Identifying & prioritizing issues every e-commerce leader needs to resolve during the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
The most recent webinar from eStoreAcademy, moderated by retail expert, author and commentator Marc Baker, included essential e-commerce learnings from the beauty and white goods categories. Marco Suurland, head of e-commerce Benelux at COTY, and Katarzyna Arciszewska, digital and e‑commerce activation manager at Whirlpool joined forces with eStoreMedia’s Lukasz Stebelski to share some of their experience from the COVID-19 frontline, and how they are using data to prepare for post-pandemic e‑commerce.
Data Shows the Way
As the initial effect of COVID-19 was felt in March 2020, according to COTY’s Marco Suurland, interest in the beauty category plummeted. Google searches for items such as toilet paper went through the roof, but Google Trends data showed “people weren’t thinking about beauty [products].”
However, looking deeper into available data, including e-commerce analytics from eStoreCheck, COTY discovered that impact was not uniform across all online retailers. Some retailers had clearly deprioritized beauty products in favor of everyday essentials, he explained, but others continued to push, and even accelerated effort in the category.
Even in the initial stages of the pandemic, it was also clear from the data that some sub-categories were growing, despite the crisis. With nail salons closed, COTY’s nail color business expanded four-fold in March and April 2020, and is still growing, according to Marco.
COTY has been using eStoreCheck for more than two years, and Marco said the data and analytics it provides is enabling it to identify and focus on three key fundamentals – Availability, Content and Hybrid Retail – in the drive to boost online sales during, and after COVID-19.
Availability and Out-of-Stocks
The closure of physical stores meant that, after the initial hiatus, the vast majority of beauty product sales switched to the online channel, leading to immediate pressure on stock levels in online retailers. Before COVID-19 COTY’s daily out-of-stock levels, as measured in eStoreCheck, rarely went above two percent, in April some online stores had out-of-stock levels up to 74%, Marco said.
By monitoring product Availability in online retailers daily, COTY is able to identify online retailers with sufficient stocks of its products and adjust online marketing efforts to push consumers to ‘stocked’ sites. This means it is able to create and fulfil demand, and it is not wasting valuable advertising budget.
Focus on Content
Even before the pandemic, COTY had a relentless focus on delivering high quality online content to its online and offline retail partners. The closure of physical stores means it has been able to concentrate even more resources on its online channel content creation efforts, involving not just the e-commerce team but also the entire company.
In the past two years, COTY has increased its content compliance score in its eStoreCheck OneNumber dashboard from 20% to over 70%. Since March, it has accelerated its efforts. Marco believes the work to improve 'owned content', as well as consumer generated content such as Ratings & Reviews, will continue to pay off in the long-term, as the expanded e-commerce sector becomes the new normal.
Rather than depending solely on first party retail to fulfil consumer demand, COTY is also selling through marketplaces such as Amazon Marketplace. What Marco referred to as having a hybrid retail solution, enabling the brand to connect directly with consumers, avoid uncertainties and be more flexible.
Whirlpool Daily War Room
Whirlpool is a more recent eStoreCheck user, starting with the e-commerce analytics solution in December 2019. According to digital and e‑commerce activation manager, Katarzyna Arciszewska, the household appliance manufacturer follows a straightforward sales formula focusing on growing customer acquisition, increasing conversion rates and mastering cross selling.
Katarzyna explained that because it had eStoreCheck the company was ready to face the COVID-19 challenge when it struck. “When COVID19 hit, we established daily and weekly digital-shelf war rooms, with all hands on board and a revised strategic plan guided by eStoreCheck,” she said.
Whirlpool also invested in education and training to ensure widespread understanding of the issues, and how to use e-commerce analytics for greatest advantage. The daily e-commerce action plan involves ongoing analysis of:
- Product Availability – to ensure products are in stock, and direct action to replenish stock if they are not.
- Product Visibility – focused on achieving stringent first-page of search, share, and rank targets.
- Rich Content & Images – monitoring to ensure online retailers are correctly using content and images provided.
- Ratings & Reviews – a recent addition to daily targets for Whirlpool, which will grow in importance over time.
“Despite COVID-19 we grew our OneNumber Score by 25 percentage points,” Katarzyna said, adding the flexibility of the eStoreMedia's e-commerce analytics tool, which enables brands to customize key performance indicator (KPI) targets by market, and data quality were also central to its successful implementation.
The session was wrapped up by eStoreMedia’s Lukasz Stebelski. He warned attendees that the COVID-19 crisis, with its underlying structural changes, ticked all the boxes for product and brand disruption. Shoppers are already switching. A recent survey shows 69% of consumers are open to trying new brands, and up to 45% of them are willing to make the change permanently, he said.
Lukasz outlined three areas where brands need to strengthen their focus to avoid losing consumers:
Monitor and protect product availability. Like COTY and Whirlpool, he said brands need to tightly track out-of-stocks in online retailers, and drive accountability with a robust weekly/daily process, but he added brands should also look at extending assortments and monitor buy box activity.
Watch the competitive landscape. Be clear who your competition is, what new products are being launched, and how competitors perform in terms of search & promotions.
Build re-trial and fight for your consumer. Re-prioritize categories. Win conversion with e-content, understand star-rating drivers, and ensure you achieve your fair share of search.
“Shoppers won’t come back automatically, just by default once you’ve lost them. You need to fight to get them back. You might need to reprioritize categories, make sure you have a winning conversion story with e-content, and make sure you know what’s driving your e-star rating,” he concluded.
Thanks to our contributors Marco Suurland, head of e commerce Benelux at COTY, and Katarzyna Arciszewska, digital and e‑commerce activation manager at Whirlpool, and our Moderator, Marc Baker, Tyde.