The Future Unfolding

Insights from the industry’s leading practitioners

Read More

For more extensive answers, as well as their insightful perspectives on three other questions about the current status and future potential for the shopper commerce industry, visit

The Path to Purchase Institute has assembled its most impressive collection of thought leaders ever to reflect on the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on shopper engagement. The following article presents their answers to the question below. For more extensive answers, as well as their insightful perspectives on three other questions about the current status and future potential for the shopper commerce industry, visit


What recent change in shopper behavior or retail operations do you most hope will continue after the crisis ends?


Keith Anderson, SVP, Strategy & Insights, Profitero
   Coming into 2020, I was beating the drum that pressure to chart a path to economically and environmentally sustainable digital commerce would require more breakthroughs in product R&D, supply chain and logistics. This crisis brought into focus the need to ‘ruggedize’ the supply chain for yet another valid reason, and I’m hopeful that the industry continues to evolve from a “just-in-time” model to something more durable and flexible.

Shaun Brown, SVP, Managing Director & Shopper Marketing Discipline Lead, Momentum
   More expansive use of ‘dCommerce.’ The adoption of delivery and pick-up services have skyrocketed. Usage was trending up 22% prior to COVID-19, but climbed as high as 250%. That growth level clearly won’t continue, but the new baseline for d-commerce is far higher and shoppers will continue to include these new shopping means as part of their repertoire.

Vanessa Bueno, Marketing Director
   Shoppers should continue to be discerning with brands, products and retailers. They should continue to expect more from products and retailers. Those that deliver on shopper expectations will continue to grow.

Rich Butwinick, President, MarketingLab
   On the shopper side, we hope the openness to new shopping experiences will remain. It will be interesting to follow how they incorporate the new into their lives to make shopping a pleasant experience no matter how it is done. We think that will challenge the retailer to offer a great experience in store and/or online. On the retail operations side, brands and retailers are more open to innovation and experimentation, which we hope endures once the crisis “ends.”

April Carlisle, Vice President, Shopper Marketing, Coca-Cola Co.
   Agility in programming with retailers. Traditional programming had six, nine, 12-month lead times to meet retailer merchandising calendars, inventory management and operations standards. Leaning into digital enables agility to develop programming that is responsive to the marketplace, addresses competitive opportunities (for brands or retailers), and is the right message at the right time.

Marta Cyhan, Chief Marketing Officer, Catalina
   From the shopper’s perspective, I hope the return to more home-cooked meals and baking continues. It’s fascinating to see new generations experiment with recipes. Brands that continue to surprise and delight these new culinary wizards have the best opportunity to bring new consumers into the fold. From a retailer’s perspective, it’s been inspiring to see the unwavering commitment their front line of employees have been showing their shoppers. They’ve definitely been COVID-19 heroes alongside the healthcare workers.

Sandeep Dadlani, Chief Digital Officer, Mars Incorporated
   In our Mars Wrigley Candy & Snacking business, more people are buying multi-packs and bulk orders of their favorite brands to share at home. In our Mars Petcare business, there’s been an increase in demand for pet food and adoptions during the pandemic. Also, our Petcare veterinary hospital clinics have pivoted to tele-medicine and curbside pickups for helping pets. And in India, for example, our teams partnered with a local large food home delivery app so people could simply order products online. We don’t know which of these trends is long-term, but we hope we can continue the trend of pivoting fast to help our consumers with multiple options and multiple paths to purchase, providing them the right convenience and right experience regardless of trend.

Kelly Downey, Consultant, OxfordSM
   Shopping behavior seen during the COVID crisis, and likely long after in the economic recovery, will lead manufacturers and retailers to more overtly think and act upon SKU rationalization, consumer value pricing (not lowest price), product quality, safety, and others that will actually be more shopper-centric and lead to greater in-store and online effectiveness and efficiency.

Natalie Dupill, Chief of Staff & Omnichannel Deployment Lead, Peapod Digital Labs
   Contactless delivery and pickup. Many customers have a preference to have as few touchpoints in the fulfillment process as possible. This option provides a better experience for those who opt for it and makes fulfillment more efficient for the retailer.

Craig Elston, Global Chief Strategy Officer, Integer
   I hope that we will continue to see the acceleration of other senses beyond touch in retail. Retail has always been about “touching the merchandise.” We had started to see an increase in importance in visual language (such as emojis) and voice (think Alexa) and, as with many things, COVID-19 has bought the future forward and accelerated their use by brands and acceptance by shoppers. Consider also the increased importance of signage, visual cues for social distancing, increased screen time, the challenges of mask wearing – these all open opportunity for retail experiences that are more visually driven and for innovations such as functional and immersive audio.

Kerry Farrell, SVP Sales & Customer Success, Eversight
   Shoppers needed solutions, the industry responded by providing options (however imperfect), and shoppers grabbed onto them. Prior to COVID-19, we saw retailers trying to anticipate every possible issue, analyze every potential problem or negative outcome, and solve for them before ever putting an offering out in the market. During COVID-19, retail has thrown some of that caution to the wind in favor of meeting consumers where they are with what they need – and then adjusting as they go to improve. That is my hope for this industry as we progress, to continue to innovate without a paralyzing fear of change.

Michael Forhez, Global Managing Director, Consumer Markets, Oracle Industry Strategy Group
   Digital technology-enabled shoppers are irrevocably transforming the traditional model for customer-retailer-brand interaction. In a soon-to-be 5G environment, there is no turning back – just fast-forward. Brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, “phygital,” BOPIS and last-mile delivery; all are combining to create an interactive and inter-related customer expectation set. That transformation requires, right now, an update and upgrade of the retail-brand customer journey, a cloud-centric software stack that leverages the technology we have and the solutions we need to build.

Carlos Garcia, Industry Manager, CPG-Retail, Facebook
   A common viewpoint I have heard is that COVID-19 has accelerated change and is making the future happen faster. While it’s too early to say definitively if the CPG shift to e-commerce will change after shelter in-place restrictions lift … we know that a lot of people have discovered that shopping online for CPG products is actually pretty easy and convenient, and there are more high-quality online shopping and BOPIS options than ever before, so we expect this trend to continue.

Jason Goldberg, Chief Commerce Strategy Officer, Publicis Communications
   Consumers embracing digital shopping tools. More than 70% of all purchase decisions are now digitally influenced. We won’t be able to put that genie back in the bottle.

Elizabeth Harris, Chief Strategy Officer, Arc
   Before the pandemic, grocery e-commerce had yet to take off. In fact, according to Nielsen, just 4% of grocery sales in the U.S. came online in 2019. I have always heard the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ Now I truly see it at work. I hope that people continue to see utility in the benefits of e-commerce and that grocery retailers innovate in this area so that it becomes a more profitable proposition for them. I also hope we see continued innovation in areas like supply chain come out of this crisis. 

Nick Jones, Chief Growth Officer, Geometry
   I hope retailers continue to embrace a customized approach to the way their shoppers want to shop. In other words, during the crisis some people have become delivery people, some curb-siders, some brave folks were the first back into physical stores because they want to see the product first hand, others want subscription solutions and products directly from the manufacturer. This should be just the beginning – maybe you’re an Alexa list-maker, maybe you’ll embrace anticipatory shipping for regularly used products, or maybe you’ll buy an appliance that does the ordering for you.

Wendy Liebmann, CEO & Chief Shopper, WSL Strategic Retail
  I hope both shoppers and management will have greater respect for retail employees and what they deliver every day – before, during and after this crisis – and recognize that they are the face of the business and the connection to shoppers. 

Sheila Lukaszewski, Senior Director, Shopper Engagement, Kimberly-Clark
   Elevated online shopping. Retailers are doing a great job of offering fulfillment options, and the CPG industry as a whole has really responded well. We can continue to make progress, but the amount of progress that’s been made is exciting.

Tina Manikas, President, FCB/RED
   Contactless experience is now forever important, and we hope that retail operations seek to accommodate and innovate against shoppers’ new behavior and willingness to use technology for both browsing and choosing.  

Laura Moser, Director, Business Leadership & Client Development, HMT Associates
   Adoption of a range of e-commerce interaction and shopping models. We think this will provide a wealth of new purchase behavior understanding, as well as enhanced platforms to market within. Shoppers have heightened expectations (think of Frito-Lay’s COVID-19 response as an example). That will inspire strong brands to be much more responsive to shopper needs while amplifying their relevance and overall value.

Brady Noon, Director of Omnichannel Marketing, SC Johnson
   Demand for quality.

Chris Perry, Consultant
   It has been really nice to see the acceleration of several business practices prompted by COVID-19 and the need for retailers and brands alike to pivot strategically: 1. Ecosystem expansion into services (Amazon Care telemedicine, Kroger Health telenutrition, Boots UK tele-beauty consultations; 2. Creative partnerships (DSW and HyVee, Hilton and Lysol, Kroger and Frayt, Costco and Instacart); 3. The convenience of vending and self-service for contactless payment and fulfillment options, as well as greater availability. There undoubtedly will be an expansion of vending capabilities from retailers like CVS, Best Buy and others, as well as innovations within food preparation vending.

Matt Rader, VP, Brand Commercialization and Shopper Services, Match Marketing Group
   One of the major shifts in behavior has been cooking from home. I hope this continues since it puts more emphasis on what used to be a flagging portion of brick-and-mortar sales: the center store. Brands that have long been forgotten, ignored or overlooked now have the opportunity to initiate new narratives and engagement with consumers. As behavior shifts, it is led by exploration from consumers and right now they’re hungry for information and learning. 

Rob Rivenburgh, Chief Executive Officer, North America, The Mars Agency
   The enhancement of the overall customer experience and the consumer safety journey through such means as contactless experiences and virtual experiences.

Bryant Ross, SVP Managing Director, IN Connected Marketing
   I see the pandemic as further crystallizing the role of the physical store in a world that increasingly straddles the digital and physical spaces. We saw commodity categories grow in the e-commerce space at the most rapid pace, while it was clear the in-store experience was still important for other categories. Post-pandemic, I think we will see retailers continue to put more effort to categories that are successful with sensory engagement, which will inevitably push for a more optimal store experience while streamlining retailer operations.

Dan Sabanosh, Director, Shopper Marketing, Great Northern InStore
   I have enjoyed the respect and focus on the front-line retail employees. Retailers offering additional pay, benefits, and a general recognition of these essential workers. They are on the front lines of helping shoppers; they are the retailer’s brand ambassadors at all times and the people who are there when a shopper buys a CPG brand. They execute our programs in-store. So they deserve recognition for being a part of the path to purchase.

Jonathan Schultz, Managing Director, TPN Retail
   The rapid change in shopper behavior and retail operations during this pandemic was like nothing we’ve seen before. What this change has, in some ways, forced to happen is for shoppers to “rewrite” much of their rote behavior of the past. The saying, “Old habits die hard” may need to be reconsidered, and I hope what lasts is the opportunity for brands and products to find new ways of connecting with shoppers and retailers and maintain a renewed openness to test innovative ideas and technologies in this space.

Marlene Sidhu, Marketing Director, Shopper Marketing, Grupo Bimbo
   Increased trial of products that shoppers haven’t tried before.

Steve Sigrist, VP Customer Service & Customer Supply Chain, North America, Newell Brands
   The appreciation for store operators. The recognition and understanding about what it takes to get product to the store, to get it unloaded, to get to stocked and to have it available for shoppers to take home to their families. In summary, a deeper gratitude for all elements of the supply chain that we might have taken for granted in the past.

Eric Szegda, EVP Consumer Media, Bauer USA
   Shoppers have been much more open to trial during the crisis – specifically in regard to replacement brands/products. Trial has always been one of the highest hurdles to overcome, and a silver lining to the current environment gives marketers an opportunity to engage with new prospective shoppers. There have also been demand upticks for products that complement more of a social distancing/sheltering lifestyle.

Ted Utoft, Vice President, BVA Nudge
   The return to cooking, I think, is really interesting for some brands. Will categories like baking supplies continue to grow? Will more shoppers feel confident cooking now? What does that mean for ingredient manufacturers? And what could that mean for ready meals and convenience foods? 

Rodney Waights, Vice President, Shopper & Customer Marketing, Beiersdorf
   The accelerated shift into e-commerce/BOPIS. Within the context of a heavily regulated in-store environment where it is difficult to execute the kind of surround-sound that can be done in other markets, I’m most excited by the opportunity to trial/test, build out and deliver exciting and differentiated digital programs where you can see, measure and course-correct activity that is relevant to your target shoppers in a really agile and time-sensitive way.

Andy Walter, Principal/Founder, AJW Advisory
   Further engagement with direct-to-consumer models that predict my needs.