Why the C-Suite Is Betting on Digital Commerce for Growth

Fueled by consumer behavior shifts during the pandemic, we continue to see increased importance placed on digital commerce and retail media to drive overall brand growth. The complexity of this space alone is vast, but the blurring of lines between digital and physical is only making that complexity grow. No longer a distinct shopping channel, “ecommerce” has evolved into a primary, core path to purchase, such that nearly all shopper journeys involve a “digital commerce” touch point.

Industry analysts agree. A late 2021 Gartner survey of global marketing leaders found that 86% believe that digital commerce will be the primary sales channel within two years. We see evidence of this shift as some brands hire in general managers with focused digital backgrounds and other brands place digital commerce performance objectives into all employees’ objectives.

During the past three years, digital practitioners have evolved their work on a daily basis, but broader management processes and reporting systems have not been as quick to evolve. As a result, many general managers and C-suite leaders lack the necessary frequency, depth and breadth of data to make decisions that keep their businesses ahead of the competition. What is driving this change in reporting needs?

Platform Sophistication and Data Democratization

Several fundamental shifts are at work in this new digital commerce environment.

First, the amount of data to capture and analyze has exploded as platform capabilities and their willingness to share data have expanded. Most digital commerce platforms are optimizing their “shelf” by the minute, resulting in millions of data points in a single day. Excel just won’t cut it when you’re dealing with petabytes worth of data (one petabyte is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes). Today’s dashboards, as a result, must be able to capture, normalize and display this data in custom views based on the user of the data and the “job to be done.”

Practitioners are already doing this today, often through partners like Flywheel Digital, where we can connect to platform APIs and combine with our own data to provide actionable inputs for performance management, optimization and planning. The C-suite, however, does not typically have an equivalent and would find these practitioner tools to be too granular for their role in driving strategy and optimization.

Secondly, traditional processes around optimizing the “shelf” are not sufficient in a digital world where planogram changes happen by the minute, not monthly or quarterly. Every element of the shelf, including promotions, advertising, inventory, content and competition, is active in real time. As a result, the pace at which decisions must happen has rapidly increased.

Thirdly and perhaps most challenging is the inconsistency in quality and availability of digital commerce data across platforms globally. For example, some multichannel retailers may not break out digital commerce sales from their store sales, making it difficult to optimize investment with those platforms.

The result? Many leaders today do not have an accurate answer to a very simple question: “How much did you sell through digital commerce across all platforms, and what is driving that performance?”

The follow-on result? Delayed action to market dynamics leads to suboptimal performance. For example, injecting incremental media spend two months after the observed loss of share of voice is far less impactful than if it had been done immediately. Other typical delayed actions include inventory allocation, product innovation and pricing adjustments.

The pace and complexity of this new digital commerce reality require mastery of new data sets and amplified visibility across the path to purchase in order to make effective decisions. 

The Solution: A Comprehensive, Customizable Digital Commerce Dashboard for the C-Suite

The obvious next question: what should a high-level performance dashboard look like for C-suite executives? C-suite and General Managers who are accountable for a brand or retailer ultimately want to drive sales and market share. The levers impacting sales (and share) are pretty straightforward; it is the measurement and execution of those levers that is complicated.

Flywheel Digital recently used advanced modeling to index the sales impact of more than 20 levers across 4,000 products over a six-month period and found that the most impactful levers were media spend and where a product is ranked organically, both of which are essential “shelf placement.” Following shelf visibility were price, inventory, content and coupons, in that order.

And so, senior leaders must first have visibility to sales and share across product, category and markets. Then they will need the ability to see performance across paid and organic “shelf placement,” price, inventory, content and promotions, so they can accurately deploy resources and provide strategic guidance to their teams.

Source: Flywheel Digital, n=4,000 ASINs (media spend >$0), Amazon US, 2022

Enable Faster, Smarter Decisions

Given the complexity of digital commerce, it’s clear that today’s C-suite needs a simple, comprehensive view of total digital commerce performance.

Strategic and effective decision making by this cohort requires data that is balanced between breadth and depth so that they can make informed decisions in a real-time digital commerce environment while allowing their talented practitioners to continue to drive results day to day.

Claudia Johnson is VP of Capability Acceleration for Flywheel and Ascential Digital Commerce. She is a problem-solver at heart and, as a result, has been at the helm of many firsts while working atTarget.com, Kimberly-Clark, and Flywheel Digital. These accomplishments range from record sales growth to the creation of new programs such as cross-manufacturer commercial innovation, a direct vendor ship program, a pan-European supply chain network, countless e-packs, and a PIM tool. In her current role  Johnson is building the next generation of ecommerce capabilities, hurdling roadblocks and connecting the dots for clients across the globe. Her remit demands she explore a wide range of topics which, as a digital native, she thrives in.