The NDA Roundtable: From the High Street to eStreet – Shopping, Reimagined

Brands including Reckitt Benkiser, Pet Mate, Signify and Roc Skincare were brought together by NDA, in partnership with marketplace specialist agency Maze-One UK, at a virtual roundtable debate to discuss how brands today can stand out online and reach new customers through marketplaces in particular. 

The rise of Direct-to-Consumer has been supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic, with more people shopping online – and more often – than ever before. 

It’s a trend likely to continue, according to those working in the retail sector, as even those previously uncomfortable with buying online have gotten over the fear factor; others are happier to buy brands they would previously not have considered, particularly from places such as Amazon that already have a customer relationship – some 16m+ active Prime users in the UK alone.

Amazon, at the end of April, announced a surge in revenues of $75.4bn in the first three months of the year, equating to over $33m an hour. That’s quite some going for a business that was founded in 1994 as a bookstore but now straddles all aspects of commerce and technology. 

From the High Street to the E-Street

Maze-One UK founder Rupert Staines said: “We are really seeing the transformation of the High Street to the e-Street.” He hoped that the High Street would reinvent itself as a community hub, while shoppers would flock to a brand’s own digital sales channels and, increasingly, marketplaces which were the “shopping malls of the future and that future is already with us”. 

However, he cautioned that marketplace strategies were as complex as those for search and social: brands should not expect to be able to simply list and be found. 

Unsurprisingly, they are on different trajectories and levels of sophistication: all attendees, though, agree that marketplaces are an increasingly vital strand in a holistic retail strategy. 

ATTENDEES: Bas Van Kesteren, Reckitt Benkiser’s EU ecommerce director; Remco Evers, HG manager of ecommerce and marketplaces; Gracia Amico, chair of Pet Mate; Remco Schevenhels, ecommerce manager, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting); Roger Morgan-Grenville, MD of Dexam; Jane Savage, head of marketing and channel strategy for Roc Skincare; Tejesh Adavi, Nutravita’s head of marketplace strategy, sales and operations; Jag Lehal, founder of JAG London; Frank Mertens, founder of FM Consulting; Maze-One London’s co-founders Rupert Staines and Dan Brown

Some of the brands represented were born online, others via digital marketplaces, and some were looking at how to boost their digital presence and sales over the coming months and years.  

The general consensus, though, was one of excitement about the opportunities ahead, despite the impact Covid-19 has had across the board. 

Every brand must reconsider its strategy

Nutravita’s Adavi said every brand would have to change tack in light of how the pandemic has changed or accelerated consumer behaviour. “There has been real growth in the ecommerce sector, and we think that that’s going to continue over the course of the next year. Every company is going to have to figure out how to deal with that and revisit their strategies,” he said. His is a company that was born on Amazon, with a transactional brand website following the year after – Amazon remains its biggest source of sales. 

Amico, of the DTC pet products specialist, concurred: “Over the next six to twelve months it will be even more important to have digital and ecommerce expertise on boards, and I think because of Covid it has become even more at the forefront of people’s minds. [These are] very exciting times.”

Schevenhels said his strategy was to “embrace and pick the fruits” that a DTC strategy offered. He said the company, whose brands include the smart lighting Hue solution, had already seen a major shift in its product range following the pandemic as more people were considering their work and home environments. “Now, it’s really the time to start with Direct-to-Consumer and embrace that potential,” he added. 

Customer experiences – wherever you sell – will be key

For Savage, Roc’s relaunch into the UK market will be spearheaded by online activity and sales channels such as carefully chosen marketplaces. The skincare brand was acquired by Gryphon Investors in December 2018 with ambitious plans to reach new audiences with technology-driven product launches and marketing efforts. 

Mertens, a former Coca-Cola, Bacardi and eBay marketer agreed the shift towards online was accelerating and said the opportunity was to provide “super interesting and robust customer experiences”. He was watching China with interest and focused on how the ideas coming out of the country could translate elsewhere. 

Lehal, founder of boutique beachwear brand JAG London, said the opportunity for her was in Amazon’s ambitions to create a credible luxury offering. She also wanted to know how marketplaces could help with international expansion. 

Evers’ company, HG, is based in the Netherlands but sold in 46 countries around the world. Its products have recently been stocked in Tesco, but he believes that Amazon will help the company build a bigger footprint in the UK through marketplaces. 

It’s why every brand of note is considering how consumers are changing the way they shop and adapting accordingly.

*Further articles generated by the roundtable debate will be published over the next week

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