Supermarket Sweep: Building Your Presence on Emerging Digital Marketplaces

By John Ghiorso, Founder & CEO at Orca Pacific

Over the past year, digital marketplaces have crammed years’ worth of growth into just weeks. And while Amazon remains the biggest ecommerce player, the rapid acceleration of online shopping has produced several winners, and Instacart among them.

This momentum is bound to continue over the next several years as new players emerge—meaning brands must prepare now to begin building holistic marketing strategies capable of extending across each. This not only allows for greater flexibility in the market, but helps brands show up where their audiences increasingly are.

It’s likely you’re already heavily invested in Amazon’s ecosystem—and that’s great, because Amazon isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But maybe you’ve dipped your toes into another platform and haven’t achieved the ROI you’re expecting. Maybe you’re not even sure how to begin working with one marketplace in tandem with another. Don’t worry: complementing your existing ecommerce efforts isn’t as complex or dramatic as it might seem, provided you know where to begin. Here’s how.

Start Small and Build from There

When you begin serving customers on a second digital marketplace, start by identifying formats and types of content that are similar to those you’re already building and bidding on Amazon. This is a quick way to translate, test and learn. For example, Walmart’s digital marketplace offers sponsored products found in search, in category pages and even product detail pages—much like you find on Amazon.

Zeroing in on sponsored products may seem like a small effort, but it can make a great impact when wading onto a new platform. There are several goals you can accomplish through the format, whether it’s to raise awareness, defend your brand on the platform or launch a new product. You might even prioritize each of these goals differently across the channels you serve, making way for a more strategic multichannel ecommerce plan. I know well that the “start simple” approach really works, because that’s the same strategy we’ve taken at Orca Pacific to help our own clients capture sales at speed on new platforms. If you have a team or partner who can easily apply established learnings from Amazon to other channels, the transition becomes surprisingly smooth.

Share Learnings Across Your Team

Every brand sets up their ecommerce teams differently. Whether you have a single team managing your marketing on several marketplaces or a different team for each, I’ve long advocated that brands prioritize education and knowledge share among their teams. This makes it easier to share learnings or act on opportunities at speed.

Don’t silo your ecommerce strategies or teams. Instead, work together to find ways that one channel can complement another. For example, let’s say you’re a candy company and have just launched an Easter campaign on Amazon. A category-specific platform like Instacart (which is more focused on grocery) can help further your efforts substantially.

As for the customer experience, a more holistic ecommerce strategy can help you better serve consumers without friction, wherever they are. Let’s say your stock has run low on a specific channel. With an integrated team, strategy or partner, you can divert customers elsewhere to make a purchase.

Lack of availability was a sore spot for brands last year when retailers closed around the world. With so much demand, even Amazon had to limit purchases to essential items only. While the move was a good one to ensure customers could receive much-needed supplies under lockdown, an ecommerce strategy that extends across different marketplaces ensures brands won’t have to place all their eggs in one basket—which is key when supply or shipping challenges arise.

Prepare for Liftoff

The substantial growth that platforms like Walmart, Instacart and others have enjoyed in the past year is only the start. The market for retailer media networks is quickly growing—CVS, Walgreens and Home Depot are also growing contenders coming out of the pandemic. And with Google sunsetting third-party cookie support, brands must carefully consider where and how to invest their advertising budgets next to get closer to the consumer.

For brands to win the next decade of commerce, it’s critical to have a digital strategy that meets customers where they are. As social media networks become shoppable to resemble ecommerce platforms in their own right, the need for more holistic strategies—blending cultural insights, data analytics and creative production—will continue to accelerate. But by starting small, brands can take the initial steps to show up in more environments, offering value to consumers anywhere.

John Ghiorso is an eCommerce thought leader with a reputation for articulating industry perspective and forecasting shifts within the Amazon marketplace. He is the founder and CEO of Orca Pacific, a full-service agency dedicated to growing the Amazon business of consumer product brands. He leads a team of over 50 former Amazonians and industry experts who develop digital marketing strategies on the cutting edge of eCommerce. John’s insights have been featured in prestigious publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Vox, Modern Retail, and Digiday. He speaks at mainstream industry events on a range of topics from retail and advertising strategies to the future of eCommerce.