By Roberta Main Millar, Senior Account Director
We are now entering the third year since the cost-of-living crisis hit the UK – and global – headlines. With a legacy in payments and fintech, ecommerce has been a key area of focus at Missive. Our roster of clients spans from merchant payments and retail optimisation consultancies, through to customer experience tools, supply chain logistics and checkout technology.
We’ve seen a lot of change, even in the last six months, for businesses in the industry. We’ve helped clients pivot to ensure tactics and KPIs align with wider business objectives and support organisational growth.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the key considerations for ecommerce comms professionals planning their strategy for 2024 and beyond.
Taking a step back
As we close off the year, we are seeing many trends continuing into 2024 that have an impact on comms professionals working in ecommerce. The role of communications professionals and the way the function supports the wider business objectives is evolving quickly.
The focus isn’t merely on broadcasting brand messages, but on strategically aligning communication objectives with the bottom line. The emphasis on reaching new audiences, fostering loyalty, aligning values, maintaining an omnichannel experience, and leveraging social selling has become and will remain a focus.
To that end, we are taking a step back and looking at how PR and comms can truly offer real impact for our clients and how to show that impact through measurement.
Changing comms focus
After speaking with communicators in this space, we have identified some trends in what business leaders want from their marketing programmes.
Reaching new audiences
As price-sensitive consumers become more discerning, some customers may gravitate towards discounters, prompting a need to replenish lost audiences. Here, the primary goal for communicators is to focus on attracting new customers, while retaining the existing ones. Data-driven stories with human interest can be a good way to do this. Creatively crafting narratives using data is informative, but transforms communications into entertainment, strengthening the brand-consumer connection. To elevate reach, consider effectively engaging with influencers. This requires some research to involves find the right match, fostering genuine connections, and taking strategic steps to maximise impact.
Delighting loyal customers
For ecommerce brands, standing out from the crowd needs innovative communication strategies beyond the humble press release. The key is to stop broadcasting one-way to customers and instead create conversations and experiences that differentiate from the competition by building a relationship with the customer. How can ecommerce brands ensure they are talked about? How can service providers add value to helping those working in ecommerce, rather than telling them what they already know is a problem? This can be achieved through hyper-personalisation using AI, where AI is leveraged ethically for personalised communications. This involves using it in the ideation phase, rather than as the final output, ensuring a human touch to the communication remains.
Aligning values with customers
Following on from the above, establishing a strong emotional connection between the brand and its audience is essential. It is important to be clear on brand values and ensure they are regularly assessed to ensure they align with how the company is doing business; for example, developing a sustainable supply chain to improve carbon footprint. Consistently communicating brand values to the right audience at the right time builds lasting loyalty. Demonstrating DE&I values will become more important, so being clear on where the business is on diversity, equity, and inclusion by undertaking a culture audit, like the one or Head of DE&I Whitney has developed should be a priority. Once this has been completed, assess if the brand is where it wants to be in its approach and where it does and does not have the credentials to back up statements. If it is, transparently communicating brand actions and values to customers can help build loyalty and trust.
Consistent omnichannel experience: With so many channels and ways for customers to contact the business, ensuring a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints is crucial. Not only does it mean messages are controlled and customers get the same quality of service across the brand, it is essential for forging a strong and recognisable brand identity.
In the era of unified commerce, developing a loyal following on social media becomes a linchpin for having the customer base to support successful social selling. It isn’t just about selling though, brands must behave in an authentic way, going beyond advertising products to also speak to their brand values and wider CSR initiatives. Conducting social media audits, like our Senior Digital Account Manager, Peter’s, suggested approach, is a crucial step in understanding and enhancing a brand's social presence.
Showing value across the organisation
Demonstrating value can be challenging however, there are three key ways to demonstrate value:
Set clear KPIs for comms
Benchmarking engagement metrics ahead of a new campaign launch can provide a tangible understanding of the impact of new communications efforts. It can also help identify which messages resonate best with which audiences so campaigns can be tweaked. Further, advancements in AI mean predictive modelling will become more commonplace. By inputting data from KPI measurement, communicators can see likely outcomes of their activities and how future campaigns can be fine-tuned for optimal success. For comms, the AMEC framework can be really useful, and is something we use when planning and measuring out campaigns at Missive. It was designed by comms professionals to align comms objectives with the business’ needs, establish benchmarks, create a plan, set targets and then measure the outputs, out-takes, outcomes and impact of the work. I find the AMEC worksheet really helpful when creating a new campaign and clients love being able to show real impact when reporting to the board.
Refresh programmes to meet goals
Constantly evolving strategies and initiatives to align with business goals is very important. To help this and engage the wider business in comms efforts for increased buy-in to the department and activities, hold regular meetings with different stakeholder groups to see how comms could support them. For example, directing communication efforts towards addressing customer issues can significantly support sales conversion rates. Regular meetings with sales teams to identify common customer pain points not only helps inform comms content, but can also strengthen the relationship across departments.
Stay abreast of trends
To make sure content resonates and to aid narrative development, it is critical to know what is going on in the ecommerce industry. Taking it a step further, using tools like Google Keyword trackers helps identify and verify audience interests, ensuring content is not only relevant, but also aligned to SEO discoverability.
The next five years is going to be an exciting time for comms in ecommerce. Not only is the ecommerce space evolving, the tools comms professionals have at their disposal and new challenges that shape campaigns is also moving at pace. While there may initially be a bit of trial and error on how to harness new technologies, such as AI, ultimately there will be more space for creative thinking, with the admin-heavy side of comms being automated.
By focusing on audience engagement, ethical use of technology, and aligning with overarching business goals, communications can continue to be a pivotal part of driving brand success in the competitive world of ecommerce.