Expo Panel: Agility Needed to Keep Pace with Shopper Behavior Shifts

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Expo Panel: Agility Needed to Keep Pace with Shopper Behavior Shifts

By Cyndi Loza - 08/07/2020
From left to right: Theresa Lyons, The Mars Agency; Erica Beilenson, Campbell Snacks, and Brian Higdon, The Mars Agency.

During the COVID-19 crisis, the retail industry is proving that it has the ability to pivot quickly. "It's just a shame it took a pandemic to demonstrate it," said Brian Higdon, customer strategy executive at The Mars Agency. 

"I just really hope that the industry is developing the muscle memory so that they can be more agile going forward to take advantage of an opportunity and just not react to a crisis," Higdon said, during an Institute "Community Gathering" on Aug. 6. The virtual event officially kicked off the newly reimagined Path to Purchase Digital Expo

As the industry moves forward, retailers and brands will need to continue to understand, adjust and react quickly to shopper needs and behaviors. Erica Beilenson, director of marketing retailer insights & strategy at Campbell Snacks, stressed the importance of monitoring shopper behavior and breaking from traditional company approaches. 

"We just have to think about more agile, nimble ways of [collecting] data, making decisions faster, maybe not having all the right answers, but you know using a little bit of our gut and just being able to quickly flex," Beilenson said. "I'm part of a 150-year-old company, so I understand that mentality is a little bit difficult, but I think that's really what it's about. How do we get at insight and implications quicker, in a different way than maybe we had traditionally done?"

By consistently monitoring consumer behavior, Beilenson said Campbell Snacks is able to identify behavioral changes and quickly execute effective responses. She and her team, for example, recently had to rethink the new role multipack snacks might currently have in the lives of consumers. The SKUs can be typically positioned as lunch box staples or on-the-go options, but most U.S. school districts have opted to begin the school year with remote learning and families continue to social distance. 

"So we're really trying to shift that messaging about multipacks,” said Beilenson, adding that messaging around multipack snacks may focus on safe snacking — highlighting “no hands in bowls” — or position them as short-car-trip treats. “We strongly believe that they’re still going to be important. The role that they play just might be different."

The Path to Purchase Moving Forward

Retailers and brands also need to consider what the path to purchase is going to look like moving forward after so many consumers have embraced online grocery shopping due to COVID-19, said Theresa Lyons, senior vice president of strategy planning at The Mars Agency. “I think that by the time we come out of this, people that have moved over to do those purchases online, I don't think they're going to come back [to the physical store] completely,” she said. 
 
The snack category is considered a “gateway drug” to online retail because it is low-risk in terms of financial commitment and is shelf-stable, among other attributes, Beilenson explained. “We've been trying to understand the [e-commerce] space for a while, but there are so many obstacles,” she said. 
 
“How do you replicate some of what’s happening in the in-store environment online? Especially in the business of snacks … we’re very interested [in how] we get that impulse shopper. How do we replicate that front-end, right-before-you-check-out-type-of purchase? So, there's so much work I feel like, as an industry, we have to understand with the path to purchase [moving forward]. This is going to be quite the learning journey.”

Registered Expo attendees can listen to the panel discussion on demand. The next Community Gathering, to be held Aug. 19, will examine best practices for Engaging Shoppers. The discussion will feature Laura Dickey of LALA U.S., Stacy Jackson of The Coca-Cola Company, Tracy Galindo from Jewel-Osco, and Yolanda Angulo of Mondelez International.

For more information about the Path to Purchase Digital Expo and to register for the event, visit experiencep2px.com.