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On Tuesday Bobsled contributed to CommerceLive, a virtual conference for ecommerce professionals. The event facilitated discussion around current trends, challenges, and the future of ecommerce.

The event was organized around three category-specific tracks: CPG, beauty, and home. 

Bobsled CEO Kiri Masters moderated a session with Halee Patel from Califia Farms on the topic of Winning at the Digital Shelf: Tactics for the “New Normal” . Over 500 attendees joined the session live and contributed to the discussion on Slack. 

Find a recap of the main themes from the session below, as well as the key discussion points from the group. You can access a replay of the session, as well as two white papers for grocery / cpg brands here.


CommerceLive 2020 - Themes

Many consumers have switched brands & retailers because of COVID-19.

And according to a McKinsey study, about half expect to continue with them after the crisis.




We are seeing big changes in habits and behavior.

“Health food brand Manitoba Harvest saw a huge increase in new-to-brand buyers of their nutritional hemp seeds in the early days of the crisis, as shoppers wanted to stock up on shelf-stable health foods,” Kiri says. “If Manitoba Harvest can keep those shoppers interested with ways to use that product and through retargeting mechanisms, they might just have attained new customers for life.”  


Convenience is king.

Kiri Masters-2

“Shoppers are just answering this question for themselves: ‘where can I buy this thing at a time and place most convenient to me, when I want it?’ Sometimes that is online - like often the case today. Sometimes that’s in the store,” Kiri explains.


On the right: Bobsled CEO Kiri Masters


Historically, ecommerce has been unprofitable for many brands.

“Let’s address the elephant in the room,” Kiri says. “Ecomm marketplaces are rarely the most profitable channel for most brands, especially in CPG. This is partly why there has been internal resistance within organizations to invest in the channel in the past. But this pandemic will change that mentality. Brands need to find a way to make ecomm work, or face dire consequences.”


The core fundamentals that drive your business

“The core fundamentals driving our business is the daily/weekly tracking of elements that define the health of our business,” Halee explains. 

  • Assortment & Availability (are we available everywhere we are supposed to be: category/retailer/DTC)
  • Ratings (pulse on our customers’ sentiment)
  • Pricing (issues that can impact profitability)
  • Placement (where do we show up and how do we rank)
  • Content (are we appropriately educating and speaking to our consumers?) 
  • Sales + Share (keeping a pulse on how you perform vs the category)


Live by your customer value index


Change in search patterns

Halee Patel“One surge we saw was around a change in search terms,” Halee says. “Specifically, we saw the term ‘Boxed Milk’ surge. It was early COVID days, around the end of Feb, but it was so drastic that we knew it had some legs for us to dig in and test further. Whether it be changes on Google, Amazon or even your own DTC, that’s a leading indicator to take action against.”

On the right: Halee Patel, Senior Director; eCommerce & Business Development at Califia Farms


Juggling inventory

“This change in search volume quickly led us to making sure our boxed milk was available wherever our shoppers were shopping for it,” Halee says. “This was a full team effort, and it’s where our DTC business really came in. We have full control of the DTC supply chain, so we directed people there whenever we could. This allowed us to be seen as a reliable brand during very challenging times, and this will hopefully help build customer loyalty.”


During this time, the fast movers will have a major advantage.

“What’s evident to me is how adaptive Califia has been in responding to the signals that shoppers are giving - whether that’s an increase in search volume for ‘boxed milk’ and acting quickly on that, or in refinding what metrics you use to track success,” Kiri says. “It really embodies what we are talking about today in terms of the new normal: brands who are agile and responsive will win.”


CommerceLive 2020 - Discussion Points

Discussion point 1: making marketplaces profitable at the unit-level.

CommerceLive Attendee #1: Multipacks/variety packs are expensive due to on-cost for assembly. Is discounting a must for sell through of these items? If yes, that makes for a double whammy. Any good suggestions that could help to offset this?


Kiri Masters, Bobsled CEO: One strategy is to offer assortments that make sense for each channel. You might only offer multi-pack or stock-up versions of your product on your ecomm / marketplace channel, for example. You don't necessarily need to discount or offer the single-pack in addition to the multi.


Julie Spear, Bobsled President: One other option on Amazon, if your goal is cross-sales or increasing units per transaction, would be to offer promotions on a single SKU's listing for quantity discounts of the same SKU or with the purchase of other SKUs in your catalog.  While you're incurring the cost of promotions, you're not incurring costs for packaging of the multi or bundle. 


CommerceLive Attendee #1: Thank you ladies, very helpful, any examples you can share? Definitely profitability is such a hurdle in driving these packs.


Slack Conversation


Discussion point 2: leveraging changing behavior 

CommerceLive Attendee #2: What are some things Califia is doing to engage and retain new consumers who are trying you for the first time?


Kiri Masters, Bobsled CEO: @Halee Patel will probably jump in to answer directly too.

My view is that if you're getting a high percentage of new-to-brand purchases, you should be doing the following:

  • Offer a subscribe-and-save option (Amazon's subscription program)
  • Initiate a retargeting program with DSP  whereby you can retarget past shoppers at a time when they'd likely be repurchasing
  • A final out of the box idea, if possible, is including helpful product inserts that engage the shopper and potentially offer a discount on a future purchase. Such promotion codes can be setup in Amazon Seller Central.


Slack Feedback-1



You can access a replay of the session, as well as two white papers for grocery / cpg brands by clicking here


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