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How brands can make lemonade in an economic downturn

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According to Spixii and the World Economic Forum: “The signs of a global slowdown are not only present everywhere but are also multiplying. These include the decline of manufacturing in Germany, Japan, the United States and others. Even in China - a country which is rife with output year after year - the output has slowed. Other indicators of slowdown include the sustained inversion of the US Treasury yield curve, rising geopolitical conflicts, and the impact of tariffs.”

But it’s not all bad news. At Cart.com, we’re obsessed with helping brands grow in any environment. Take Puppy Cake, a Cart.com customer who doubled profitability during the 2020 pandemic, when other businesses were flailing as a great example. In addition to Cart.com’s robust set of tools and tech for growing brands, this is my advice for those who want to make the most out of a marketplace that’s not ideal.

As the economy slows down, what can ecommerce brands do – not just to survive, but thrive? 

1. Add new marketplace channels: Walmart, eBay, Target and Amazon are all marketplaces that make up >50% of online sales. There is a way to sell your product through these marketplaces without hurting your brand. 

2. Add new social channels: List your products directly on Snapchat, Facebook, InstaGram, Tik Tok, etc. Adding your product listings directly will help more consumers find your products in places where consumers are spending time.

3. Add international channels: Start by listing your products on international marketplaces like MarketoLibre, Bol, etc. as that’s the easiest way to enter a new geography, vs. going direct to the consumer.

4. Improve your customer acquisition cost: All ecommerce companies are fighting for the same digital consumer attention. The winner is going to be the brand that uses data to understand marketing attribution and optimizes the media mix to ensure low wastage of ad spend and maximize customer lifetime value and acquisition through better personalization.

5. Improve operating costs: One of the biggest costs for ecommerce brands is the shipping of their product to their customers. You have to optimize inventory using data, lower your shipping costs by tapping into scaled 3PLs that are shipping billions of dollars (and hence have better shipping rates than you) and also speed up delivery to your end consumers without increasing your inventory/shipping costs to optimize conversion.

6. Focus on customer experience: It is cheaper to keep your customers and have them coming back vs. acquiring new ones. Tap into better call center capabilities so you are always one call away from helping a customer with their issue and retaining them. Doubling down here may increase the cost of operating a bit but the improvement in repeat customers and referral customers will more than pay for the increased investment .

7. Focus on your employees: If you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers and everything else will take care of itself.

8. Invest in loyalty: Same as number six above but a bit different. If your product is subscribable, make it extremely easy to do that through your ecommerce platform, create brand loyalty by rewarding returning customers and do everything you can to retain customers that visit your website. 

9. Optimize pricing: Pricing is an incredibly strong lever to balance conversion vs. profitability. Doing basic A/B testing can help you increase conversion or increase gross margin on your best selling products.

10. Tap into partnerships: Things like affiliate marketing, brand partnerships, co-selling, bundling complementary products, etc. all are huge growth levers. When things slow down, combining super powers with others can really accelerate your business. Look for other ecommerce brands that are complementary to yours. Reach out to them and see if you can co-market together.

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