Today’s e-commerce landscape is more dynamic than ever, yet many marketers overlook the opportunity beyond distribution — it's the perfect platform to build brands. APAC’s online retail market is projected to be worth $2.8 trillion by 2025, but have you noticed your favourite global and local e-tailers are now offering many media options like advertising, home page takeovers, and category festivals? Transitioning from e-commerce players into highly effective retail media publishers, they’re capitalising on advertising spend set to more than treble from $US58 billion globally on these platforms over the next three years.

To grow your brand, you can’t ignore the accelerated power of e-commerce

Many people interpret brand-building as ‘advertising’; but at its very essence, it’s about building connections between a branded product and a consumer. Every interaction delivers a brand-building moment — no matter how big or small. These can include brand use moments, in-aisle or in-shop occasions, and online search — all important brand-building touchpoints. The most successful brands are creating strong mental and physical connections that increase people’s sense of brand value. Truth be told, advertising is still integral to building strong connections and brand associations. But time and time again, successful brand-building comes from harmoniously utilising every touchpoint your consumers can use to interact with your brand.

E-commerce is one of the five most powerful brand-building channels — and it’s still accelerating

It must be considered in your media planning. E-commerce retailers are no longer pure sales channels — Amazon just overtook TikTok in Kantar’s 2022 Media Reactions as the most preferred consumer global media channel, while Kantar’s global Connect norms reveal e-commerce is the fifth most influential brand-building channel globally — more impactful than traditional media channels like out-of-home, print and even social media. As such, e-commerce players are recognising their changing role and beginning to offer creative ways for brands to advertise on their platforms. Amazon and Walmart are leading the way in publishing engaging content amplified through technologies like augmented and virtual reality.

In APAC, e-commerce players like Shopee are already offering home page takeovers with brands taking advantage, especially during ‘double dates’ (i.e. 9/9, 10/10) leading up to ‘singles day’ or 11/11 — the peak season for e-commerce shopping. Tokopedia’s monthly ‘super brand festivals’ allow brands to headline thematic category festivals with their product lists and access additional app space and noticeability. These moments provide additional avenues to build brand associations and saliency. Just imagine being a new entrant and gaining extra consumer credibility by riding on the coattails of these platform programmes.

It’s time to think differently about how you use e-tailers beyond sales and distribution

Just look to history for the potential impact of direct-to-consumer (DTC) media experiences for brand-building. Destination 24-hour TV shopping channels fronted by celebrities have flourished for almost half a century, and today DTC extends to your phone through both social and streaming e-commerce — the latter forecast to reach 22 per cent of China’s total e-commerce market by 2024. Influencer content also leads online channels in Media Reactions with a six-point jump in ad equity as it is seen as more trustworthy, fun and entertaining — and more relevant and useful than last year.

Kantar’s Context Lab e-commerce data also shows that brand-building in e-commerce can have just as strong an impact on your KPIs as social media content. Credibility (for example, original product or matching the description) is a key driver of a shopper choosing an e-tailer. It's also assurance on faster response customer service, timely and guaranteed delivery, and trust. But like social media, it can also have a negative impact on your brand if done badly — and don’t forget, you often have less control over how your products are shown, priced and compared on e-tail stores.

Choose e-tailers wisely to win in brand-building, but don't forget your own website and online shop

E-commerce is a smart way to build your brand in our cluttered media environment. Yet, in the same way that brands navigate owned stores and department store distribution in the offline world, the same must be considered online with presence via your own assets and third parties. The key is ensuring your value proposition and brand identity can be managed coherently across each channel, while being clear on the role of each for your brand.

Just as you plan brand campaigns around strong hero content supported by hygiene factors to signpost the creative idea, you must plan a balanced approach between utilising owned brand space/stores and e-commerce platforms. Your owned assets allow you to control the right narrative for consumer communication, serve as the proposition’s source of truth, and reveals the identity your brand is trying to convey. It’s also important to consider:

• how to integrate your e-commerce presence with the rest of your brand assets

• how you innovate and capitalise on the different user interfaces of each e-tailer you engage with

• safety, trust and coherence with your brand’s values

• pricing versus value perception, quality control and ROI

Make the most of e-tailers as publishers to build your brand with these rules in mind

Protect your products in e-commerce and use them effectively to build brand equity with these key rules:

1. Make the most of your media: optimise your content based on how, when, and where the platform is commonly accessed. To increase synergies among online channels, tell a coherent story across your brand website, marketplaces, and other digital touchpoints, in particular social media.

2. Link non-commerce touchpoints content with e-commerce: a great TV spot can increase traffic on your brand site immediately, but is more impactful if it seamlessly builds on the TV story. Kantar’s CrossMedia database shows that a well-integrated campaign generates over 1.5 times the contribution to impact compared to a non-integrated one.

3. Learn from competitors: there are great brands creating strong traffic and synergies with other media. But be mindful of excessive targeting — contextual targeting instead can help with consumer concerns.

4. Pay attention to pricing across various sites: e-commerce platforms may discount heavily to attract customers. This may devalue your brand (especially premium brands), train your customers to wait for discounts — thus damaging profit margins — or raise questions by creating too much of a difference between your own website/offline pricing and the online pricing of e-tailers.

5. Consider clarity of your brand promise/offer: ensure it is strongly relevant, differentiated, and easy to understand. This must be well permeated across all brand touchpoints and be front and centre in your quest to be present to new customers and audiences. With your brand clarity in place, you mitigate risk of dilution when presented across multiple platforms.

6. Be discerning to where you allow your brands to be placed: as e-commerce channels mature and differentiate to compete, it’s important to be clear on the positioning of each. The platform must align to your values and positioning and enhance your brand equity. This is akin to the attention paid to getting the right celebrity/influencer and is just as important as the choice of talent. And as with influencers, more is not necessarily better.

Successful brand-building in e-commerce will require you to break down internal silos between e-commerce and brand management, and between trade, digital, and marketing functions. But the sooner you recognise that e-commerce cannot exist in a silo and must be treated as part of an integrated brand communications strategy, the sooner you will benefit from the huge impact e-commerce can have as a brand-building channel.



Adji Saputro leads Kantar’s Brand Guidance solutions for Indonesia and APAC. His wealth of experience in brand and marketing management for both B2B and B2C businesses and leadership in market research, brand tracking and guidance has benefited businesses in FMCG, CPG, tech, and property.

Nelson Loaiza brings over two decades of client side and advertising agency experience across many countries to research. His curious and exploratory mindset has helped businesses establish transformational practices and win awards. Now at Kantar, Nelson heads Media, Analytics and Digital solutions across APAC.