How to pivot to ecommerce

The coronavirus pandemic has kickstarted camera company Canon’s digital transformation journey as it continues to ramp up its ecommerce offering


canon ecommerce

If it wasn’t clear at the start of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has brought into sharp focus how critical it is for businesses of all sizes to ensure they are well on their digital transformation journey. Those that started long before the crisis had the frame in which to move quickly and with great agility to accommodate the rise in remote working and ecommerce.

“Many multichannel businesses that were already investing in ecommerce as a growth channel have suddenly found digital forming the majority, rather than the minority, of their sales and ecommerce turning into a far more significant profit driver,” says Andrew Hood, founder and chief executive of data analytics consultancy Lynchpin.

How to start a digital transformation

Multinational camera giant Canon is an exemplar of an organisation that has shifted its gaze to ecommerce in the last five months, with aplomb. The company, established in 1937 in Japan, approached Lynchpin four years ago, when its ecommerce offering barely existed, to help create a roadmap for digital transformation and data-driven decision-making. And when the pandemic hit, Canon moved through the gears.

“Like many consumer businesses, COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated Canon’s digital transformation,” says Hood. “Lynchpin has supported, thanks to our ability to provide fast, actionable insight across factors ranging from changing consumer behaviour to pricing dynamics in the market.”

John Donnellan, director of e-commerce ITCG at Canon Europe, has been in the driving seat of the digital transformation. He stresses the importance of partnering with an expert: “Lynchpin helps us to unlock the millions of datapoints we have and turn them into valuable insight, which we use daily to improve our traffic, customer journey and sales performance.

“The purpose of the digital transformation is to manage Canon’s visibility in the different digital spaces – Google, Amazon, YouTube and specialist sites – actively and to deliver an online experience that reflects the high expectations, quality and innovation of the brand.”

How did Canon solve this mighty challenge and secure board-level support? “In a complex matrix, international and multichannel company, you only gain traction if you have a compelling story that relies on hard data,” says Donnellan.

“By being able to demonstrate the size of the appetite from online customers, by showing the level of interest for Canon products and validating the willingness of customers to buy directly from Canon, we gained buy-in from internal stakeholders to increase Canon’s visibility on its product, as well as increase conversion by simplifying and improving the experience.

The secrets to success

“The other critical reason for success is a relentless focus on ambitious, but achievable, targets. By implementing effective best practices across all aspects of ecommerce, including digital marketing, promotions and the overarching customer experience, we have been able to review, optimise and demonstrate success.”

The processes put in place have shown that this success was not accidental but engineered with the customer at the core

There have been manifold benefits for Canon, not least a much stronger resilience to events such as COVID-19. Undoubtedly the company’s investment in digital transformation has been vindicated. “Being able to demonstrate that Canon’s direct sales could support the business during challenging times and actively contribute to improving profitability has accelerated the internal adhesion to the importance of ecommerce,” says Donnellan.

“The strategic processes put in place have shown that this success was not accidental but engineered with the customer at the core.”

Offering advice to others embarking on a similar journey, he adds: “Be ambitious yet humble. Have a clear vision, be consistent, and build up your credit and influence in the organisation. Harness what you can control before asking for more. Finally, always rely on facts and leave emotion aside.”


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