I thought I have swum in the sea of e-commerce for a while to finally get some ideas of its beauty and risks, however after working on several of my clients’ projects, just realized it is just my optimistic complacency.

In theory, consensus has been reached that launching e-commerce should be an indispensable strategy for most brands and manufacturers in digital era. I often hear aggressive visions of these high executives from my client company, they know they have to act faster, at least to secure first-mover advantage in their industry. However when comes to executions of such visions, still several confusions ahead.

First what is your market positioning strategy if you are preparing to debut your brand-owned e-store? Will it be your major sales growth engine? Or a brand-building device and consumer data generator? Or additional distributional channel? Some thought flying by the seat of pants is the way to figure it out; while others argued what is done cannot be undone, if you initial strategy is just for online branding purpose, how would you transform it into your primary sale conduit?

Then comes the second confusion directly linked to your positioning strategy. What is going to be the pricing for your products sold online? Will there be exclusively products just for your e-commerce? How to avoid or reduce the conflicts with your offline channels?

Third, how can you compete or partner with those online wholesaler or retailers? Well, they are often able to set up multi-brand e-commerce platform and in contrast you are stuck with mono-brand? One pessimistic view is simply brands/manufacturers are not innate with e-commerce DNA to compete with those online wholesaler or retailer.

Fourth, how to build your e-store traffics from zero? How do you let your consumers easily find your online store and give them incentives to buy online? What might be some creative digital marketing ideas?

Finally comes some remaining complexities, though might not be that pressing, i.e. your shop interface design and usability, back-end service flows, fulfillment and supply chain model…

I think there is no cookie cutter answers for above confusions. Every brand is special in its own aspect. However what you can do right now is grasp the big e-commerce picture and online consumers’ need pertinent to your industry, audit your current digital assets, strategies and online presence, investigate on your rivals’ move, think through your e-commerce plan with your internal employees.

What do you see your brand in the next 3 years in e-commerce is the question you have to constantly ask yourself? Once the goal is set, clear answers might rise above the surface soon, although still has to go through that painful brainstorm process.  

By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager