U.S. eCommerce retail sales grew 14.2 percent to top $513 billion in 2018, outpacing the 4.8 percent increase in overall retail sales, with changing demographics, hyperconnectivity, social media, and convenience among the key drivers influencing online purchasing decisions. Brand owners and retailers are jockeying for channel access, with acquisitions a lever to more rapidly increase market penetration and capitalize on robust growth.
The BGL report examines essential digital selling strategies for online brands, supported by executive insights gathered through primary research.
Key findings in the report:
Great Management Talent Always Wins. Pacesetters in the eCommerce channel understand their target audiences and lead in digital strategies using a true omnichannel approach, striking the right balance between insourcing and outsourcing of key tactical positions. “It is much more of a proactive mindset to say: What can we be doing? What can we be trying? How do we keep experimenting? These are organizations trying to be on the vanguard of what is new,” offered Chris Casgar, a partner in the Consumer practice at Webster Equity Partners and a participant in the report. Leaders are using a combination of digital and physical engagement to acquire customers and alternative media to complement different sales activities.
Secrets to Success on Amazon Seller Platform. Amazon now commands more than 40 percent of all U.S. retail sales, making it essential for growing brands to develop winning strategies to thrive on the platform. Third-party sellers represent a vital source of online commerce, accounting for more than half (58 percent) of Amazon’s gross sales in 2018, or a massive $135.1 billion in revenues. “Working with Amazon is like crossing a raging river,” remarked John Tilson, an eCommerce investment banker and head of BGL’s Consumer vertical. “You have to step on the stones one by one to get across the river. If you do that, it can be an amazing platform.” Effective advertising, product listings, and product review strategies are among the tools employed to increase sales velocity on the platform. “An important differentiator is advertising. If a brand is not always advertising on Amazon, it is going to fall behind. That is by design. Amazon’s advertising platform is growing so fast that it is rewarding brands that use it,” said Thaddaeus Hay, chief executive officer of Nozani, another report participant.
Hotbed of M&A. M&A activity for leading online brands is increasing, along with deal multiples, with Harry’s (Edgewell Personal Care Company), Shutterfly (Apollo Global Management), and Flipkart (Walmart) among the high-profile acquisitions to make recent headlines. “The M&A environment for eCommerce businesses has been very strong, and we believe it will continue to outperform the broader market in the coming years,” observed John Jameson, an eCommerce investment banker at BGL and report participant. “Quality targets provide acquirers and investors with solid platforms for growth, as well as a level of expertise that many large corporate or private equity buyers lack.”
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