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4 things to consider before transitioning to e-commerce sales

COVID-19 has caused e-commerce sales to soar, and they could continue this way for a while. Follow this key advice to avoid getting left behind.

Given the current COVID-19 retail climate, signs point toward continued e-commerce sales growth in the near future and beyond.

"If you're not online now, you need to be," says Mike Gammarino of Bluprint Partners.

Gammarino partnered with Elliot Begoun of TIG to host a TIG Talk webinar (watch the replay below), and shared best practices for 3PLs, e-commerce and more for natural product brands. At a time like this, they say, all brands have room to improve their e-commerce strategy and these are the best steps to take to focus more on an e-commerce sales model.

1. Explore channels

Ask: What ecommerce channels matter first? The two options are selling direct to consumer (DTC) or using other retailers such as Amazon, Instacart, goPuff or Thrive Market. E-commerce channel exploration is important to  determine the most cost-effective way to get products into the hands of consumers and figure out the best channel fit for your brand.

Do your research. Talk to other brands and industry mentors. But ultimately, choose the route that's best for your unique goals.

Once you figure out best way to deliver your product, it's time to think about cost.

2. Examine cost

Costs (such as packaging or shipping) depend on a variety of factors; but it tends to be vastly different between a chilled or frozen product compared with dry goods. For the former, there are additional costs and shipping needs to address to ensure consumers get the freshest product possible. Additional considerations might include building in express shipping, limiting the delivery radius to a small test market and considering insulated packaging.

Across the board though, a good rule of thumb is that emerging brands should stay within at least a two-day ground shipping distance from their core markets.

3. Analyze packaging

Just like there are various e-commerce channels to explore, so too there are packaging options to consider. Do you have a dry goods or chilled product? How far does it have to go? Can the packaging handle some wear and tear?

Especially with chilled or frozen products, be conscious of how the packaging is insulated and test it out with various temperature conditions. Can the product make it through hot summer temperatures in the back of a truck and still get to the purchaser in top condition? These are important variables, even with dry goods (though insulated packaging isn't typically necessary).

Think through all possible shipping scenarios and test out packaging that keeps products in fresh-off-the-shelf condition.

4. Test, test, test

Natural foods brands do not have to jump feet first into DTC; use a testing phase to ensure the chosen delivery platform meets consumer needs. E-commerce isn't for every brand. Even if it is a good fit, diversification is key. No sales approach is all or nothing. "E-commerce is a spoke in the wheel, and it’s an important one," Begoun says.

So, test packaging choices, shipping strategies, marketing tactics. Test all processes from the time a consumer places an order until it arrives at his door so you’re not taking a throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall approach but rather a well thought out, proven-effective route.

Watch the entire TIG Talk with Elliot Begoun and Mike Gammarino.

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