling price, while ensuring there’s scope for promotional activity. In addition, individual product profitability, for both retailer and brand, has greater significance on highly data-driven e-commerce platforms where prices change frequently.
To optimize performance, brands need to identify listing opportunities that deliver on profitability and promotional goals, while also monitoring price fluctuations and working with retailers on individual items where profitability is at risk.
Amazon for example, refers to items that are structurally unprofitable as CRaP (Can’t Realize a Profit). If this happens It will attempt to renegotiate costs with the supplier. Until the issues are resolved CRaP items will lose most of their ‘privileges’ on Amazon. They will be removed from Subscribe & Save, and are unable to use Amazon Advertising. Sometimes Amazon will remove the listings altogether.
Ratings & Reviews
User generated content is another success criterion unique to e-commerce. Since Amazon pioneered the concept in 1995, Ratings & Reviews have become an important harbinger of e‑commerce success. Consumers rely heavily on them to help narrow the vast choice available online.
Optimizing Ratings & Reviews performance to compete with rival products is now an essential part of achieving online channel success.
The last of the six key parameters to consider in your e-Commerce Perfect Store strategy is Promotions and advertising (iMedia). In parallel with transforming retail, e-commerce platforms such as Amazon are also fundamentally changing the promotions and advertising world. In recent years, the line between Point of Sale trade marketing and digital brand building has blurred.
The e-commerce channel offers a powerful platform to deliver trade marketing while building product and brand awareness in parallel. Doing it right means having a data-driven strategy to guide the way.
Planning and Executing your e-Commerce Perfect Store Strategy
To help brands plan and execute effective e-Commerce Perfect Store strategies eStoreMedia has developed an easy-to-follow framework. The e-Commerce Perfect Store Framework borrows heavily from lean start-up, and strategic planning models such as OGSM (Objectives, Goals, Strategies, Measures – the strategic planning process adopted by numerous Fortune 500 companies).
It was devised to help brands identify, implement, monitor and improve effective tactics to ensure their products are easy to find, easy to understand, and easy to buy in key online retailers. The stages of the framework are:
The first step involves establishing the relative importance of each of the key success criteria discussed above in relation to your products, and the categories and markets where they compete. Getting the strategy right is the essential first step and it includes making decisions with respect to choice of online stores, assortment, price & promotions, rating & reviews, search optimization and iMedia planning. It’s such important step that we’ve created an eBook focused solely on e-Commerce Perfect Store strategy that you can get here.
Step Two involves getting more into the detail of shaping your plan for execution, including defining content elements and iMedia assets, success criteria and targets by market.
How are you going to provide retailers with in-depth guidelines and all the necessary assets and content? You will want to have tools to standardize and automate as much as possible of the process.
The most successful brands online are winning because they’re obsessive about measuring and monitoring the right KPIs. If you want to improve something, you need to measure it on an ongoing basis, and e-Commerce Perfect Store performance is no exception.
Ongoing monitoring will identify daily gaps versus expectations – products out of stock, missing or out-of-date content, losing search rank to a new competitor and more. Gap-closing is an ongoing battle to maintain and improve online channel presence and performance, driving sales.
Iterate to Improve
The entire process is iterative. Brands measure, learn and improve as they execute to optimize presence and performance in online retailers, and ultimately further increase online sales in collaboration with key online retailer partners.
Essential Tools for e-Commerce Perfect Store Success
The e-Commerce Perfect Store Framework is built on a suite of tools and services from eStoreMedia that offers seamless integration from e-commerce strategy planning to content execution and performance measurement. The tools and services provide full category e‑commerce analytics, end-to-end content management, and Al‑based eShopper Research enabling brands to plan, measure and execute effective e-commerce strategies, to win online. They include.
eStore Digital Shelf Automation Products
eStoreCheck - Full-category, scalable e-commerce analytics, enabling global brands to measure e-commerce performance and identify actions to drive online sales growth.
eStoreContent - Complete Product Information Management (PIM) platform for e‑commerce content creation, approval, hosting, management and retail-partner syndication.
AMZ Navigator - The Amazon performance solution for brands, integrating eStoreCheck analytics with third party and Amazon data, and the best in class content management capabilities of eStoreContent.
eShopper Research Offerings
eStoreJourney – Detailed analysis of your online brand presence to determine how your products engage with consumers across their online shopper journey.
eShopper Review Analysis – Transforming online ratings & review data and content into valuable, actionable consumer insights for your brands.
Let us help you build your Perfect Store online! Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.