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How brands will win in grocery’s e-commerce boom

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marketers, in order to protect their share, need to find a strategy for online shopping that is as effective as their offline approaches have been in the past. But where do they look?

How brands will win in grocery’s e-commerce boom
Build a compelling e-commerce site, target moments when a shopper might be thinking of your category and claim touch points on those shopper journeys as your own

It’s tempting to try to circumvent the online retailer environment altogether and seek to construct an alternative shopper journey similar to those of high-involvement e-commerce purchases: build a compelling e-commerce site for your FMCG brand, target the moments when a shopper might be thinking of your category and claim the touch points on those shopper journeys as your own.

There’s only one problem with this approach: it doesn’t reflect the way online FMCG shoppers actually shop. When was the last time you searched for kitchen foil on Google – or spent time exploring the unique qualities of different yogurts on their brand websites? Purchase decisions for these items are made in very different ways. Working with shopper behaviour, rather than fighting it, is a much better digital shopper strategy.

Online grocery shoppers share the same fundamental motivations as their offline counterparts. They are, consciously and unconsciously, interested in saving time, money and energy. The way they balance these different shopper currencies varies according to the type of shopping mission they are on and the occasion they are buying for.

What’s the best way to save time, money and energy when you need to buy a lot of different groceries? Going to a store that lets you to make all of those choices in one place.

Buying FMCG categories independently, by searching for and interacting with each individual brand online, rarely fits this shopper agenda. Rather, shoppers first choose a retailer they like, where they can choose according to their priorities. The more that online shopping environment divorces the pleasant experiences of finding and choosing from the frustrating ones of searching for items, the more shoppers will spend. That’s the real opportunity for both retailers and FMCG brands.

Making e-commerce touchpoints work for your brand

According to e-commerce consultancy Salmon, there are at least eight specific ways a brand can speak to shoppers on a retailer website – and the way shoppers respond to these depends on their priorities for the category and their trip mission. We know, for instance, that the offers page is the first destination of shoppers focused on saving money, while time-conscious shoppers browse it only sometimes.

Favourites lists are used in very different ways by shoppers: those prioritising energy tend to consult it at the end of their shop, just to check they haven’t missed anything; those with no time to spare use it rigorously to guide their shopping experience from the start. And of course a touchpoint such as the search functionality is used very differently for each brand and category. Add in ratings and reviews, product detail pages, checkout summaries and more – and brands have a wealth of different touchpoints to play with to curate a more satisfying shopper experience while achieving brand and category growth.

Head of Online Grocery at Salmon, Tim Reay, says: “Manufacturers must take advantage of every touch point with the customer, deepening their relationships and maximising digital revenues. It’s not about innovation for innovation’s sake but rather creating the perfect blend to facilitate an excellent customer experience.”

The time to build a better online shopping experience is now. We are already at the start of the next big opportunity in e-commerce. Many things will change when grocery shopping moves online – but the fundamentals of how shoppers behave will remain the same.

To navigate an online future for FMCG, brands must find a way to strike the right balance between the essential shopper currencies of time, money and energy. The most effective way to do so is to work product by product, category by category, retailer by retailer – just as shopper marketing has always done. Whether online or offline, the brands that make it easy for shoppers to buy will be the brands that prosper.