A Year or More of Black Fridays’ – The Rise of the Convenience Economy

Navigating Digital Transformation of Brands into e-Commerce

Disruptions brought about by the pandemic have forced the acceleration of e-commerce innovation and digitisation, resulting in cramming decades of innovative growth in a fraction of the time. Some may even say, it’s been a year or more of Black Fridays.

This is according to Paul van den Berg, CE for OLIVER Africa, the In-house digital group, who says that many brands are struggling to keep up with the growing demands of their customers.

“Despite the rapid expansion of e-commerce before Covid-19, as the upheaval of the pandemic continues, buying behaviours around the world have been disrupted which in turn has forced brands to accelerate their e-commerce innovation, expansion and marketing offerings literally overnight,” says van den Berg.

While e-commerce has been delivering consistent double-digit year-on-year growth prior to Covid-19, many predictions on projections indicate that the past year is set to be the strongest yet, with a 20% growth driven by the massive shift from offline to online due to the pandemic.

That being said, van den Berg adds that e-commerce now more than ever before offers brands a rich potential to improve their customer experiences, increase sales and future-proof their business.

The Brandtech Group (formerly known as You & Mr Jones) are the parent of OLIVER, the global market leader in in-housing, already anticipated in 2019 the accelerated use of e-commerce as a lasting trend. According to eMarketer estimates it’s indicated that online sales increased more than 32% year on year in 2020, or more than double the annual growth in 2019*.

“As people rely more on e-commerce, brands are accelerating the development of their e-commerce presence and the trend is shifting from bricks to clicks with spend shifting from physical, retail-centric media to digital channels, van Den Berg adds, “The recent investment into e-commerce coupled with the appointment of Amazon’s head of global agency partnerships, Virginie Douin, who will lead e-commerce in our Brandtech group, will further accelerate our clients’ in-house operations to assist brands in meeting this demand.”

Douin is the latest to join the growing partner line-up as the group experiences exponential demand for its tech-enabled services, including integrated and connected e-commerce. She will lead the group’s fast-growing e-commerce practice, including overseeing M&A strategy with a sizeable war chest to deploy on acquisitions), leading group relationships with e-commerce platforms, overseeing cross-group integration, and being a key resource for the company’s clients.

“This follows the recent appointment of Yves Le Breton, Global Client e-commerce at OLIVER, meaning that our network now has access to decades of experience in digital transformation and e-commerce strategies,” he says. “Le Breton spent most of his career working at Estée Lauder, but has also worked for Beiersdorf, American Eagle Outfitters, and Revlon and now brings this expertise into the OLIVER group.”

OLIVER has experienced exponential growth driven by the need for brands to adapt, accelerate and be relevant – now. van den Berg says, “What we have found effective is that by focusing on efficiency, brands we work with are unlocking the huge untapped power of digital creative and content to drive growth,” he explains. “Data driven marketing allows us to build relevancy through response driven creative solutions directly measured and optimised against conversion.”

He adds that by leveraging data and consumer insight we are able to deliver strong customer experiences at scale and drive consistency and efficiency across multiple channels.

“Instead of just working closely, collaboration is key in order for these brands to evolve,” he explains. Historically, brands work in silo teams especially between sales, marketing and agencies which precipitates a lack of data sharing and intelligence.”

“The pandemic feels like a vast experiment, but with-it brands have been given a unique opportunity to engage and build and have learnt many lessons in the limitations of e-commerce and their relationships to their customers,” he adds. “When it’s all said and done, what we do know is a lot can happen in a year and there’s never been a stronger case for harmonised marketing than right now.”

He says that It’s more important than ever for brands to have one, clear voice to ensure a consistent message with its customers. “Yet, this is one of the biggest challenges as customers’ online shopping journeys are broader than they have ever been and with this comes exponential demands for content and multiple teams doing production – it’s not easy.”

“We’ve seen incredible successes for our client Unilever with the development of U-Studio, the inside digital group for the FMCG giant,” he adds. “Our teams are able to leverage and access data intelligence, idea sharing and creativity which results in a complete alignment between sales and marketing.”

“In just a couple of years, our inside digital group for Unilever has seen meteoric global success with an approach focused on creating networks, drawing on those to help work on brands with more creative diversity,” says Theo Spencer – Managing Partner for U-Studio Africa. “This has resulted in us becoming Unilever’s biggest and most awarded digital agency globally.”

Our U-Studio is truly global, in every sense of the word, we have access to twenty-one studios across eighteen markets, Spencer explains. “This allows us to learn from some of our more technologically advanced markets like the U-Studio in Shanghai, from which we take many learnings and apply it to our emerging markets, particularly for our e-commerce outputs.”

He adds that, each U-Studio taps into the capabilities of the partner studios at various Unilever sites this makes the content vibrant and interesting. “Not to mention helps circulate ideas that work and deliver on a strategy that is motivated by marketing content that is more relevant, responsive and personalised to suit the fast-moving, digitally fueled world of modern customers.”

“U-Studio’s inside success stems from offering immediate proximity to Unilever’s decision-makers and action-takers,” Spencer says. “The U-Studio team are entrenched in Unilever, not just onsite but within the business units which delivers on an increasing need to build go-to-market e-commerce strategies without the burden being placed solely on the brand teams, especially in a year where Covid-19 has forced an accelerated evolution in the way people work.

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