In an exclusive media interview with WARC, Harshal Acharya, APAC Head of Consulting, Edge by Ascential shared what marketers can do to boost ecommerce performance.


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While many brands are well and truly operating in the digital age when it comes to email marketing or social media, ecommerce remains one area where marketers have significant opportunity to improve performance, according to Acharya.

“Ecommerce, or any commerce for that matter, is still simple: resales, sales, and post-sales. Those things remain as they are and they would be relevant even 10-15 years later. What has changed though, is the KPIs that actually get tracked now – the KPIs are getting more and more complicated. The processes are getting more and more intertwined,” Acharya said.

“You spread the media budget in so many different avenues that you need to make sure that you’re able to track it and you’re able to influence it at the right point,” he said, adding that ecommerce has even more subcategories and data to track, including everything the shopper does in the online path to purchase.

When it comes to product discoverability on ecommerce platforms, search engine optimization is key.

“The basic minimum is the right image. The basic minimum is the right price. The basic minimum is the right description of the product with the right keywords written there for them to be available on search,” Acharya advised.

“If your product availability is 100% most of the time, the algorithm knows that, so that your ranking automatically goes up. Content is number one: the keywords, and whether the content is enhanced enough and prominent enough for the customer. All these factors come in, in terms of how high your ranking on search gets in.”

Different markets have different shopping cultures – Asia is more price-driven, and therefore companies tend to invest more in understanding price and promotion, Acharya said.

“In the developing markets for ecommerce – the Asian markets and India – everyone is now focused on driving promos. That’s why a lot of consumers are seeing value in buying on these platforms because they see it being cheaper than what they would see it on the shelf on a store,” he explained.

“It’s not a sustainable strategy, but it is something which would get ecommerce the necessary volume or the starting point for people to change their habits. It’s more about, at this point in time, changing the habits of someone who actually is going to the shop to get online and purchase there.”

Acharya proposed a four-step system – crawl, walk, run, and fly – to determine the level of ecommerce readiness a company has: “We divided them based on a few key parameters that would define them into any of these aspects. A disclaimer: one company can be a ‘crawl’ in one country and in another country a ‘run’,” he added, reflecting the fact that companies may be prioritizing one market over another when it comes to their ecommerce strategy.

1. Crawl

The first stage, ‘crawl’, is for a company at the very beginning of their ecommerce journey.

‘When defining a ‘crawl’ customer, normally the ecommerce function itself is undefined or it is sitting in a silo. It is perhaps sitting in the current sales team, and possibly a junior resource in that team is taking care of ecommerce, or there is no person on ecommerce and it’s getting handled in a very ad hoc manner. That’s the very first indication (that) this seems to be a crawl customer,” Acharya said.

Many companies at the ‘crawl’ stage are figuring out where ecommerce sits within their sales strategy or even if it’s worth investing in. Any type of customer data that may be being collected – and it’s often not – isn’t used in an effective or integrated way.

“The first step from moving to a crawl to a walk, at least, is the acknowledgement that (a company) needs to be ecommerce enabled, and move up the scale. They can’t remain where they are and be successful as a company – that’s the first thing that they should be doing.”

2. Walk

A lot of the industry is in the crawl or walk stage at this point in time, Acharya observed.

In the ‘walk’ category, ecommerce strategy is defined, but not integrated into the wider strategy of the company: “it’s still called ecommerce as a function and it’s usually still sitting in the sales team. It is not cross-functional,” Acharya said.

In the walk stage, ecommerce data is being captured, analyzed and actioned. Companies are looking into what’s working and what’s not.

“In the ‘crawl’ stage you don’t know what price your product is selling at or what the customer review and rating is. You have no clue. Now, (in the ‘walk’ stage) you’re starting to monitor that a bit more. You are trying to figure out whether the product is available, whether there are any reviews or rating that are bad and how to act on it.”

3. Run

“If someone is now a ‘walker’ and wants to ‘run’, analytics starts getting more granular and more informative. Not just about price and promo, we’re now talking about doing specific promotion analysis to optimise the promotion: which promotions are working, which promotions are not working, which ones should you run more, which ones should be run less, what is the competition looking like etc.,” said Acharya.

Companies in the ‘run’ stage of the ecommerce strategy are also moving toward a more omnichannel retail approach and integrating ecommerce into their wider strategies.

“They’re actually capturing the data and all the information that they have through their platforms, through their own stores, and through the third-party stores as well,” Acharya said, noting this this data is used to inform strategies well beyond just sales for the company.

Companies in the run stage are also putting together content specifically for ecommerce platforms and thinking carefully about product images, responding to reviews and search engine optimisation.

“Content is made specifically for ecommerce, and media plans are specifically made for ecommerce. This team well-resourced, it’s cross-functional, and it’s very clear (on strategy),” he explained.

4. Fly

“Moving ahead on this curve, the data actually becomes more and more granular, and more and more customized. The insights become more real-time,” Acharya said.

“The major difference from a run to a fly is that data is not only getting captured automatically, but there’s enough machine learning applied on it for that information and data to be passed on to the right people in the organization to act on. It becomes accurate and real-time,” he added.

“For example, if there is a negative rating or review, a ‘fly’ customer will act instantly – they know how it can impact their PR and their whole image. That’s where the difference in the ‘fly’ comes.”

Source: WARC (


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To schedule a meeting with Edge APAC to learn how to boost ecommerce performance for your brand, email  or phone us at +86 21 52993930.  

APAC Head of Consulting, Edge by Ascential

Harshal Acharya