Listen to Stephanie Rubin, Director, Head of North America Customer Success at e.fundamentals and John Maltman, CEO e.fundamentals discuss key insights and actionable tips on kicking off 2021 with a bang.
Welcome to The Digital Shelf Cast by e.fundamentals. The monthly podcast dedicated to helping growth-driven brand leaders win in eCommerce. Take a look at how we do this by booking a free consultation with our digital shelf experts.
How to Grow on the Digital Shelf
The future of CPG growth is eCommerce. It’s time to talk through what it takes to win. Follow our expert discussions on digital commerce trends and take away thought-provoking, actionable insights on how to beat the competition online. The discussions are led by our host Julia Glotz– former editor and managing director at The Grocer and experienced podcaster herself. Each episode will close off with key tips and tactics leaders can put to the test to drive Digital Shelf growth. Enjoy listening!
Winning in Ecommerce in 2021
2020 has been a turning point moment for online shopping. US e-commerce sales will account for 19.2% by 2024. Around the world, the pandemic has turned shopper habits upside down. In the process, digital commerce strategies had to be accelerated by months, at times completely rewritten putting extraordinary pressure on CPG businesses to adapt at pace. So, what will it take to win eCommerce in 2021? Listen to e.fundamentals’ CEO and Director of Customer Success discuss key insights and actionable tips for how to kick off 2021 with a bang.
“Key to winning & sustaining growth in 2021 is to have a really solid search strategy across multiple marketplaces.” — Stephanie Rubin, Director, Head of North America Customer Success e.fundamentals
📝 The Show Notes
- The strategic adjustments our guests had to make in the wake of Covid-19 and the biggest e-commerce landmark moments of 2020 (10:48)
- Some of the particular changes seen across US and global online grocery and why agility and faster decision making is key (12:56)
- Examples of how CPG brands and retailers have adapted to the fast-changing online grocery market (15:45)
- We pick out some examples of categories that have had to evolve especially rapidly over the course of the pandemic (18:54)
- The evolution of today’s omnichannel shopper, the growing fluidity of brand loyalty and what this means for shopper retention going into 2021 (23:08)
- What brands and retailers need to focus on over the coming 12 months to sustain growth and gain competitive advantage and why focusing on local and regional opportunities will be key (27:55)
- How the pandemic changed the way retailers and brands use data (37:01) and why data integration for multiple sources is really important to get the holistic picture of the shoppers total journey (38:37)
- Some of the biggest risks that could derail a brand’s or retailer’s e-commerce success in 2021 (40:43)
- The one essential advice to listeners from our guests, their #20secondsmarts (41:52)
As always, we’re here to help so why not take us up on our offer for a free consultation? Speak to one of our digital shelf experts for free today!
Reference, Links and People mentioned in this episode
- Impossible Foods
- Coca Cola
- Burger King
- Procter & Gamble
- Walmart, Kroger, Target
- McKinsey & Partner
- HEB, Meijer
🎧 Missed our previous episode? Listen to Ecommerce in Europe, Spotlight Germany
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Please enjoy this transcript of our conversation with Stephanie Rubin, Director, Head of North America Customer Success at e.fundamentals and John Maltman, CEO e.fundamentals.
Julia Glotz: Before we jump into our discussion, I’d love to find out a little bit more about your own online shopping habits. Stephanie, tell me about the last item you purchased online, and why you bought it.
Stephanie Rubin: Great question. The last item I purchased online actually was not a very exciting purchase, but we realized we were running low on toilet paper, and we were having trouble finding it. There were sites we normally go to like Amazon for ship to home, and so I used Target and their app – they have the two hour delivery via Shipt, and I’ve learned a hack during the pandemic that when an item isn’t listed online, if I place an order for other items I need sometimes, I’m able to have the shopper look in the store, and they’re able to find it on shelf and I’m able to add it to my cart even though it might not have been available ahead of time to order. So that was the last item I ordered.
Julia Glotz: Fantastic, and interesting hacks there as well. John, tell us about what you’ve been up to online with your shopping habits.
John Maltman: We live in an area that is pretty heavily in lockdown. So, almost all Christmas has been online. But what I noticed is that our buying patterns have changed quite a lot from last year. And we’re buying an awful lot of our products from local suppliers. We’ve got a local bakery that is world renowned for its quality and we’re buying from them, and a butcher who just has the most amazing provenance for their products. It’s just struck me that as well as shopping more locally digitally, we’re also reconnecting with businesses that we’ve visited on our connections to in the past. So, for example, there’s a winery in Cornwall, who makes some fantastic sparkling wines that we’re using for ourselves but also as a place to buy gifts. And I just think that because of the volumes that we’re buying online. When I started to make connections with retailers that we care a bit more about because they’re part of our community, or because we have some sort of connection to them.
Julia Glotz: I think it’s really interesting and then I’d love to delve into that in a little bit more detail later on and talk about what that perhaps means for retailers but also brands and the opportunities there might be to tap into this greater interest in regional and local products online as well. The key question we’re looking to answer in this episode of course is “How can CPG businesses set themselves up for e commerce success in 2021?” Before we try to answer that question, I want to just take a moment to look back at 2020. This has been an extraordinary year. We hear this a lot, but it is true. We’ve seen some unprecedented changes to shopping habits. So, it’s important to take a moment and to take stock of what has happened, and I’d love to start with you and this actually and get your personal perspective on the impact that 2020 has had on you and your business. What are the biggest changes you have had to make to your strategy to the way you work with clients to help them respond to COVID?
John Maltman: The most obvious thing, and it’s impacted everybody is we’ve had to learn how to support our clients remotely. And doing it well has meant that we’ve actually strengthened our support of the clients because the travel time and the time spent preparing for face to face means that’s now gone so the time that we have available is not spent looking for opportunities and helping clients to take those opportunities. And this is a way of working, I think that’s going to persist longer term. I’m sure we’ll return at some point to meet up in person, but I think it’ll be far less than before. More importantly, when COVID first hit, there was a lot of uncertainty for the first few weeks and months. A lot of client discussions just went quiet as we assessed our situation and dealt with things like supply chain issues. I was pretty clear in my mind that e-commerce would end up being a lot bigger as a result of the pandemic. We as a business took that time to review every aspect of our operations, our value proposition with the objective of emerging stronger, and even more agile, than we were before. That has paid off huge dividends for us so what we’re finding in our market now is that decisions get made a lot quicker than before, discussions that sometimes used to take say six months now are compressed in two weeks. The CPGs and fast-moving companies that we work with are re-examining their tool and skill sets, getting ready for being competitive in a major growth market. A lot of the assumptions they made before have now been discarded. I think there’s also dawning on us and our clients that the situation is going to keep changing, it’s going to change quickly through 2021 and 2022. So, there’s a demand for an awful lot more agility in thinking and approach; a lot more testing going on some really cool work in terms of collaboration with clients on advanced analytics.
Julia Glotz: Stephanie, John was talking there about just the speed of change, faster decision making and greater agility that is required. Is that something that you have seen as well?
Stephanie Rubin: The past 12 months has brought so much change, both in the world, and actually for me professionally earlier this year. I was working for a wonderful company Procter and Gamble. I was there for over 12 years. And before I left, I was working in a director insights role, and I spent much of my time focusing on e-commerce insights and working with our regional grocery partners on their ecommerce strategy. Once COVID struck the e-commerce space exploded, even more as we’ve all seen as our listeners will know. And so, for me, I am so passionate about e-commerce. I was inspired to leave P & G for e.fundamentals because I saw this fantastic fast-growing company that was focused on helping their clients win in e-commerce. In my new role, I love working with clients across a variety of different companies, and categories and helping them unlock the growth potential online. What I’ve observed in my few months is that our clients are laser focused. They’re really more focus than ever. And there’s a sense of urgency to win like never before in e-commerce because this is really the fastest growing part of any CPG business in the US today. Our clients are beginning to realize that e-commerce cannot be a strategy that only the e-commerce team focuses on, it has to be at all levels of the organization.
Julia Glotz: What have you seen in the wider market that’s really stood out to you as a landmark moment for e-commerce this year, and Stephanie if I can just stay with you on that. Anything you’ve seen in terms of a retailer or brand initiative, or a particular eye catching stat, or development that’s really summed up the pace of change that we’ve seen this year.
Stephanie Rubin: The stat that sticks out for me is the percent of groceries that are purchased online. If you look to last year, about three and a half percent of grocery sales in the US were done through e-grocery. And this year, that number jumps to over 10% of sales originated online, and it’s predicted by 2024-2025 that over 21% of grocery sales will be done online in the US. We’re really at a pivot point where e-grocery is and will continue to be an important part of the business, and a part of the business that can’t be ignored any longer.
Julia Glotz: John briefly, what was your landmark moment for e-commerce in 2020?
John Maltman: I read a series of reports from retail CEOs and two things stood out. The first was that what you’re seeing here as a new shopper behavior is an acceleration of shopper behavior changes that already existed. And for that reason, these changes will persist. The second was just how much has been put in by these chief executives to get e-commerce right in a way that really hadn’t been focused on. I think that the amount of focus is going in on the retail side to make shopping online a great experience is going to be the next ratchet of a game changing sequence of events. I think that’s what’s going to continue to fuel growth as shopping online as offered by the grocery retailers becomes a great experience.
Julia Glotz: You’ve both talked about the extraordinary growth that we’ve seen in grocery online. Steph, can you just give us a sense of whether we’ve seen those high levels of growth be maintained. What does the demand picture look like within the US?
Stephanie Rubin: We expect to see sales of grocery continue to grow online, especially as we see a spike around the country and COVID cases and parts of the country go back into restrictions in parts of California, for example, restrictions have been implemented that cap retailer capacity at 20%, and this will drive more shoppers online if they want to avoid lines, and they’re focusing on prioritizing their own safety. Other factors that are at play, are that almost half of shoppers have tried ordering groceries online in the past six months. And a key purchase barrier that happened in the past. I don’t trust anyone to shop for my fresh groceries for me, this has largely been overcome as shoppers have tried to eat grocery and have had fresh produce delivered to them that met their needs. I think that convenience will continue to win as shoppers are getting used to having their groceries delivered to them and they’ll be happy to have the time back where they can focus on their family or the other tasks that are demanding their time during COVID.
Julia Glotz: What does this look like outside of the US, how does what Stephanie has described compared with other markets and I particularly like her point about some of the shopper hesitation historically around fresh produce in particular is that something that you’ve seen being overcome in other online grocery markets as well?
John Maltman: Of course, there were quite a few markets around the world that were further advanced than the US in terms of e-grocery, and even in those markets you’ve seen a major uptick in terms of frequency increases. I think the other thing you can see on an international basis is that whilst the pandemic has stimulated the change or accelerated the change around what people have learned from it though is that the online buying experience is pretty effective, and it does free up time. And I think as we come out of this situation, and hopefully it’ll be reasonably quickly, I think people are going to put a very high value on how they start to reuse that time. So, I don’t think there’s any model that says the demand is going to go back to where it was before. I think it may be steady for a bit, but it will push on as the retail experience gets better. And I think that’s driven not by short term needs but longer term needs. I expect shoppers to put a very high value on family, a very high value on health, and a very high value on good experiences. And so I think that will underpin continued growth in online grocery.
Julia Glotz: Both of you have alluded to some of the changes that retailers have had to make within online grocery as a result of this boom in demand. I wonder if there are any CPG brands that you think have done a particularly good job of responding to the changes we’ve seen in online grocery. John, are there any brands or brand owners that spring to mind that stand out to you?
John Maltman: Well, I could see everybody who’s hired us but that’d be a bit self-serving. One of the things that’s really interesting was Coca Cola’s response to this across the world they’ve had “housecleaning” calls on brands. They realized that they had to refocus on where the opportunities were where the growth was and where the consumer opportunities are. And that’s led them to take out an awful lot of products that really weren’t part of their future. That, I think, is very, very smart because in this world of ecommerce, whilst you can have infinite shells, you have a very limited presentation to the shopper. I think retailers are going to want to edit ranges to make them easier to replenish, but also to make them easier to shop. So, I think, brand manufacturers are thinking seriously about what their core range looks like, where they need to be stopped and which packs are the right for the various channels that they operate. And where will that future growth come from and how do they get innovation working effectively through online retail. I think that’s one of the big unmet needs really. I think there’s some really interesting developments and a lot of companies doing a lot of thinking about assortment, pricing and promotion going forward and the use of digital media as well.The best thing to do is to engage with the market, try lots of things and then be very disciplined about learning what works and what doesn’t work.
Julia Glotz: Stephanie, given your background as a CPG giant I do have to ask you this question as well. I’d love to know if there are any brands or brand owners that have really stood down to you during this period in how they have responded to what we’ve seen in online grocery in the US.
Stephanie Rubin: Absolutely. I think one brand that comes to mind that has had to make an incredible shift is Impossible Foods. If you think about before the pandemic Impossible was really focused on food service and the restaurant industry, launching the impossible Burger in Burger King, and honestly having an Impossible Burger at almost every restaurant I ever visited. And since the pandemic they’ve had to quickly pivot and focus more on the consumer side of the business and they ramped up distribution in grocery stores nationwide and I think that’s really impressive in such a short amount of time to completely have to shift their business model. But beyond having to have a total strategy shift like Impossible Foods did, CPG brands across the US have had to get really laser focused on winning where the shoppers are because there’s been a big shift in where people are buying online, especially when you consider the shift to last milers and the two hour delivery services, or you know, same day delivery services that are popping up, and so brands are finding out that they have to really focus on winning beyond just Amazon and balance the priorities across the marketplace, so that they can win, and have a balanced approach across, not only Amazon. Amazon will remain really critical, but also win with players like Instacart and Walmart and Kroger and all the regional grocery retailers out there
Julia Glotz: Stephanie, are there any specific categories that you think have seen especially rapid changes as a result of the pandemic any categories where you’ve seen strategies be rewritten?
Stephanie Rubin: The category that comes to mind here is the fitness category because fitness overnight had to completely transform both when you think about all the gyms closing, but also with consumers shifting to doing all their workouts, at home. So, from the gym standpoint, workouts have gone completely virtual and companies like Classpass that offered purchasing classes at local gyms overnight changed their business model to offer on demand classes and workouts by zoom and other companies have shifted to really provide fitness equipment to consumers who want to buy fitness equipment and workout at home. So, I’d say that’s a category that overnight has had to shift, and it will be interesting to me to see how that impacts the category long-term.
Julia Glotz: John any categories that stood out to you that have had to change, especially quickly this year. And what do you think, will it take to drive sustained category growth next year?
John Maltman: I think that the categories have had to adapt most of the ones that had severe supply chain limitations put on them. And that has meant a simplifying assortment focusing on key products. And that has a number of implications. There’s a lot of businesses where retailers have seen that they can sustain sales, with much smaller ranges that are being offered before and it’s not given that these products that are now becoming more available that haven’t been available in the last few months we’ll get back into store. So, I think that’s one impact. I’ve noticed that retailers are doing a better job of getting you to experiment and try new things, whether that’s recipes or whether that’s the use of interesting banners, but they’re actually making more effort to get you to move across their store. So whatever you come for trying new categories try new product types. And suddenly we as a family going back to personal experience, I’ve been trying a lot of plant-based nutrition products that we wouldn’t necessarily have tried before because they’ve been shown to us and they’ve been made available to us through online retailers. I think the issue of availability is becoming really important. And if there are any C-suite executives listening to this podcast, I suggest you go online and do a full shop for yourself and just see how many products are available. And that’s a very big issue, particularly online because you’ll just find that shoppers will switch with a propensity that is much higher than if they were shopping in physical stores. And we can see from the work that we do that a lot of that availability is now being driven by promotion activity, which in a physical store will get a relatively small response because of a relatively modest promotion. But online is a much bigger response because it impacts search results for example. And so a lot of companies are paying a lot of money, basically to go out of stock with a core part of their shop or groups, and that needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed really quickly, to really start getting profitable category growth.
Julia Glotz: I think the point you raised about availability and the impact it has on switching behavior is well made, I mean there’s been some interesting research that came out by McKinsey looking at just how much switching of brands has accelerated during COVID. Stephanie, John talked about the role of availability and driving loyalty and managing shopper retention. What are some of the other priorities that you think need to be on a brand’s radar, when it comes to managing retention and loyalty in 2021. What does it take to keep shoppers loyal in this incredibly competitive environment?
Stephanie Rubin: I think availability is the most important thing, as we’ve talked about there was another study recently that Kantar put out looking at forced trial due to out of stock, and this found that of the people who were forced to try an item because of out of stock 63% of them ended up just completely switching to the other brand never returned to their original purchase brand. And so it’s hard to understate the importance of being available to shoppers wherever they want to shop and however they want to get their product. Beyond that I have found it’s really important as shoppers are changing their behavior in shopping online. The most critical thing to do is get your items in the basket. As the shoppers are creating their behavior so within the first 5 to 10 shopping trips, because during those first five or so trips shoppers are using search, and they’re shopping from the department pages. But, as they go on in their shopping journey and they solidify their shopping habits with that particular retailer, they more and more rely on buy it again functionality, where they go to their past purchases and they just rebuy what they already bought. We’re all creatures of habit and so making sure that you’re in the basket on the first five trips is absolutely critical and will help retain shoppers long term.
Julia Glotz: John, I want to pick up briefly on a point that you raised a moment ago, which was about new product discovery and how online has become a much more compelling forum for new product discovery because in-store browsing has been so limited. Are you seeing any new strategies that CPG brands are using to really bring new product development to life, and activate NPD within an online environment?
John Maltman: Actually, I think, launching new products effectively through e-grocery retailers is one of the unknowns for many, many companies. Thinking about how to present online comes too late in the new product development process. I think there’s big opportunities to identify what are the selling messages that the shopper needs to know to buy with confidence and to try this new product with confidence. Mostly think about how to combine trade promotion with banner advertising and other digital media to interrupt people’s purchase cycles and get them interested and experiment with it. And it’s quite difficult to interrupt the purchase cycle, but you need to think about it. Therefore, we need to have banners in search pages for example for the products that we think we’re targeting, that are on the category page where people are going to be trying to navigate the digital shelves. So, for me, getting a clear understanding of what a great online watch looks like. Establishing the standards for that so that the product development cycle builds the collateral required, and then having a very focused deployment of that through the launch period is going to be extremely important. The lifecycle of a new product can be very short, returns are very unforgiving if they don’t see an immediate take-up.
Julia Glotz: Stephanie, this point that John makes about delivering a great online launch, are you also seeing this as one of the priorities for 2021 and are you seeing any strategies that are perhaps pointing the way of how to get this right?
Stephanie Rubin: I couldn’t agree more with what John said. The trick with ecommerce is that when shoppers are shopping physically in store, there are a lot of ways to make sure that new items are visible to shoppers and to drive awareness of new items, and I can’t think of a retailer who presents new items in a really compelling way and makes it really visible for shoppers online. So in addition to all of the tools that John suggested, I suggest that brands focus on awareness and really driving that online through banners as John said but also with a really compelling search strategy. So that new items appear at the top of the search, and on every single retailer site.
Julia Glotz: And we also right at the start of the podcast raised this point about greater interest in regional and local products and the opportunities that exist, both for brands but also for retailers to forge a greater connection with shoppers that are looking for that sense of connection with a local regional supplier but also retailer. Stephanie what’s your sense of the opportunities that exist for CPGs and retailers around local and regional.
Stephanie Rubin: I think buying locally is really important to many consumers. One retailer I’ve noticed during the pandemic that has done a great job of partnering and focusing on local is HEB. Their response to the pandemic, before anyone else was even thinking about COVID, was to set up their command center, talking to retailers in China and beginning to plan for COVID in a way that no one else was thinking about in the US. They were one of the first retailers to really pivot and focus on getting groceries to their consumers in Texas. They partnered with restaurants, as restaurants were shutting down or having less in person visits. They added to their store a pilot with several restaurants to have prepared take home meals. In addition, they actually were able to expand their delivery services, really quickly at the beginning of the pandemic they added approximately 45 or 50 markets in a matter of a week or two, which is extremely fast for any grocer, so I think both regional brands but also regional retailers like HEB and Meijer are going to continue to be really important to the US market.
Julia Glotz: John you raised that point right at the start and the examples that you gave were primarily smaller retailers or smaller brands. Is that something that a larger retailer can capture successfully online?
John Maltman: Definitely. If you look at the great retail operations, they have fantastic regional offers alongside the national offer. They take care to understand the local community and serve them the products that they want alongside the products that everybody wants. When online grocery was two or 3% of the businesses it was a service line: you have to be there, you have to be doing something, but it wasn’t core to the business. Now, it’s going to become 15% to 21% of the business in just a few years’ time and then it has to be done really well. Once retailers get their head around that there are fantastic variations in terms of understanding what makes a great shopper experience and delivery in a way that’s highly relevant. What you’re going to see is retailers striving to become differentiated through the quality of the shopping experience. There was a trend that was particularly helpful which was all about efficiency: distributing the same image to everybody having the same product descriptions; I think that’ll get undermined a little bit now because I think retailers will want to have a voice that connects to their shoppers. They’ll see the online store as important as the physical stores. If you think about the giants who built fantastic retail chains. They didn’t go around by looking the same as everybody else. They deliberately chose to stand out because they believed that they had a shopper angle, a shopper need that wasn’t being met. The same things will happen in retail, they’ll just happen at scale. And that creates wonderful opportunities for the bricks-and-clicks retailers in particular to take that physical store expertise and apply it to online to create, not only a fantastic shopping experience, but one that feels really relevant and tuned to their shopper base.
Stephanie Rubin: John that was a really great point you make and that reminds me about the example I gave with HEB before: the key to their success during the pandemic has been that they’ve tested a lot of things, and quickly pivoted and refined their strategy as they realized they needed improvement. And this will be the key for regional brands and regional retailers winning long-term: having the agility to test and fail and learn quickly and pivot to improve their experience.
Julia: Glotz: You’re both looking to the future and what comes next, and how CPGs but also retailers can win in e-commerce in 2021. I just want to get your take on some of the shopper behaviors that we’ve seen this year and to what extent you expect them to continue into 2021, and beyond. Stephanie if we can start with you on that. What are some of the e-commerce trends and behaviors that you expect to be long term, and which ones do you expect to be a temporary response to COVID but perhaps will fade in 2021?
Stephanie Rubin: One trend that’s happened here in the US, in particular, is that premium products are growing as fast if not faster than the balance of the portfolio. So, for example, at the beginning of the pandemic when no one wanted to go to the doctor. I mean even now there’s a lot of avoidance of going to the doctor or going to the dentist, shoppers returning to more at home remedies where they might buy a more expensive toothpaste or a more expensive toothbrush and really invest in that because they want to make sure that they’re keeping in good health while they’re not going to the doctor or they’re spacing out the time that they’re going to the doctor. This trend really carries across a couple of different categories and beauty shoppers have turned to much more at-home-beauty regimen. In categories even like wine, where consumers aren’t going to restaurants and they’re not spending $50 on a bottle of wine in a restaurant, they’re much more willing to buy more expensive wine or more expensive meet at the grocery store to splurge because they’re not splurging at restaurants. And I think that, in many cases, this trend will continue into 2021 and beyond. Because shoppers are realizing that they’re at home beauty routine is good enough. And they quite enjoy making a nice piece of steak at home, in addition to going to restaurants when they’re able to do that again. And so the key for continuing to sustain that growth in 2021 is to make sure that you’re available to shoppers where they want to buy you, that you’re visible in search, and that you have a really solid search strategy across multiple marketplaces to win. And that you remain top of mind for shoppers. So you participate in things like banner ads or digital marketing campaigns, so that brands remain top of mind, even as COVID cases hopefully will decrease in the near future.
Julia Glotz: So, these are some trends that you’re expecting to continue into 2021. Are there any trends or buying behaviors that you’ve seen this year where you think that sounds like a temporary response, I don’t expect that to be a part of what we’ll see in 2021?
John Maltman: From our perspective, this will play out differently by category. I think it’s quite useful to think of categories as low engagement to high engagement. Personally, I think that a lot of the soft drinks category is a low engagement category. It’s important to us as a household, but we want to spend a lot of time shopping for it, and we kind of know what we like as well and we’re very confident in our purchases. There are other categories where engagement is really important, pet food for example. We’re very focused on what we give our dog to eat. We read the labels, we’re careful, we will experiment so I call that a high engagement category. The delicatessen, the fresh cheese store in a retail. These are very high engagement categories. I think one of the things you’re going to find is that, as we return to some sort of normality, that people will be a bit more choiceful about where they spend their time in store, and they want to spend it in the high engagement categories, and they’ll want the lower engagement categories to be more routine of purchase where they’re either ordered for delivery at home, or they’ll order for curbside. And I think that if you were a retailer, you know you’re sitting there with a huge retail estate and you want people back in your stores so dialing up the quality of the presentation and the quality of the support and help for the shopper in these high engagement categories in store will start to pull people away from online. So, I think that there’s any chance that purchase levels online will fall back to what they were before pre COVID. But I think there will be an adjustment and a rebalancing. Overall, I think there’ll be growth opportunities in most categories, but there will be these categories where actually we just do like to shop and we do want to shop and we do want to talk to people who know about the products we do want a chance to maybe taste before we buy, we certainly want to look and see what those products are. So, I think there’ll be a rebalancing element.
Julia Glotz: Now, this wouldn’t be an e.fundamentals podcast if we didn’t talk about data and analytics, at least a little bit. I wonder John, how has the pandemic changed the way retailers and brands use data and analytics. And again, which of these changes are you expecting to continue into 2021.
John Maltman: We work with some really fine companies, and where they’re spending a lot of time is connecting their datasets so they can start to really understand attribution. “If we drive distribution, how much does it get us”, “if it costs this much to run this banner campaign, what’s the return on investment from that.” There’s an awful lot of advanced analytics going on and there’s a real demand within the client base to have the freedom to pull datasets together and to run data science. I think it’s one of the major changes for our industry. There’s been quite a lot of effort by businesses to create walled gardens around their datasets and to take a view that we’ve got all the data you need, just by that. But actually, I think the really smart companies start to say no, that’s not good enough anymore. The last case changes so quickly, there’s so many new datasets becoming available, some very unconventional ones that can be really helpful. We want the ability to mix them and apply data science to them. It’s a clear part of our strategy going forward to put absolutely no barriers up to clients, using our data as part of a data lake and mixing with other datasets. I just think that’s the world that we’re moving to: people want to experiment and learn quickly and they want to use data science to drive far better decision making going forward.
Julia Glotz: Stephanie is that something that you’re seeing with your clients as well. Are there any other changes that we’re seeing or expecting to see around how data and analytics are being used to support e-commerce strategies?
Stephanie Rubin: Absolutely. John made a lot of really great points. The only thing that I would add is the shopper perspective and from a shopper perspective we’re seeing a broad proliferation and the number of stores that people are shopping in, they’re expanding not consolidating. This makes a wide variety of data across a plethora of platforms and sources really important so that we can understand the holistic shopping journey of our shoppers. And so data integration for multiple sources, multiple retailers is really important to get the holistic picture of our shoppers total journey. The data strategy that John outlined is critical to our clients success in e-commerce.
Julia Glotz: Now you’ve both talked a lot about the opportunities and the excitement that exists around what is possible in e commerce now and some of the opportunities that are coming up in 2021. What do you think are the biggest risks that could potentially derail a brand or a retailer’s e-commerce success in the current climate and in 2021? John, what do you think is the biggest risk that needs to be on brands and retailer’s radar?
John Maltman: The biggest risk, particularly for brands is playing to last year’s agenda. So, thinking that if you’ve done the work on photography, you’ve done the work on product descriptions you’ve got a great permanent place where that information has been distributed to the system. Therefore, we’ve got e-commerce cracked. That’s just wrong. This market is changing so quickly. You need to be really cautious about playing to last year’s playbook. And the exciting thing is that the playbook in front of us is developing very very quickly. We’re competing in RFPs today and one of the things that I pointed out to people is that your assessment of needs right now, no matter how good it is, will be different in 12 months because the needs of the market are changing that quickly. I just think a good place to be is intellectually curious, dissatisfied with today’s performance and willing to test and learn your way forward.
Julia Glotz: Fantastic. Stephanie, what do you see as the biggest potential risk that could derail this e-commerce success story that’s building?
Stephanie Rubin: The biggest risk in addition to what John said I think another big risk is distribution. One thing that is clear that will change in store is with the increase of the pick from store model, that’s associated with curb side buy online pick up in store and two hour delivery services, is that retailers will have to find a more efficient way to pick from store, and this will require a decrease in the assortment and the breadth of assortment that’s available in store. And so the risk to brands, is that they are reactive to this change rather than proactive. And so it’s important for CPG brands to come out with a core e-commerce distribution strategy and make sure that they have that across every channel, and that they’re putting their best core skus forward so that they can be proactive with this change rather than reactive.
Julia Glotz: Steph if you have to sum up your one piece of essential advice to listeners for getting ecommerce right in 2021, what would that be and we’ll call this your #22ndsmart.
Stephanie Rubin: My one piece of advice is to focus on the consumers, provide them with a really awesome shopping experience, a really great product, and it will benefit you and then in the long run.
Julia Glotz: And John, your one essential piece of advice for 2021?
John Maltman: You need to be able to learn quickly and adapt quickly, and that is not a skill that every CPG or retailer for that matter is blessed with, and it’s going to become a must have requirement for the next couple of years.
Julia Glotz: Stephanie, John. Thank you very much.