Over the course of a two-day agenda, attendees of the Digital Shopper Commerce Forum (a virtual event held June 15-16) heard from leading retailers, brands, agencies, tech providers and consultants about all things digital shopper commerce – what the landscape looks like today, and where the industry should be heading.
Dramatic shifts in shopper behavior the last two years have turned the marketing industry’s focus – and its budgets – heavily toward digital activity. While emerging retail media networks have garnered the bulk of recent attention, there are a wide variety of platforms and tools available that can help marketers effectively engage with shoppers.
Some of these options working in conjunction with specific retailers, some of them work across multiple retailers, and some compete with retailers for brands’ marketing dollars. But many of them are worth considering as brands develop their digital shopper engagement strategies.
The Forum’s speakers set out to help attendees make sense of it all. See below for summaries of each session, as well as select video clips providing noteworthy sound bites from the presentations and discussions.
All Digital Shopper Commerce Forum sessions remain available for replay by registered attendees 30 days after the event. The videos will remain available beyond that time frame to members of the Path to Purchase Institute in the presentation library at P2PI.org.
Day 1 Sessions
The Evolution of Omnichannel Customer Obsession
Scott Compton, Senior Analyst, Forrester
Roughly one-third of consumers say they have developed new behavioral patterns that they are likely to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, including using the use of mobile devices to shop. Forrester forecasts that mobile commerce will grow 17% annually through 2024; in responses, 28% of business owners say adding or improving mobile services is a key action they are taking.
Convenience is always cited as the No. 1 reason people shop online, and it is important to give shoppers as frictionless a process as possible, especially as their base expectations for mobile shopping functionality have become more sophisticated.
Compton shared five engagement and conversion tips that are effective in the digital environment:
- Master merchandising moments via rich, sponsored content and comparison shopping.
- Improve findability through search and navigation functions, especially the ability to filter by fulfillment options.
- Frictionless checkout through alternative payment methods.
- Prioritize the mobile shopper by implementing digital wallets.
- Retain new customers with replenishment, as auto-replenishment is now a proven tactic.
Personalization is also important and can accomplished effectively using first-party data. Examples include consumers inputting their own preferences to receive better product recommendations, targeting by geo-location (aka, segmenting to the region), and click-stream customization.
However, bad personalization is worse than no personalization at all, so marketers must start with data, get good insights, and work hard to make the experience as one-to-one as possible.
FORUM SOUND BITE: Scott Compton ...
Winning with Shoppers in the Rapidly Evolving World of Quick Commerce
Mike Harp, Head of Brand Partnerships, Gopuff; and Kat Ussery, Director of Emerging Channels, The Mars Agency
The significance of e-commerce for CPG brands has been catapulted into the future and will continue to grow due to shifting shopper behaviors that focus on the ease, convenience and immediacy provided by online shopping, according to Ussery, who praised “the value that Gopuff can provide brands throughout the entire purchase journey” while conducting a Q&A with Harp.
Currently operating a 24-hour home delivery service in roughly 600 U.S. cities, Gopuff’s mission is to be “the go-to solution for immediate, everyday needs” across a variety of CPG categories including household cleaners, food and snacks, OTC medicine and alcohol that consumers can obtain “from one place, delivered to your doorstep, within minutes,” explained Harp. The company’s “secret sauce” is its control of “every step in the last-mile delivery process” thanks to proprietary technology, an in-house product inventory, a network of 400 micro-fulfillment centers and stores (the latter through the late 2020 acquisition of the BevMo chain), and a fleet of delivery drivers.
Based on recent changes in consumer behavior the company has witnessed, Gopuff has identified four “big bets” that are driving its strategy:
1. “Relentlessly” improving the customer experience. While average delivery time is about 28 minutes now, 10 minutes is possible in some markets, Harp said.
2. Expanding category capabilities to cover all “instant needs moments, whatever they may be.” This is especially important as Gopuff’s users expand from the company's original Gen Z base to encompass “multi-tasking parents” and other cohorts across different demographics.
3. Expanding the operational footprint, which will double in 2021 to include the New York City area and California, as well as to “dramatically” build out existing delivery zones.
4. Launching a retail media network, to offer a “predictable and repeatable ROI engine” that can connect brand experiences with immediate product delivery.
Overall, 36% of Gopuff’s orders are placed between 8 p.m. and midnight, with 9-10 p.m. being the busiest window, said Harp, in noting that the company is “seeing a lot of behavior that is incremental to other shopping trips.”
The Importance of Contextual Targeting Along the Shopper’s Path to Purchase
Rachel Bennington, VP of CPG, and Mark Fleisch, SVP of Partnerships, GroundTruth
GroundTruth aims to aid marketers in reaching high-value, loyal shoppers across all screens, during the right moment, to drive them to checkout with the marketer’s products in their digital and physical baskets. The company strives to help create meaningful media moments to drive conversion by enabling marketers to drill down into the details related to when a shopper is in a store, in a parking lot or within one block of the retailer.
In addition to providing a contextual tool, GroundTruth’s foundational, location-based technology can also help marketers reach shoppers at various "moments" along the path to purchase:
- List-building moments: Reaching shoppers at residential or work areas where they spend the most time.
- Routine moments: Reaching loyal shoppers that are in stores on a weekly basis.
- Purchase moments: Reaching shoppers when they are in the retail environment.
- Pickup moments: Reaching shoppers when they are in store pickup lanes.
- Browsing moments: The ability to layer on third-party browsing and purchase data when shoppers have retailer/shopping applications on their mobile phone.
Typically, for every dollar of ROI earned online, GroundTruth drives $6.30 in ROI in the store. The company recommends third-party measurement – it offers an array of vetted partners from which to choose – to establish test vs. control scenarios and isolate the power of media within both the online and in-store sales results, and optimize tactics to better reach core shoppers with the right message.
The Future of Shopping Has Come Early
David Sommer, Head of CPG, Retail and Shopper Marketing, Facebook
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly redefined how consumers shop. The growth that digital influence has on shopper journeys is a major behavior change across generations and product categories. With an entirely digitized purchase funnel and a rise in social media usage, Facebook and Instagram conversation data reveals a significant increase in new topics related to direct-to-consumer, subscription and pre-order offerings.
With digital acceleration here to stay and spending now normalizing, there are five consumer shifts shaping retail’s future that marketers must account for to achieve success.
- Shopping redefined. A re-examination of priorities is leading to complex, more intentional purchase decisions. As shoppers increasingly rely on digital, they’re exposed to more information than ever before. Marketers must adapt shopping experiences to address new expectations.
- Navigating shopping risks. With new friction points in stores and online, marketers should take action to cut wait times or ensure seamless payment options to ease shopper pain points and drive return visits.
- Reversing roles. In a role reversal, the brick-and-mortar store is becoming transactional and online is becoming experiential. In-store shoppers are becoming more prepared, digitally empowered, and looking for more efficient trips, creating an opportunity for digital to provide new experiences like virtual product try-ons.
- Across the street and around the world. Shopping carts are going “glocal.” The pandemic has created a sense of dual identity for consumers, impacting how and where they shop. Many consumers began supporting local businesses while simultaneously shopping foreign websites, largely due to social media.
- The new loyalty equation. Consumer loyalty has taken a hit in recent months. But loyalty can be driven through empathy, transparency and value. Marketers should create a multifaceted strategy focused on areas such as product availability, accessibility and affordability.
FORUM SOUND BITE: Dave Sommer ...
Retail Media, the Identity Crisis, and How to Drive Sales in 2021
Thomas Benedict, Vice President of Data & Media, Ibotta
Retail media has been redefined due to the pandemic and the rapid acceleration of digital shopping. Today, the term is more prevalent than ever, and its definition has evolved to also include retailer websites and mobile apps.
Even as the nation reopens, there are still fewer people shopping in stores than before, which points to a massive shift in consumer behavior and accelerating opportunities for marketers and retail media. At the same time, marketers are facing an identity crisis: It’s getting harder to track consumers online as leading browser engines and tech companies move to eliminate third-party cookies and protect data. Similar to what's done by major media players Facebook, Google and Amazon, retail media remedies this crisis by requiring users to log in. It therefore gives CPG marketers an even greater advantage by delivering authenticated shopper data, first-party sales data and measurable lower-funnel ad units.
Although retail media is still new, Benedict offered a few ways to effectively leverage these platforms:
- Be informed and selective when choosing retail media partners. Marketers should master select platforms and monitor new players to drive the best ROI and results.
- Use 1:1 attribution. Optimize future programs using the sales data that retail media networks provide through their logged-in shopper data.
- Diversify activation. While retail media has many pros for marketers, it does have scale limitations. Traditional retail media (in-store and online advertising, sampling, loyalty programs, etc.), programmatic ads, social media, TV and other touch points also add value.
Winning E-Commerce with Retailer-Specific Content
Amanda Wolff, Chief Marketing Officer, OneSpace
When it comes to shopping online, not all product images are created equally, according to Wolff. Hero product images are much smaller in search results pages on Kroger’s mobile application than on Instacart's app, for example. Therefore, brands need to customize their hero images based on each retailer's style and specifications, she recommends.
Elsewhere, shoppers on Amazon.com's mobile application will view titles, image carousels and A+ content (enhanced product descriptions and page details including enhanced images, charts, videos, etc.) on a product page before product descriptions and bulletins. Considering this, Wolff encourages brands to make sure their A+ content is as product-specific as possible, and to optimize the content in descriptions and bulletins more for search than for conversion.
Here are additional tips from Wolff for brands looking to optimize their product content on retailer websites:
- Don’t forget to submit all your product attributes. A search for “gluten-free burritos” on Kroger.com, for example, becomes much smaller when the “gluten-free” filter attribute is applied simply because some products are missing that.
- Your greatest priority should be optimizing the product titles and hero images that appear in search results. Since some retailers have an “add to cart” button on search results pages, a product title and hero image may be all shoppers view before adding an item directly to their carts.
- Be thoughtful about the tendency for titles and descriptions to be truncated in search results pages and on mobile devices.
- Use additional images on your product’s page to help merchandise and tell the brand story.
FORUM SOUND BITE: Amanda Wolff ...
Industry Innovator Awards Ceremony
In the world of shopper commerce, it has always been important for brand marketers and retailers to maintain a steady pace of innovation that can keep them ahead of evolving consumer needs and drive ongoing product demand. But the disruption caused by the pandemic in 2020 brought the need for innovation to an entirely new level, as objectives shifted from commonplace business-growth needs to far more critical issues like completely rethinking execution strategies and even helping keep channel partners in operation.
It was such an impressive year for innovation that the Path to Purchase Institute seized the opportunity to launch a new awards program that would recognize some of the people and companies that are bringing innovation to life across the industry. The first group of winners are:
Winner: Natalie Kinney, Director of Insights and New Product Concepts, Butterball
With traditional Thanksgiving plans in doubt, Kinney helped ensure that Butterball remained the go-to source for consumer information about the holiday – and for the turkeys they needed for dinner, of course.
Winner: Elisa Gurevich, Director, Global Shaver Portfolio, Bic
Despite all the chaos taking place, Gurevich guided the launch of a category-busting and socially aware new brand at retail: Us., the first gender-neutral line of shaving products.
Winner: Greg Yeadon, Senior Manager of Innovation, Clif Bar & Co.
Yeadon joined Clif Bar in 2019 to lead e-commerce marketing – just in time to bring order to the chaos of what would soon become an exploding sales channel.
Category: Shopper Marketing
Winner: Daniel Ingram, Global Director of the BEES Customer Experience, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Ingram devised a hyper-localized social media strategy to drive sales and help keep channel partners afloat after the pandemic shut down or severely limited the activities of bars and restaurants around the world.
Category: Retail Innovator of the Year
Several years of intensive development of its e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities had Kroger ready for the disruption that came its way in 2020, allowing the nation’s largest grocer to meet the changing needs of both shoppers and supplier partners.
For more information about the winners, along with profiles of nine finalists and more information about the program itself, read our full coverage here.
Day 2 Sessions
Insights in Context: A Q&A with Instacart
Ryan Mayward, Vice President of Sales, Instacart
With the rise of online grocery shopping brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Instacart became an "essential service" for many consumers and a critical industry partner for both retailers and brands. Looking back, Mayward said the company had wins across "all four sides of its marketplace":
- Retailers: More than 200 new retailers, and more than 15,000 new store locations, were added to the Instacart marketplace in 2020.
- Customers: Many customers leaned on Instacart as online grocery became an essential service during the pandemic.
- Shoppers: The company grew its shopper base from 200,000 in March 2020 to more than 500,000 today.
- CPG advertising partners: The company has expanded its relationships with manufacturers and now offers self-service and managed ad services to more than 2,500 CPG brands.
Here are a few other takeaways from Mayward:
- According to a recent Instacart survey, additional family members beyond the primary shopper have taken on more grocery buying responsibilities at 74% of households since the start of the pandemic.
- Shopping orders placed during standard working hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) increased by 32% in 2020.
- Instacart has a few unique advantages in the area of shopper data and, for example, can provide CPG marketers insights into trial and repeat activation, basket penetration and composition, and timely out-of-stock information.
How to Bring Category Thinking to Life on the Digital Shelf
John Maltman, CEO, e-fundamentals
With the pandemic accelerating the growth of online grocery shopping, digital shelf analytics have never been more important for brand marketers. Traditional analytics providers have had limited traction, due either to lack of relevance or concerns over data quality. Instead of perceiving data sets as a cost of doing business, they can actually be a revenue generator. The solution is to not simply generate great insights, but to also develop the ways of working that will allow organizations to execute continuously using speed and scale.
Each day, e-fundamentals gathers various points of shopper data from the priority retailers of its clients, including share of category shelf, SKU presentation, and price and promotion. The company then turns the data into insights that will drive sales growth by identifying opportunities for the brands and their retailer partners.
To win on the digital shelf, brands most go beyond developing strong content and leveraging search. They must take a category perspective by adding sub-category definitions, accounting for other relevant description fields, and adding other key product attributes.
Maltman's recommended timeline of benchmarks for brands is:
- As of now, have strong product standards in place and a clear point of view on assortment development. Focus on availability.
- In the near future, develop ways of working across the business. Up-skill frontline sales and marketing managers to work in the omnichannel space. Know the value of each retailer’s marketing tools.
- In the long-term, look to develop closed-loop solutions pertaining to data and insights. Combine your data sets, build advanced analytics capabilities and develop insights around valuable use cases.
The Future of Direct-to-Consumer Engagement
Chris Perry, Digital Commerce Consultant; Erika Lepczyk, Head of E-Commerce & DTC, Miele Inc.; Andrew Feldman, Director of E-Commerce, Hello Products; and Ann Boyles, E-Commerce Team Lead, Galderma
Winning offline requires brands to win online first. The retail shelf in shrinking, competition from challenger brands is rising and digital leadership is growing in influence. CPGs are responding with omnichannel acceleration and direct-to-consumer activation.
Among the reasons that CPGs should consider pursuing DTC initiatives are long-term growth, capability building, innovation and ownership of consumer data. Before beginning the journey, CPGs should assess what the current consumer expectations are for retailers in e-commerce and determine how they can differentiate themselves.
With DTC, there is a convenience factor for consumers to find a company’s full assortment available in one place. There is also an exclusivity factor. CPGs have a key opportunity to elevate the experiential aspect of their brands with a DTC website. Even packaging plays a role.
Among other key thoughts from the panel:
- Use DTC activities as market research. When considering a product line extension, it can be utilized to gather consumer reports and other data to determine whether a full launch investment is worthwhile.
- Don’t be afraid of failure, but try to fail fast. With DTC, you can get some great learning out of failures and capitalize on them.
- Personalization is ascending to a higher level. Having metadata attached to user logins, along with artificial intelligence-driven understanding, will usher in the next wave of DTC.
FORUM SOUND BITE: Ann Boyles ...
Power of Connection: Navigating the Touchpoint Revolution
Speaker: Lei Duran, SVP, Retail Insights, Kantar
In the new shopper journey landscape, the power of connection is key, according to Duran. Online sales penetration has accelerated. There has been a shift of media spend online as well. And retailers own more touch points – because touchpoints equal engagement.
In the evolved shopper journey, touch point planning is becoming more complex and crowded. Focus and clarity are important. Kantar research finds that 20% of touch points drive 80% of brand impact. These touch points can be grouped into four key areas in the shopper journey (that are not linear): research, preparation (making lists), deal seeking (28% still clip coupons, 11% use online coupons/offers), and exploration (finding new ideas). Shopping touch points have heavily migrated to mobile. Shoppers want a retailer-specific experience, and online shoppers are more engaged.
There are new touch point opportunities: 24% of shoppers say they now purchase through social media. While Instagram and Pinterest are the top platforms for purchase at the moment, brands need to understand how shoppers are using each platform. (TikTok, for instance, is used for exploration and education.) Content can be created in multiple ways, utilizing peer- and influencer-driven material, and must deliver both quality and relevance.
When considering the implications of this "touch point revolution," brands should remember three golden rules to build deeper connections and thrive:
- Focus on what matters. Avoid the temptation to try everything.
- Utilize the full sphere of influence – both paid and organic experiences.
- Brand impact is the true measure of effectiveness. Both reach and quality experiences are needed. Have a plan.
Best Practices in Digital Shopper Commerce Engagement
Moderator: April Carlisle, EVP of Commerce, Spark Foundry. Panelists: John Ostman, Senior Director, E-Commerce & Digital Strategy, Jack Link's; Bob Waibel, Senior Director, Commerce Marketing, Conagra Brands; and Yolanda Angulo, Director, Customer Marketing, Mondelez International
The level of recent change within shopper commerce has been staggering. There’s never been more dramatic change than in the last 12 months. That was the basis for this panel discussion led by Carlisle, a Path to Purchase Institute Hall of Famer. The panelists suggested that "shopper marketing" has evolved into "commerce marketing," a term that better represents what’s happening across the retail landscape.
Among these changes has been an increased demand for some brands (driving a need to keep up with supply) and a shift in shopping behavior (to online/e-commerce), as well as the rise of retailer media platforms.
With the growth of e-commerce, retailers have ramped up their efforts and brands have followed suit, working with channel partners to support their online efforts. Digital media has escalated, as well as click-and-collect services, requiring the need to track new partners like Instacart.
In regard to spending levels and budgeting, retailers have increased their "ask" when it comes to digital media and especially e-commerce, panelists said. That is making it even more important to establish clarity within joint business planning, to determine the best place for brands to spend their dollars in an “omni” plan. Brands need to invest where they will be closest to influencing conversion, reaching the right people, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.
Among other topics, Angulo noted that sponsored search is Mondelez's No. 1 tactic from an e-commerce perspective, so the company makes sure it's funded in that area.
When developing best practices for measurement, ROAS (return on ad spend) is a starting point, but brands can add many other layers into the mix. With the market rapidly changing, they need to learn a lot, and learn it quickly, sometimes taking little leaps of faith away from standard practices.
FORUM SOUND BITE: Yolanda Angulo ...