Guest Blog: The Inside View from Edgewell’s eCommerce Category Manager

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Previously at Kimberly-Clark and now eCommerce Category Manager at Edgewell Personal Care, Elena Meyer spent a three week secondment in our London office. Here she talks about Edgewell’s current and future capabilities in scaling up in eCommerce.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Established brand leaders need to quickly accelerate digital transformation by integrating, not diluting, their local and regional strategies.

  2. Take note of how people are shopping in other categories and how that can apply to yours. Shopping habits will change and get shared across categories.

  3. In order to influence retailers, build internal advocates within your company who can help present you bring your omnichannel category strategy alive.

  4. Don’t prioritise one channel over another, concentrate on the whole customer journey to influence revenue.

  5. Build Cross functional capabilities to avoid silos and benefit from the skill set of the wider company; there shouldn’t be an ‘eCommerce’ expert, the knowledge should be shared across all commercial teams.

  6. Selling an idea internally is just as important as selling it externally.

  7. eCommerce is growing fast but is still new to a lot of companies. Invest in yourself to learn the skills to thrive and network with other eCommerce professionals.

Consumer shopping habits have changed drastically over the last few years, today the digitally engaged consumer is shopping differently across all channels as a result of the new behaviours driven by eCommerce. It is clear that as eCommerce expands, the future success of brands will be significantly affected by how they integrate online with in-store and play in an omnichannel environment. FMGC companies are transforming internally to put eCommerce at the center of their strategy. This involves understanding the capabilities, processes, and organizational changes they need to capture new, nonlinear decision journeys.

At Edgewell there’s a big focus to accelerate growth in eCommerce. To achieve this, we are transforming our internal structure, building new capabilities and adopting new tools. As part of this change we want to reinforce our omnichannel strategy and to do so we are rolling out e.fundamentals in key European markets to grow online sales and partner with grocery and drugstore retailers. My role as the eCommerce Category Manager for Europe, is newly formed to help make this a success. Working across commercial and marketing roles in France, UK and Italy, I’ve directly experienced the shift in consumer behaviours and the growing focus of retailers towards eCommerce. Category and Key account managers are at the centre of this changing competitive landscape and need guidance to quickly identify and tap into these new opportunities.

My first point of call was doing a three-week secondment at e.fundamentals; what better way to further understand how to best utilise one of our eCommerce tools than to spend time with the people who made them? There I was fully immersed in discussions around eCommerce and digital transformation. There was a great atmosphere of people exchanging ideas, discussing topics over coffee and lunch, all very fast paced with a lot of knowledge and insights being shared… an agile environment that I found inspiring; it was a very insightful experience.


Edgewell’s perspective

The disruption in shaving started in the US market where new players like Dollar shave club, Harry’s, and other digital native companies gained shopper preference and market share from the market leaders and traditional players. As it has been the case with many CPG companies, the fresh approach from these digital native companies shook everyone in the industry and we need it to quickly accelerate our transformation to better compete in the new environment.

Retailers across Europe are focusing on developing their omnichannel approach. We see some peculiarities, like the development of the Drive model in France or the pure online supermarket in the UK (Ocado), but there are also a lot of commonalities, after all the shoppers want convenience, price and quality wherever and whenever they buy. Edgewell, being a global business, wants to leverage this great opportunity for different markets to learn from each other. It's important for us to be on top of these evolutions and help retailers drive the growth of our categories via omnichannel strategies.  

Taking one of our core categories as an example, the Men shaving and grooming, in the last year we’ve experienced the development of new channels and the evolution of traditional ones: from the rise of subscription models, to grocery retailers revisiting the men aisles to make room for new categories like beard care and styling, the creation of new partnership across markets and channels like Casino-Ocado or Monoprix-Amazon, through to the exponential growth of Amazon and the other pure players.  A further ingredient of complexity for a company playing in the international environment is that these diverse channels are developing at a different pace so it’s important to intercept at the local level with the most relevant opportunities.

Key to understanding the consumer journey

One of the key areas of insight that we want to better understand is the omnichannel shopping behaviour of consumers in our categories and specifically the role of online channels in influencing it. Online offers consumer the possibility to shop in a different way. There is more transparency on prices, easy comparison of product benefits and opportunity to read reviews from other consumers.

At Edgewell we are trying to decode the new consumer journey online and see how we can improve the offline experience. In the past we were treating online consumer as a different consumer but the reality is that consumers needs remain the same independent on where they shop, for them the boundaries between online or offline are getting blurry. There is enough evidence to prove that consumers research online and buy offline and vice versa too. Consumers go to the shop and then use their mobiles to search and buy online.

Online gives consumer more options and what the disruptors and pure-players like Amazon made us realise, is that we need to have a deeper understanding of the whole shopper journey, not just the individual channels, and then pinpoint the parts of that journey that needs attention.

Another big consideration alongside price and promotions is the shift in consumer habits happening in our categories, especially in men shaving. Men of the new generation are interested in skincare routines and styling, so beyond the classical shaving routine, including beard, hair and skin. We learned from this that the best way to reach these customers is to talk to them about men care as a whole, not just shaving.

Online shelves are more flexible than traditional bricks and mortar shelves and therefore it’s easier and more cost effective to make changes online to test and learn and then roll out in-store. The eCommerce must be treated as the preferred channel for innovation and not as a minor channel.

Building cross functional capabilities

We are focusing on building capabilities across teams and functions. In my new role, I’m clarifying the ways of working across regional and local teams; we want to avoid overlap and put local markets at the centre of the action. We will then prioritise the key actions that will drive quick wins for the business and help them achieve their objectives whilst learning new capabilities and building best practices. We’re working on eCommerce plans as a pillar to the current strategy that will help deliver existing KPIs, not add news ones so it becomes a burden and yet another thing they need to do. This is by far the best way to approach eCommerce.

It’s important for us to focus on the full strategy of the key customers and how the online piece can deliver this alongside the other channels. Above all else, we don’t limit the discussion to eCommerce but look to the entire customer strategy. We’re constantly asking: how can eCommerce create additional value for us and for our customers? We have also identified the support needed in terms of insights and analytics to help us understand retailers and market evolution in eCommerce. We want this knowledge to be shared across local teams to help them work on eCommerce and asses how it fits into their local strategy. The idea is to have all the commercial functions working together and sharing knowledge. eCommerce and digital should not be the responsibility of just a few in the company but embedded in all functions.

Having the right eCommerce insights becomes critical; e.fundamentals tailors their approach according to our needs within the markets we’re operating in. Everyone can access insights from one platform based on what matters to them, see online performance on a regular basis and track to optimise the drivers. Having a complete category view across all markets is important which their platform seamlessly delivers.


Internal advocates

We are on a journey to demystify eCommerce internally in the company and make it accessible to all. There is a lot of jargon and new concepts that people need to learn. Part of my job is to gain advocates internally and then focus on the key retailers. It’s not an easy job! eCommerce transactions are up to 10% in the biggest accounts but we believe that a true omnichannel approach makes sense therefore, we are focusing on getting big wins with key retailers to build momentum and advocates. The internal job is to understand what we need to present to the retailers to bring our omnichannel category strategy alive.


Self-developing your eCommerce career

It's very simple… connection and collaboration. Connect with people at events, exchange information and keep meeting. Don’t be afraid or shy to make the first move; we’re working in an environment of innovation where people are willing to listen and share with you; you might have challenges that the other person might also be thinking about or has overcome. So, having that openness is important.  

Overall, I find working in Category Management fascinating as its focus is on understanding the shopper and how they behave. The eCommerce role is about further understanding the changes in their behaviour, something that I have always been curious to know more about. When you see all the changes taking place around the world, I really believe there is something very positive in what we’re doing; eCommerce can and really is helping people to make choices and take action amidst their busy lives... and that’s definitely a positive.

The role of eCommerce in digital transformation

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