Investing in the Digital Commerce Revolution

Posted by Taylor Haney on Thu, Nov 14, 2013

Continuing on with our November e-Commerce blog theme we have an insightful post from Chris Langway, VP of eCommerce Business Strategist at Optaros. Chris reflects on what companies are currently doing in terms of e-Commerce and what else they need to be doing to make an impact and be successful.

Chris LangwayChris Langway has over 20 years experience in the retail, digital marketing and eCommerce industries. He currently serves as VP, eCommerce Business Strategist at Optaros, an eCommerce services company that conceives, designs, builds and supports eCommerce experiences for clients such as Stella & Dot, Nestle and Zoetis. In his current role, Chris works with current clients and prospects to devise effective strategies to accelerate eCommerce opportunities. Prior of Optaros Chris served as VP, eCommerce for Wolverine Worldwide’s performance + lifestyle group. Chris led global eCommerce business and operation for the Sperry Top-Sider, Stride Rite, Saucony, Keds, Robeez and Grasshoppers brands across the U.S. and Europe.  

Investing in the Digital Commerce Revolution
It’s time for brands to put their money where their mouths are

  • $262 Billion in US eCommerce sales

  • $1Trillion in Global eCommerce sales

  • 50% of retail purchases are influenced by digital

  • Mobile approaching $25 Billion for 2013

There are plenty of compelling reasons why brands should be turning to digital commerce. And given the stats above, a heck of a lot of them already are. They're breaking down traditional silos, hiring proven leadership and teams, integrating digital into the core of what they do, and making the right investments and tradeoffs to set themselves up for growth.

However, there are still a significant number of brands that are simply “talking the talk.” They're dipping their toes in the water, but refusing to dive in head first. Sure, marketing teams are discussing their spending shift in from traditional media to digital. And they're more comfortable than ever investing in things such as social media and digital brand content. Upload your picture. Tell us your story. Add our hashtag. It’s everywhere. But are they really as committed to digital as they claim?

In my opinion, too many CMOs just don’t get it. They're following the same process they've always used: Focus and obsess over this season's Print or TV ad first. And when their traditional creative is complete and approved, they turn to their digital teams (sometimes just weeks before launch) and ask them to integrate the concept into digital channels. Ultimately, they plug some pretty pictures into a PowerPoint deck, prove to their CEOs that they are making the shift to digital, and call it a day.

So yes, the shift is happening. But within digital itself, many companies have yet to shift their priorities towards direct to consumer, conversion-driving commerce. Perhaps most traditionally trained CMOs still struggle with how to operate with an imminently more measurable, technology-driven world.

There’s still lots of confusion and skepticism when it comes to investing in proven ROI-driving marketing (search, retargeting, affiliate). More often than not, when it comes to making the  sizable investment needed for the technology and infrastructure upon which digital commerce can grow, the same question always arises:  “Do we really need this?”

Yes, yes you do need it.Too many times I've been a part of (and witnessed) a scenario where the eCommerce team is challenged on their request for an ad spend that will bring an 8:1 return, as if an 800% return is not “good enough”. Meanwhile, the brand marketing team gets the okay to go spend significantly more on barely measurable microsites and social media experiments that are surely ROI-negative. And I’ve heard the same justification a thousand times, "This is about 'brand engagement', not 'direct sales'.”

You really want to drive brand engagement? Why not invest in some great content for your product detail pages? In my experience, most people come to your site to see all the great products you offer. In my opinion, that's brand engagement too.

Let's face it. Most of your visitors are not coming to your site to learn about the great history of your brand. Nor are they seeking out an eCommerce site where they can upload a video of their kids. At the end of the day, they're on your site because they're considering buying one of your products. So that's where you make your investment. Getting people excited about your products is a good thing…whether they ultimately buy on your site, your store or at another retailer. Embrace it!

I get it. Search marketing and retargeting campaigns aren't as sexy as TV commercials, Microsites, and beautiful print ads. But I'm willing to bet more people will see your brand on Google than in the latest issue of Lucky. Don't you want to be there for your customers when they need you the most? That's what I call driving “brand awareness”.

So while the shift is on, it's moving in slow motion for many. Brands shouldn’t be content with slow evolution. They need to embrace the digital revolution and truly do what it takes to "walk the walk" as a digital embracer. In order to do so, I'd suggest taking the following three steps.

  1. Start with the right people. Hire proven digital commerce talent. Elevate these positions in your organization and give them a voice at the leadership table.

  2. Break down silos. Consider hiring someone who is responsible for Omnichannel. Give them responsibility for driving results across all channels – creating a seamless customer experience, making investment decisions and tradeoffs, and blending teams.

  3. Invest with the bigger picture in mind: Look at digital investments as investments that go beyond the. com. If you manage to the eCommerce P&L without considering their impact to the broader brand, chances are you’ll continue to underinvest and limit your growth potential across all channels.  That investment in the platform or mobile will pay dividends in your stores and will help to build your brand and drive engagement.  

Come on, brands. You've been talking the digital talk for quite a while now. It’s time to finally put your money where your mouth is, if you ever want to walk the walk.