It is no secret that brand image and identity are everything in the modern cutthroat business environment, particularly if you distribute through e-tailers. You will need a solid brand in order to stand out from your competitors and capture your customers’ attention. There is a preconceived notion in the field of e-commerce that e-retail teams cannot do anything about their brand image as the products are sold through third-party channels. However, this assumption is not true.
Brand image is about delivering a consistently positive brand experience end-to-end. From social media to packaging, from your website to customer support. Right in the middle of this experience is your e-retail distribution, so your e-retail team should strive to maintain consistency.
It is true that in an e-retail configuration, as a brand, you can’t directly edit product pages. However:
- This does not mean that you can’t do anything about product page content
- More importantly, the brand image in e-retail is about a lot more than product content.
In this article, we’ll look at the different levers available to e-retail teams when it comes to improving brand image.
Set up a Selective Distribution
Selective distribution is a kind of distribution strategy which lies between exclusive and intensive distribution. The strategy involves selecting distributors and e-tailers based on a specific set of rules. Here are some benefits when your brand adopts a selective distribution strategy:
- Maintain and enhance your brand image by only associating with trusted e-tailers who are in line with your strategy; and
- Improve market coverage, which positively impacts your brand awareness.
You should collect feedback from your customers and gradually phase out e-tailers that undermine your brand perception. A selective distribution assures that, in the long run, you’re only working with e-tailers you can trust to deliver adequate pre-post sales services and shopping experience.
Negotiate and monitor product assortment
Building product ranges and carefully planning your assortment enhances how shoppers perceive your brand. It’s key that your customers are able to pick from a wide range of variations (color, sizes, capacity…). They should also have the opportunity to buy accessories alongside the main product.
All e-tailers tend to favor the SKUs with the highest margin and turnover. But your brand is not just about its best-selling 20%. And e-tailers may fail to get that bigger picture if they just analyze profits at the SKU level.
E-retail teams should set objectives in terms of share of assortment, then negotiate with e-tailers individually. Most importantly, they should monitor how the assortment gets implemented and quickly identify discrepancies in the negotiated assortment.
Remedy Critical Out-Of-Stocks
Obviously, OOS will cost you sales. But it does not stop there; your products are less likely to show up in search results while they’re unavailable. Even after they come back in stock, they will still suffer from a reduced sales velocity. On top of that, stockouts make your brand look unprofessional and search algorithms will push substitutes from your competitors.
E-retail teams should know that e-tailers might be slow to react. That’s why you should have systems in place to alert you whenever a critical out-of-stock happens.
Identify Gray Market Sellers
As the name suggests, the gray market is not illegal; however, it is not officially sanctioned by brands, either. When gray market products are readily available to consumers, especially online at huge discounts, it is likely to cause brand damage.
Additionally, gray market sellers often do not follow the brand's protocol for pre-post sales services. They may be selling factory rejects or cross-border imports. These under-the-radar transactions could sabotage your team’s effort to build a high brand positioning.
By actively scouting the market for gray sellers, you will be able to identify the leak in your distribution channels and protect your brand image.
Set up and enforce a MAP policy (where applicable)
Minimum advertised prices (MAP) policies are only legal in some countries (like the United States). Many brands use them mostly for profit and margin reasons. Indeed, they do help to slow down intra-brand competition. But MAP policies also help protect the brand image.
Price is a large part of how customers see your brand. When e-tailers heavily drop the price of your products, it erodes the perceived value of your brand.
MAP policies only work if they are enforced, which is notoriously hard to do manually. That’s where e-retail solutions with efficient price monitoring come in handy.
Plan, execute and monitor synchronized promotions
While unending discounts are detrimental to your brand image, promotions are still a great way to draw attention to your products and boost sales. They can be especially efficient if your entire network executes them at the same time.
A way to do this is to plan promotions that make sense business-wise, then offer your resellers the opportunity to opt-in. Of course, the promotion should come with a sell-out allowance from your brand.
During the promotion period, it’s crucial that you check whether the e-tailers applied the discount. Sometimes, e-tailers forget to end the promotion without the brands noticing.
Answer Priority Reviews
Responding to priority reviews is a crucial way to stay in contact with all your customers. Well-thought-out and courteous responses help your customers feel acknowledged while impressing potential customers.
The benefits of responding to reviews are actually twofold: you can attract and engage new customers with your attentive and thoughtful responses, and you can also boost retention rates, which can have a considerable impact on your business’s bottom line.
Customer reviews also strengthen trust and give credibility to your brand. Monitoring reviews is, therefore, a strategic action to sharpen your online appearance.
Assure Product Listing Quality
And last but not least: product content. We intentionally listed this last, because our point is that brand is not just about content! But it doesn’t mean that content isn’t important. If you don’t ensure product listing quality, your products are less likely to rank well and, hence, you will lose significant sales to your competitors. Content also massively influences conversion rates and perception. By incorporating content, such as comparison graphs or lifestyle photographs, you can define your brand voice and highlight the core values and benefits of your brand.
In particular, you want to make sure that product titles, images, descriptions and rich content are all up to your standards.
On sites like Amazon, as a vendor, you can edit pages for your products, so there is no excuse for poor content! On other sites, the situation can vary widely, but it’s important that you have a clear vision of where product content is lacking.
These eight actions take into account the essential elements in e-commerce monitoring metrics. And the great news is that e-retail teams have a lot of control over them! From setting up distribution channels to auditing the product listings at e-tailers, your team will be the key to improve your brand sales and your online reputation.