How legacy brands are making their comeback with ecommerce 

The increasingly prominent role that ecommerce has come to take in the wider retail landscape was hardly a secret even prior to the disruption visited upon us by the recent coronavirus crisis. In the UK, for instance, the online share of all retail sales reached a new high of 19% in 2019, compared to the 12% figure that had been recorded for 2011. 

And of course, the events of the past few months in which brick-and-mortar retail stores around the world have been forced to shut their doors as part of efforts to minimise COVID-19’s spread, are likely to have further bolstered this long-term trend. 

This brings us neatly onto the subject of how legacy brands – those that emerged in the world of potentially many decades ago, and in which physical retail was taken for granted as the ‘standard’ – are coping with such widespread shifts. And the perhaps surprising conclusion to be made for many such brands is that ecommerce is providing an important platform for their comebacks. 

The rise, fall and (potential) rise again of retail ‘nostalgia’ 

The gradual shift towards online commerce hasn’t been kind to many of the best-known legacy brands. 

It was once a big occasion, for example, to visit a brick-and-mortar Toys “R” Us, while the Johnson & Johnson brand’s classic baby shampoo captivated generations of parents with its “no more tears” labelling. 

Today, the former’s once ubiquitous stores are a mere childhood memory for many, and the latter has attracted adverse headlines lately over its use of talc in its baby powder. It was also late to spot a drop-off in sales of its shampoo among parents in the second decade of the 21st century. 

But there is hope for many legacy retailers 

There have, though, also been signs of legacy brands that might have seen declining fortunes in the initial years of the ‘Amazon age’ managing to mount savvy comebacks with the help of ecommerce. The international consumer giant Unilever, for instance, made what proved to be a savvy call with its 2016 purchase of Dollar Shave Club, a digitally native vertical brand (DNVB) that gave the larger brand an invaluable foothold in the ecommerce space. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, other legacy brands that traditionally leaned on brick-and-mortar sales have been reaping the benefits of having already upgraded their online retail offerings. 

Among them is the nearly 70-year-old surf and activewear brand Body Glove, which has ramped up its digital sales presence since 2018 with the addition of several new product categories to its website, such as outerwear, bags and luggage, and home goods. 2019 ended up being the company’s most successful ever ecommerce year, while its forecast for 2020 indicates between 20% and 30% year-on-year growth

The 1947-founded ice chest manufacturer Igloo has made a similarly widely admired transition, its online sales having accounted for a mere 1% of its overall revenue until 2017; with its creation of a compelling omnichannel shopping experience since then, it has now recorded a 900% increase in online direct-to-consumer sales. 

There can still be a place for longer-established brands in today’s ecommerce space

So, in a nutshell, can legacy brands that may have fallen behind younger counterparts in recent years mount convincing comebacks to survive and even thrive with the help of ecommerce? 

The answer is “yes”, but much depends on them learning the key lessons that this era should have taught them. Those include, but are by no means limited to, the need to make ‘m-commerce’ – or mobile commerce – as key a part of their strategy as ecommerce, and the intelligent use of data to make plans in accordance with what customers actually want. 

If the high-profile legacy brand failures of the early 21st century ought to have indicated anything to us, it is that the retail sector – both online and offline – remains a fiercely competitive one, and that agile adaptability is therefore key. 

Events of the last few years should signal to us, too, that in an age of eroded loyalty to existing brands and heightened buyer ‘promiscuity’, legacy retailers continuing to follow the traditional models in the mere hope that new generations of consumers will behave as their parents and grandparents did, just isn’t enough. 

Contact the Underwaterpistol team today via phone or email, and we would be pleased to discuss how we could work with you on your legacy brand’s Shopify store setup to unlock its full potential in ecommerce.