Many emerging brands ask, which is better, getting my product in-store or selling online? With only so many available resources, determining where, when, and how to dedicate your time and dollars is crucial to increasing your chances of landing a deal with your dream retailer. 

Earlier this month, industry experts from Walgreens, Allume Group, Market Performance Group, and Omnicom Commerce Group addressed the above question during our What’s Next for E-Commerce? Why Brands and Retailers Need to Rethink Their Strategy panel discussion. They gave us the inside scoop on today’s e-commerce landscape and identified future business opportunities for emerging brands.

Creating an e-commerce strategy is essential for brands and retailers looking to increase sales and thrive in the digital or physical space. Here are a few takeaways from the panel discussion:

Product discovery goes digital

Andrea K. Leigh, Founder & CEO of Allume Group

Most product discovery happens digitally regardless of whether your product is sold in-store or online. Whether it’s on the retailer’s website or social media, “nearly 80-90% of shopping journeys begin online,” says Andrea K. Leigh, Founder & CEO of Allume Group. Having a strong digital presence at the beginning of the shoppers’ journey is super important since this is when consumers discover and educate themselves on today’s available products. This supports the well-known saying, “meet the customer where they are.” It’s a lot easier to show up on a customer’s radar if you have a presence in the place they already shop, and in this case, online. 

That being said, try creating products with a “digital-first” mindset. Leigh suggests asking yourself if the product will ship well and if your packaging reads well online. Thinking about small details during product development can save you a few headaches in the future.

For a limited time, Allume Group is offering all RangeMe and ECRM members free access to their Marketplace Fundamentals & eCommerce Success Framework course. Enroll for free here.

The role of emerging brands

Janae Pasquinelli, Senior Director of Digital Merchandising at Walgreens

In today’s retail market, emerging brands have a lot to offer. Flexibility, innovation, a deep understanding of a specific audience, and the ability to diversify an assortment to bring in new customers are just a few of the reasons retailers like to work with emerging brands.   

Janae Pasquinelli, Senior Director of Digital Merchandising at Walgreens shared several benefits emerging brands bring to Walgreens. Not only do they help expand assortment, test new spaces, and gauge customers’ interest, but brands willing to utilize alternate fulfillment methods, such as drop shipping, offer the retailer a relatively low-risk opportunity.

Bryan Gildenberg, SVP of Commerce of Omnicom Commerce Group

Additionally, emerging brands often have a greater understanding of the audience they’re trying to reach because of their direct-to-consumer sales. Bryan Gildenberg, SVP of Commerce of Omnicom Commerce Group suggests leveraging this knowledge (aka data) when exploring retailer opportunities. It can give your audience and your brand more value.

The question you’ve all been waiting for

“As an emerging brand, do I focus my efforts on getting into a digital store, or do I go online first?” If you were expecting mixed answers from our panelists, this wasn’t the case. While admitting it can depend on your audience and the timing, they agreed that getting your product picked up by an online retailer was the better option.

Rachel Tetreault, Executive Vice President of eCommerce & Omnichannel at Market Performance Group suggests starting online because you can “test and learn before making the investment to launch nationally in-stores.” Beginning your selling journey online can allow you to listen to customers’ feedback through ratings and reviews and make tweaks to your product before launching in-store.

Many large retailers only bring new products into their stores once a year, so starting online can also save you a lot of time to start selling your products. While it may be easier to get your product sold online and even more frictionless to sell on places like Amazon, Leigh warns that it’s also harder to get discovered…

Content is king

…which is where content comes in. Competition may be tough, but our panelists had a few tips and tricks up their sleeves for standing out amongst other e-commerce suppliers. If there’s one area emerging brands should invest in, it’s content. Getting to the top of search engine results is no easy feat but taking the time and investment to make your product more discoverable pays off big time. Having incorrect product descriptions or bad photos slows down the onboarding process for retailers and slims your chances of meeting with them all together. Your website and social media presence should have clear and accurate content that explains what your product/business is, how it works, why consumers need it, and pair that with high-quality, engaging visuals. 

Our panelists suggest ensuring everything from titles to ingredients are optimized and clearly listed out. Today, there are tons of free tools like social media and SEO guides that help level the playing field for emerging brands competing with national brands. 

The future of e-commerce

While the shift of e-commerce’s role within retail has been a hot topic since the beginning of the pandemic, we choose to focus on the future. In the coming years, we expect the gap between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail to continue to close. Consumers have grown used to buying products whenever and wherever they want, forcing digital and physical retail to rely on one another for optimal sales. This is also the era for emerging brands to control the retail space as retailers diversify their assortments and consumers turn towards more sustainable, transparent, and value-driven brands.

Click here to watch the entire panel discussion and explore upcoming live webinars.

Hi there 👋
Want the inside scoop on all things CPG?

Get the latest CPG and retail insights, trends, and business best practices sent directly to your inbox, every week.