This post is sponsored by Acosta.
The way consumers shop for groceries and other consumer packaged goods is rapidly changing as online ordering options grow and shoppers embrace home delivery and click-and-collect. E-commerce allows retailers and brands to get to know their customers through their shopping habits — opening new opportunities to drive sales. In this interview, Brian Christensen, Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy and E-commerce at Acosta, discusses what drives growth in e-commerce, how personalized offers can encourage impulse buys and how brands and retailers can utilize e-commerce as both a sales and marketing channel.
Impulse buys are a big part of brick-and-mortar, but how can brands ensure these sales translate to e-commerce?
I think we need to challenge the assumption that impulse purchases don’t happen online. In many ways, the more personalized online experiences create more opportunities to inspire shoppers and encourage impulse purchases than what can be done in-store. I know I regularly buy things online that I did not originally intend to buy. Sometimes this is the result of a personalized suggestion about what other shoppers like me buy or other shoppers buying an item I have added to my cart buy. Sometimes, it is the result of an ad that catches my attention. Other times I add things to my cart to meet minimum thresholds to avoid fees. Nielsen did a study that suggested that impulse purchases are 5% more likely online than offline, with some variation by category — with core grocery, household care, snacks and personal care all having higher impulse online than in store. That said, the nature of impulse is different online. It is more about inspiring people to buy based on digital interactions along the path to purchase and less about satisfying an instantaneous need. Brands and retailers are still figuring out how to best do this online, and I would expect that impulse will continue to grow online over time with including more traditional impulse purchase opportunities at the pickup point in click-and-collect models.
Online sales allow retailers and brands to collect more consumer data than they might in a traditional store setting. How can this information help drive product suggestions and impulse buys?
The best opportunities to drive impulse come from knowing what the consumer is most likely to want and giving them a personalized recommendation or offer. Stores are often organized to guess what an average person would want to add to their purchase as an impulse and ensure all shoppers see the same set of those likely impulse purchase opportunities. Personalized data unlocks a much more effective way of inspiring impulse purchases through serving up recommendations and offers that are most relevant to individuals.
How are innovations such as faster delivery and convenient ordering channels including IOT and voice assistants affecting the way consumers shop?
Convenience is a huge driver of growth online. As barriers to shopping online go away, consumer adoption picks up. When two days became standard delivery time and free shipping the norm for large orders, that was enough for many categories to shift heavily online. CPG categories are still early in the shift, but they are accelerating. Same day and next day delivery, as well as a rapid increase in options to buy full baskets online through click-and-collect or home delivery, are making it easier to buy more categories online more often. Today, IOT and voice assistants still have a minimal impact on online purchasing of CPG items. However, these trends will have a huge impact on consumer shopping behavior in the coming years. I believe that replenishment as a service is real and coming. IOT and voice ordering will both play a role in making it easier for people to manage inventories in their homes and re-order items they don’t want to run out of.
How can CPG brands take advantage of the fact that e-commerce is both a sales and marketing channel?
Acknowledging that e-commerce is both a sales and marketing channel seems like such a simple statement. It is important that brand teams regularly reflect on that fact and ask themselves how they can do more. All too often brands fall into the trap of thinking of e-commerce as just another sales channel. For most brands, far more people will interact with the brand on a product detail page than will ever interact on the brand’s website or brand-owned social media. There are many opportunities to improve content on product detail pages, including titles, descriptions, images, videos, comparison charts, ratings and reviews — all optimized for e-commerce. This is different than just repurposing content designed for other channels and using it in an e-commerce experience. Once item page content is optimized, brands should think about how they are driving improvements in search and demand generation tactics to ensure more people are interacting with the brand online.
Brian Christensen is the senior vice president of digital strategy and e-commerce. He joined Acosta’s Strategy and Transformation Team in 2017 and leads the e-commerce organization including account teams, business analysis and partnerships. He is focused on developing relationships with Acosta clients’ digital/e-commerce leaders and is the official e-commerce liaison for Acosta to clients and customers.
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