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Six considerations for brands in a commerce world

Six considerations for brands in a commerce world

Johan de Keulenaer

Business Director

Wunderman Thompson


What is a brand in the digital commerce world of today? Is it still as important as it once was, and what will it be in the future? Has the ease, speed, and convenience of online transacting watered down brands’ impact?

These are the questions that keep brand marketers awake at night. Let’s have a look at these questions and see what’s happening to brands in a world where online marketplaces, and not brands, are defining and driving customer behavior.


  1. Brands need to change because of online marketplaces and the “thumbnail-ization” of the brand

More and more product searches are taking place on platforms and marketplaces like Bol.com, Zalando, UberEats, and more... with less and less product searches being driven through Google. Because of this, we can say that customer behavior is changing. 


Increasingly, customers’ “views” of your brand are done via product searches on marketplaces. What they see is a thumbnail size image of your product and some copy. It’s not much to build a brand on... but it’s all the space you’ve got!


It’s vital for any business wishing to survive that they interpret their brand through the eyes of the marketplace consumer – starting with that “thumbnail image.”


  1. Brands need to change because customers are increasingly loyal to services, not brands

Jeff Bezos has, in the past, claimed that customers are only loyal to Amazon up until the point that someone offers them a better level of service. 


Two of the most important factors in online purchasing are price (96 percent) and fast, more convenient delivery (84 percent).  In 2019, “brand equity” is no longer enough. Increasingly, the intangible and the emotional values of a brand are being replaced in importance with the measurable. If customers can get an alternative quicker, and cheaper, they probably will. 


Why is this relevant to brands? To survive in world dominated by e-commerce, brands must place less concentration, budget, and investment on brand equity. Instead, they must focus more on service and service innovation.


  1. Brands must change because they need to make DTC work, even if marketplaces are on the rise

The marketplace numbers in Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Future Shopper 2019 survey appear to paint a challenging picture for brands wishing to interact directly with their customers. Some 62 percent of them are excited about ordering all of their goods through one retailer.


However, brand websites should not be ignored by savvy managers. In fact, a third of customers told us they go directly to brand websites during the inspiration stage of their shopping journey. Later, though, as customers move from inspiration to search, the number dips to 29 percent going to brand websites – and then drops to 15 percent when it comes to the purchase itself.


Brands should be looking at how to convert this initial interest and search into sales, thus retaining more customer relationships and customer data. 


  1. Brands must change because voice is just the start … zero UI will change all

Voice assistants are just the start of the zero UI revolution. This new era will include gestures and the brain-computer interface (BCI) – as well as the concept of the no interface at all... that is, “Programmatic Commerce.”


Brands have historically worked through awareness, recognition, and the decision of consumers to buy them. But what happens when it’s not the consumer making the decision? What happens when it’s a computer? Or an algorithm? Nielsen data indicates that 20 percent of all online spend is already allocated via subscription.


The fear for brands is that the people they are emotionally influencing will be replaced by unemotional data. And, therefore, consumers will have fewer relationships with brands. The days of automated purchasing and automated brand interaction are almost here, and this has huge implications for brand builders.


  1. Brands will have to change to become omnichannel and innovative

It appears that no brand, or retailer for that matter, will survive without being omnichannel and innovative. In our recent survey, 50 percent of online consumers said that they wished brands and retailers were more innovative. More than half the Generation Z we surveyed (53 percent) also indicated that they would prefer to shop with a brand or retailer that has both a physical store and an online store.


What does this mean for brands? It indicates that brands need to operate efficiently and effectively across channels. It also indicates that just being “me-too” won’t cut it anymore. In order to go directly to brands, customers are demanding a reason, a USP, a differentiated offering, and optimized experience.



  1. Brands will have to change their organizations because when “above the line” leads, digital does not follow – it just fails


Despite the digitalization of our consumption, we still find that many organizations retain very traditional organizational structures when it comes to owning the brand. 


Modern brands need to be effectively and equally interpreted across all mediums – physical, digital, e-commerce, ATL. And this interpretation across mediums is how customers are judging brands. A great TV ad let down by poor online UX in the purchase phase is an example of an omnichannel own-goal.


What are we saying, exactly? Essentially this: you need to look at your brand through the lens of an online buying consumer! 

What’s clear is that brands will need to be more inventive in how they create and retain equity in a world where e-commerce is ever more important. Brands are not dead, but to rely on the traditional brand equity creation approach will be the end of your brand’s future. 

A note about the figures we’ve quoted

Unless stated otherwise, the statistics in this report are sourced from The Future Shopper 2019 survey, which was conducted by independent research consultancy Censuswide. A total of 15,188 consumers, who shop online at least once a month were surveyed, across 8 international markets.