CPG Brands: Stop Creating Hurdles to Conversion
You would never send an invitation to a party that looks like this.
If you did, you shouldn’t exactly be surprised when nobody shows up. Why would they? Parties are supposed to be fun, not work. By needlessly complicating the path to attendance, you’ve almost guaranteed the party’s failure.
Seems ridiculous, right? But so many consumer packaged good (CPG) brands are making this same mistake every day. They spend huge amounts of time and money developing fantastic marketing on digital channels that has little chance to convert because the path to do so requires way too much work — e.g., either stopping what they're doing to go buy online now, or trying to remember the product the next time they're in a store (which is becoming less and less frequent).
The Challenge and Opportunity of Low-Involvement Categories
CPG brands are low-involvement categories. Consumers see these purchases as low risk, so they’re quick to pull the trigger when something interests them. However, they also aren’t willing to dedicate a lot of discretionary attention to them. This provides both a great challenge and tremendous opportunity for CPG brands.
Jobs, kids, traffic, families, friends, social media and a million other things are all competing for mindshare. Fantastic new mango-flavored candy canes or peppermint hot chocolate just can’t command much of it. That’s the challenge, but the barriers to trial are quite low. That means if a consumer is interested in your product, she will just buy it without much trepidation. That is, if there's an easy way for her to do it.
Tapping Into the New Shopping Journey
This dilemma may not seem new to experienced CPG brand managers because they're used to working with traditional media like TV, radio and print where conversion is a technical impossibility. Advertising for this category has long been seen as informing and inspiring — the real action happens in stores. That’s why shelf placement, in-store displays and promotions have been so important; they serve to remind and close the deal.
However, e-commerce is finally, and quickly, gaining traction in the grocery sector. More and more shoppers are using online carts to replace shopping lists. When they're ready to convert, they just hit the buy button and all items are either shipped to them or bagged for quick and easy pickup at the store. Don’t put the onus on consumers to search for your product on digital shelves. All of your online marketing — whether it's a banner ad or a recipe using your product on Pinterest — should include clickable links that instantly add the item to online shopping carts. This is the modern equivalent of jotting it down on a list to pick up on the next trip to the store.
Time is of the Essence
Retailers have long been intermediaries between CPG brands and consumers. E-commerce is changing that barrier by letting the brand bring the store to the consumer, rather than driving the customer into the store. Using social media posts, videos, banner ads and content marketing, brands have unobstructed paths to consumers. Make it easy for the retailer to fulfill the order, and every touchpoint leading to that point can be owned by CPG brands.
That's key to cultivating loyalty. No matter how much marketing consumers are exposed to, most habitually buy a familiar brand. The window to break that cycle and attract new customers is razor thin, and every step between intent and conversion erodes it. There's a whole world of online influencers that CPGs can mobilize to impact buying behavior, but those efforts only pay off when consumers are able to convert the moment they're ready.
Don’t Get Too Hung Up on Engagement
It sounds counterintuitive. Engagement leads to sales, right? Indeed, engagement is important, but remember that CPG sales are low risk. Consumers don’t want to spend a great deal of time engaging brands that give them utilitarian products. It’s actually much more important to be ready to service impulse purchases. Giving consumers the power to fulfill their immediate needs is the best way to win sales.
If you’re not ready when consumers are, you’ll probably lose them. If you've been successful in cutting through the noise and earning the attention of a consumer, that's your opportunity to close the sale. Today’s consumers are too good at filtering messages; if you aren’t available when they want you, they’ll lose interest and move on.
CPGs need to think of conversion as a top-of-the-funnel activity online instead of the end goal it is in physical retail. Once an item is in a shopping cart, it’s likely to stay there for a purchase later. Forget the old cycle of building awareness, engaging, reminding and promoting — convert quickly and easily. If buying your product takes more than one or two clicks, that may be one too many for success.
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO at SmartCommerce, an online consumer product goods marketing platform.
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, the international solution helping leading CPG brands like P&G, Unilever and Nestle own and drive their customers’ online buying experiences. SmartCommerce provides unique, brand-focused solutions that help build brand-customer connections in the rapidly changing CPG marketplace.