As the pandemic accelerates the shift to digital, ecommerce becomes both an opportunity and a threat to brands. During his virtual LIONS Live presentation, WARC vice president of content David Tiltman and a panel of marketing executives discuss how the rapid growth of ecommerce will change how brands approach media and why brand and creativity will remain key along the way.

Ecommerce’s first implication for brands, Tiltman notes, is that it forces consumers out of usual purchase habits and into new ones. According to a Kantar study, during lockdowns, 56 percent of households with kids have tried new products, which they’ll continue to buy.

To capitalize on changing consumer behavior, brands must look at the total brand experience they can offer, from rethinking packaging and pricing to enhancing the unboxing experience. “What you lose in the ability to talk to customers and let them touch and feel your products, you have to make up for in your customer experience,” says Cheryl Calverley, chief executive officer of Eve Sleep.

Effective marketing in the age of ecommerce also requires marketers to get closer to the supply chain.

“Supply chain is a top-line growth driver for ecommerce, it’s not a cost-cutting exercise. It drives second moment of truth. We see vulnerabilities for brands impacted by damages like leaking, broken trigger sprays and bruised fruit. That’s all damaging that second moment of truth. Supply chain is the opportunity to make second moment of truth outstanding,” says Patrick Miller, co-founder of Flywheel Digital, whose client roster includes Procter & Gamble.

Ecommerce is also changing the way marketers view performance media to drive sales. One trend that encapsulates this shift is the rise of shoppable formats. For example, Instagram’s recent expansion of virtual storefronts for businesses and Snapchat’s forthcoming shoppable show represent opportunities for marketers to take a consumer directly to sale.

Another trend that has arrived with the rise of ecommerce is livestreaming ecommerce, which has already gained significant traction in China. There, livestream shows combine influencer marketing, video content and ecommerce to create “retailtainment” (retail and entertainment) experiences that drive community and sales.

Elijah Whaley, chief marketing officer of the Chinese influencer consultancy Parklu, points to the success of cosmetics brand Perfect Diary, which launched in 2016 and became a top-selling brand on China’s Tmall in 2018 and again in 2019. Instead of focusing on the top-of-funnel like brand awareness and programmatic advertising, Whaley says Perfect Diary has poured efforts into fostering community. To do so, the brand created a virtual influencer around which it launched a program store and product line. The result: Perfect Diary has over a million customers in what’s called “private traffic,” or online audience, on WeChat.

Lastly, Tiltman advises brands to resist the shift to short-termism, which has produced the creativity crisis. For example, brands have spent more on ecommerce and less on brand advertising, leading to diminished campaign effectiveness.

“Digital channels prove themselves quite well in a silo, but you need to understand how it fits into your whole mix,” says Jerry Daykin, EMEA media director of GlaxoSmithKline.

In addition to looking beyond attribution models, Tiltman suggests reserving budget for brand building.