Where does brand marketing fit into the world of e-commerce?

It’s an easy guess as to who came out on top of the pandemic: online retailers. Amazon’s global revenue grew by 67% from 2019 to 2021, with this growth continuing into 2022 as 71% of UK consumers say that they are buying more online than ever before.

Aside from Amazon and its dominance over the e-commerce game, we saw a new style of e-commerce convenience app enter the arena during the pandemic and beyond: the rapid grocery delivery app. These city-centric grocery delivery apps including Gorillas and Getir, deliver your groceries in the same time it takes you to put on your coat and shoes, and find your reusable bags (actually, that might take a bit longer!).

The growth stats surrounding e-commerce seem unsurprising considering the sheer convenience and vast selection it offers, however in a marketplace filled with endless competitors, price filters and tiny images, where does brand marketing fit in?

The importance of brand marketing in building awareness and establishing a clear purpose and level of trust between brand and consumer has been given its attention by a variety of established academics and marketing professionals. However, with the last few years making access to physical products harder and therefore making consumers lean towards e-commerce, some sceptics, including Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at NYU, have called it “the Brand Age’s end”, with the shift toward product innovation taking capital from “big and bold brand-building advertising”.

A key perspective on Galloway’s side of the argument is a rational choice. Unlike wandering down a supermarket aisle where countless products in front of you mean that brand awareness and recall play more of a part in your decision making, within an e-commerce platform the ability to sort and splice products to meet price and rating requirements with the touch of a button inevitably means that not every product is visible to every consumer. On top of this, we’re creatures of habit and ease, so once a product enters that handy ‘buy it again’ bucket, making the whole selection process even quicker and more convenient, it’s unlikely to be coming out again for a while, instantly filtering out a whole host of brands who didn’t quite make the cut.

So how does a brand sneak its way into the coveted ‘buy it again’ bucket? Others have argued, brand marketing.

The argument for rational purchase forgets one thing; humans aren’t entirely rational. There’s a long and often complex consumer journey behind a simple purchase with various touchpoints influencing decision making. The EY Future Consumer Index found that whilst the rational elements of price and convenience are still central to consumer choice (unsurprising considering the spike in the cost of living), the last 24 months with its heightened social unrest has also raised importance in the more emotive areas of consumer choice, including brand sustainability, trust, ethics, and social values. By communicating these principles through the top of the funnel, brand marketing effectively helps to build mental availability for when consumers are presented with a 150-strong product selection.

On top of this, e-commerce is renowned for being driven by performance marketing. Consideration and conversion approaches underpin a lot of strategies, which whilst can be beneficial in the short term to drive sales, can also lead to brands battling down at the bottom of the funnel with discounts and strong CTAs, without having much differentiation between each other. Building the top of the funnel then becomes an important part of your strategy to separate your brand in the mind of the consumer and be top of their minds when there is a choice to be made.

Most agree that regardless of the marketplace, online or bricks and mortar, opting for a full-funnel strategy is optimal. By ignoring the top of the funnel in an e-commerce setting, performance will likely stagnate over time until you’re forced to reignite the minds of consumers, which is arguably harder without maintaining brand awareness. Consequently, keeping a consistent approach to brand marketing is crucial to bobbling along in the mind of the consumer, without slipping down into filter city.

By Annabel Crook​, Digital Account Executive