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Abandoning Tactics for Strategies - to fuel, Strategy - Confused? We have to get real.

We can’t continue to be seduced by the short term

What is your strategy? Right now there are forces beyond our control. Accept that first. Secondly, diagnose your problem correctly. Let's clarify the difference between strategy and "a" strategy first.


Strategy is designing a way to deal with a problem.

Our problem — we were not online.

Our answer — we ALL wanted to get online.

We all created ecommerce stores.

Diagnosis was wrong.

A Strategy

“A strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies and actions that respond to a challenge”

We need aspects of ecommerce, not the full suite, not everyone anyway. Note the words, policies (processes), concepts (understanding and brand positioning). And crucially, how to take this shiny new toy and make it work for me?

Let's put this in real terms. I am director of eCommerce in a growing brand in a niche market. Our strategy - continue to be an omnichannel brand, with a unique, needed product - temperature regulating tents. Growth is a problem right now - that is a simple diagnosis. How do we trade through this? How do we empower our team? How do we make sure we flex budget enough to not over/underspend?

My response - you can have this for free -

#ecommerce Right now there seems to be 2 pieces of advice - "Slash and Burn" or "Spend to safetey" - 2 seemingly drastic and stressful decisions. The spend one is kind of easy - if you have money. The slash and burn mantra is not without it's merit either, but understanding where efficiencies can be found, find them. But I want to focus on spend for a moment.

Spending can be risky, in particular where you are a small brand. Even the "cut your cloth to measure" approach means nothing if you have no money. My network is full massively insightful people with a range of skills and advice and the spend mentality is something passing a lot of SME/SMB companies by - Even the simple act of re-allocation of spend is a challenge.I have agonised on this in Crua Outdoors for a while now and I wanted to try and control the controllables. So let me break this down. We are a business with revenues north of $3M this year (fingers crossed). We have a tight spend budget. We tested a discount versus spend activity last month and found some nuggets but we cannot live like this every week. The team need certainty. Here is where we went with our controllables.

I thought about all of the advice and have come up with a "what if we had no money" mentality - what would we do - what can we control. In building this, I thought about Lisa Goller, MBA and her external forces diagram last summer.

We are allocating effort and backing this with spend - where needed rather than a blanket approach on any channel.

#Earnedmedia is going to be our our playground. Our brand stories and values are ours - we need to make all relveant people aware of this.

This means our #ownedmedia needs to be in it's prime (investment required). It also means our site #UX needs to drastically improve - did you know our insulation works in over 50% of all outer tent brands ? Watch out Big Agnes Inc Hilleberg The Tentmaker AB - we are coming for you! well actually to work with you :)

Our site design is going under the knife - thank you Conversity but this is where that spend goes #ownedmedia also includes things like our dropship partners - we are listed on places like Walmart The Range Wayfair and soon to be on Harvey Norman

#Sharedmedia is where we want to grow - this means relationship building, content creation

and an always on mentality. Our cullture has to back this.

#Paidmedia - is where we keep the lights on and serve the audiences we have earned for the last 5 years. It is also a test bed for marketing effectiveness tests.

As a team of just over 10 people including #Cs #operations #marketing and more so we are like all you other small brands around the world where spending our way through this needs more thought. I hope this can serve as a useful blueprint to those who need to scrap to survive for the next 12 months or more. Control your controllables! This is not your recipe but could be. Find your spot.

If you are struggling, here are some salient points to note:

1. There is no “strategy” for ecommerce. Consideration needs to be given to a roadmap and adoption of technology, but there is no strategy unless you have a strategy. Highlighted in part by the acquisition strategies adopted by @Amazon @Walmart @ebay and @Alibaba. They are buying new customers. Regular retailers cannot do this.

2. Tech has moved fast, but the human interaction or need for physical retailing still exists, albeit through better logistics planning. There is no end to end global solution to international ecommerce delivery. It does not exist, yet.

3. The days of high double digit growth for stand alone websites are gone. There are exceptions @ASOS @Gymshark but for the most, you need to now lean on global markets for considered growth.

4. KPIs will need to change. Because of this slow down in growth, margin erosion is evident. Sales cycles are condensed to Black Friday and no one is bucking the trend. Or trying to. Growth can therefore only come from expansion – new products, or new geographies.

5. Investment patterns in technology and business systems and processes will change.

Highlighted in a brilliant interview with John Lewis CIO Andrew Murphy. Forget incremental updates, retailers need a total tech reset to survive. Note the word survive, not grow. This was 2016.

“We have to get real. We can’t continue to be seduced by the short term of what is theoretically possible. We have to step back and take a holistic view of the role tech plays for our customers. You have to integrate and make the whole larger than the sum of its parts.”

6. China is a brilliant, exciting and explosive market but it is exhausting and tough. @Josh Gardner, founder of Kung Fu Data gave a brilliant insight into what it takes to trade on the main Chinese platforms. And now China is struggling.

7. 2 years to break even in China. This is my estimation of how long it will take just to recoup your spend on breaking the Chinese market. Can you sustain it?

8. Irish attitudes to marketplaces amongst retail are completely blinkered. We just do not get it. It will hurt us quicker than we think, but the time for planning is now.

9. Attitudes in general to marketplaces need to change. This is where people go to browse. Plain and simple.

10. New marketplaces have fresh views. Inventory gaps exist in every category within their marketplace.

11. eCommerce as a word and expression should be banned and put to bed. IN order for strategies to be holistic and come from within the core of a business, we need to embrace it as a better way to do business – your customers are already there.

12. Cost reduction is the new sexy, shiny role that tech in ecommerce that people should be taking by the cahonies now. With margin reduction so difficult to avoid, start looking to ways to reduce your costs.

13. Direct to consumer (D2C) needs marketplaces. FMCG companies trying to do this stand alone and not part of a broader strategy, will struggle. AOV is too low and the point or purchase or the decision point does not demand a “search for brand x, reveal product, look at shipping, deliver and wait” mentality. All that work and you didn’t go to Amazon?

14. Channel selection is difficult. This will boil down to basics like, all our data is English and we cannot afford translation yet – go to English speaking marketplaces. “We already sell on Amazon” – it is not the only game in town. What happens when your competitors are there too and you have done nothing to reduce your dependency. Diversify your marketplace selection fast. First mover advantage and different customers exist on different marketplaces.

15. I know nothing about Africa. Mall for Africa is solving a lot of the problems from the tech side. And they set a perception of a thriving, vibrant and educated customer marketplace.

16. Brands and retailers are afraid. Evident in abundance that there is an abyss in terms of information asymmetry. Invert this by talking to people, engaging with agencies and companies and partners who can solve these problems for you – going solo is not the right approach for most businesses. I have never been more certain.

The landscape for digitally selling your products (see what I did) or services has changed. The technology rate of change is rapidly increasing too. As Moore’s law taught us, that means the cost of it is reducing also. So don’t be afraid of tech, now is the time to evaluate your business, your capabilities and your objectives and get tech embedded into your business.


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