This is not a time to rest. If brands want to be ready for this year's holiday rush, they need to start preparing now.

John LeBaron

John LeBaron, chief revenue officer at Pattern Inc.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an incredible amount of change to the world. Amidst the obvious impacts—the widespread suffering, job losses, and health-driven shutdowns—there were also seismic shifts in consumer behavior that have changed the way we will do business for decades to come.

One of the largest of these shifts came in the world of ecommerce. As physical channels for goods were quickly replaced by virtual ones, ecommerce leaped forward by 10 years in just the first 90 days of the pandemic.

Few brands were fully prepared to live in this future as global supply chains became disrupted. Now, months later, many companies are still scrambling, with inventory not meeting holiday demand and the price of many goods experiencing unprecedented flux.

Many retail companies may want to use this spring as a break following the chaos of the holiday shopping season, but it’s not time to rest. If brands want to be ready for the holidays in 2021, they need to start preparing now by focusing on three key areas.


1. Get control of your supply chain and logistics 

In a year with an unprecedented and unpredictable pandemic, it’s easy to understand why brands had a hard time projecting demand ahead of the 2020 holidays. Many companies short-changed themselves on inventory. Additionally, massive disruptions in global supply chains meant many brands couldn’t create products quickly enough to meet their holiday inventory goals.

As brands quickly sold out of their stock on hand, consumers reacted the way they always do: They went elsewhere. The shortages and disruption meant brands lost an invaluable opportunity to increase revenue during an economic crisis and increase brand loyalty.

Fixing a global supply chain can take as long (or longer) as the initial build. Hence, brands need to be working now to fix or rebuild their supply chains, using holiday 2020 demand levels as a baseline for how much inventory they need to have on hand to satisfy customers in 2021.


2. Win back the buy box before the holiday season

One of the biggest challenges for ecommerce brands on Amazon is losing control of the buy box. Companies that fail to lock in controls for digital commerce with their retail partners will forfeit price control for their goods on popular digital marketplaces.

Losing control of your pricing creates something all brands dread: a race to the bottom. At best, this death spiral erodes revenue and profit. At worst, it can destroy the value of a brand’s goods in perpetuity.

Brands can take control of their ecommerce presence by scaling down their distribution, establishing new pricing policies with their retail partners and strictly enforcing minimum advertised prices (MAP)—or implementing selective distribution internationally. This process can take up to a year, but brands that go through this process now can regain price stability, win back the buy box, and maximize their holiday revenue opportunity in 2021.

3. Invest in product SEO now

Getting your products to rank on the first page of marketplace searches takes time, but few things lead to greater traffic to your listings. According to JungleScout, 80% of all clicks on Amazon happen on the first page of search results, so it’s more important than ever that brands optimize SEO on their listings.

Investments in SEO can take time to manifest, so companies need to start now to maximize rankings by the 2021 holiday shopping season. There are three primary areas on which to focus:

  • Seller authority: Brands need to partner with (or be themselves) active, authorized sellers with a solid number of good ratings and reviews. Healthy performance metrics like high in-stock rates and low order defect rates combined with a strong mix of products in your catalog also significantly influence seller authority, affecting everything from buy box ownership to advertising consistency to pricing stability, all factors in keyword ranking.
  • Click-through rate: When product listings inspire clicks in search results, rankings will improve. Be sure to create listings optimized for search intent. This will improve your product rankings as it encourages more people to click through to see more.
  • Product images: Strong images are the top influencing factor for 93% of consumer purchase decisions. A strong array of high-quality, optimized images will help brands fight off competition and build strong SEO ahead of the next holiday season.
  • Data science: Keywords and keyword phrases are the fundamental building blocks of performance on ecommerce platforms. Understanding how this data relates to your digital shelf (i.e., your competitors) and what arbitrage opportunities exist to exploit these keywords to your advantage is critical to SEO and advertising performance and improved seller rankings.

The pandemic has changed everything, and consumer brands are still playing catchup on ecommerce. While many have missed precious revenue in 2020, the good news is, there will be an even bigger return in 2021 for brands that can gain control of their supply chain, secure the buy box, and invest in improvements in product SEO.

Pattern Inc. offers marketplace analytics, product distribution and brand management services.