In house teams get stretched as opportunity and risk grow exponentially
The good old days
Ten years ago, the retail calendar was simple. Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, dominated the worldwide rankings with offline sales. How things have changed. The centre of gravity has moved east and online. 11.11 in China now dominates. This year Alibaba alone hit USD74bn in sales, utterly dwarfing last year's USD18bn across Thanksgiving weekend from all retail sales in the US.
And many other platforms and markets follow. JD and Pinduoduo fight for 11.11 in China too. Across South East Asia, Shopee and Lazada crank it up on 9.9. Tokopedia runs a monthly event in Indonesia. Amazon's Great Indian Festival and Flipkart's Big Billion Days shape the retail landscape in India. And so the list goes on.
It's more than just coupons...
What is equally significant is the change in the way it all happens. Each year the fight to engage consumers, attract traffic, and set new records becomes more intense and more complex. Gamification, TV shows, live influencer feeds, short videos, and social media buzz are all used by platforms and brands to generate interest. This year major CEOs - from Unilever to Huawei - joined live stream events. Time-limited offers drive urgency, while traditional sales techniques like lucky draws, free gifts, first purchase incentives, customer loyalty incentives, and games all drive engagement and sales. Competition is fierce. It is the attention economy on steroids.
Brand protection and control amid this retail frenzy is challenging, and can really stretch the GC and head of IP's resources. These are key strategic issues. If your thinking is not moving at the same pace as your commercial colleagues, you are falling behind. With the right approach, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the legal team's role in value creation, not just risk management.
It's more than just window cleaning...
In-house teams are playing a much wider role in the way they support marketing, sales, and e-commerce, with leading businesses going much further than merely having a capable platform monitoring provider in place.
In-house teams are adding value in four key areas:
- Grab attention. Traffic going to your flagship stores, authorised stores, and legitimate products is everything but diversion happens in many ways, through the abuse of brand names in listings, interference with influencers, fake promotions, and fake store authorisations to name but a few.
- Minimise sales interference. Just cleaning up listings is not getting to the heart of the problem. Beyond offers of counterfeits, there are myriad ways sales targets can be undermined by fakes and lookalikes. You must understand the critical purchasing decision point on the customer journey. Today that is often away from an e-commerce platform, say in a live stream. Dealing with interference at that moment is impactful.
- Make it legal! Signing off games, lucky draws and other regulated activities will need to be done at speed with an appreciation of business risk appetite. Your commercial colleagues need to get offers and incentives out there and your support is important to make sure they are not unwittingly taking on too much risk.
- Be true to your brand values. Marketing colleagues will want to stretch the brand as far as they can to get a sale, but there's a role to be played by the IP team to maintain brand values and protect brand integrity. And similarly, brand licensing in and out is common as the business looks for mutually beneficial tie-ups: who is controlling what happens to your brand in another's hands?
Are you ready?
As the complexity of the whole retail space develops, ensuring you are prepared and have the right capabilities in the right place is challenging.
So what does being prepared look like?
- Get smart. A rich, baseline knowledge of these events is critical – technical, commercial, economic, and cultural –and is the foundation for understanding the opportunities and threats.
- Get inside the customer journey. Without understanding this in detail and in advance, prioritising resources to achieve the most impact will be done blind.
- Take control. Internal and external resources need to be available, focused on the right issues, as are aligned incentives to give you the most control in these dynamic situations
- Set smart metrics. It's not just about quantity; it's about the quality of activities and their impact. Internal and external resources should be working on KPIs that drive the right behaviour.
- Act, don't just watch. Given the right planning, this will be proactive according to your brand protection strategy, not reactive in response to events.
Ultimately you need the right capabilities to be prepared: the right people, with the right skills and experience, in the right place and the right time zone to be close to the business, supported by the right vendors incentivised in the right way.
What will 2021 look like?
Given the pace of change, it will be different next year and every year after that.
We can help you get it right in 2021. And with actionable insights and a fit-for-future structured capabilities review, we can help you to keep getting it right.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.