Meeting Your CPG Brand’s Prospect Where She/He is
A common construct for consumer packaged goods (CPG) marketers is to divide the buying cycle into stages: before the store, in the store, and after the store. I've seen countless marketing plans built this way, and the objectives were usually pretty straightforward:
- Before the Store: Drive awareness and purchase interest.
- In the Store: Close the purchase.
- After the Store: Delight the consumer, heightening awareness and repurchase intent.
But what happens when the consumer is rarely (if ever) going "in the store" at all when e-commerce becomes the primary path to purchase for highly impulse-driven CPG products? In that case, the marketer's objectives may be restated:
- Before the Store: Purchase
- In the Store: Purchase
- After the Store: Repurchase
I already hear a tribe of CPG marketers crying, "but what about the purchase funnel? How can we expect consumers to purchase if they're still in the 'consideration' phase?" That may be a perfectly logical question if you're selling cars, but it's a goofy question for almost all CPG. If there's a "consideration" phase for plastic trash bags, it's about two seconds. If there's an "interest" phase for gum, it's probably milliseconds. Do consumers go through an "opinion" or "research" phase on a new chip flavor? No, they buy it and try it!
So if we've squashed the idea of the CPG funnel, and we're open to the concept of enabling impulse purchases, what does that mean for our marketing and e-commerce plans?
Converting 'Before the Store'
Here, the first shift is to pivot the definition of success for your marketing efforts among all stakeholders, including your agencies. Reach, frequency, awareness, interest or brand love may have seemed to have been the primary objective in the past, but they've always been valuable only when they eventually led to action. To put it bluntly, no one ever paid for their kid's college with "purchase interest," but a whole lot did on "purchase."
The places you're reaching the digital consumer before the store — ads, social media, email, etc. — are online (which is where they're likely to be later buying). Therefore, strong purchase intent has become a relatively easy thing to measure by giving the consumer a path to purchase from wherever you're reaching them. We're strong proponents of letting consumers drop products into their store carts via Click2Cart (which reduces friction and lets you cart multiple products at once), but at the very least, there should be a link to a retail purchase opportunity at every digital touchpoint.
A common danger here is to think that you should try to "close" the sale when a consumer puts a product in the cart, either by selling directly or by urging the consumer to complete the purchase in the same session. Remember that since you're reaching them "before the store," they're not actively shopping right now. They're passively shopping, and trying to close them has the potential to backfire. It's best to help them quickly get the product in the cart or otherwise set up the purchase later when they're "in the store" actively shopping.
Converting 'in the Store'
Here, your job is to convert consumers who already know they want your product or at least a product in your category. Put up your best assets: photos, product names, descriptions, and relentlessly test to make them better. "Better" here is measured by (1) conversion of your product on the page and (2) lack of disintermediation to other products that are hanging out on your page.
You should continuously measure your position on important search terms. You're probably already making sure that your offers are keyword-rich and compelling. Remembering that retailers profit-optimize their search results. Anything you can do to get consumers to signal interest in your brand (back to getting products in carts) will help raise your search position.
Your retailer partners are your best allies in optimizing for purchase "in the store," so definitely use them for this part of your marketing mix.
Converting 'After the Store'
This is the one that many CPGs are overlooking. In the past, most packaging was optimized for driving shelf visibility and choice, but most marketers were thinking only of the physical shelf at the store. While that's still important for in-store sales, it's worth considering the shelf at home, which for digital consumers will be the only shelf on which they'll see your product.
I encourage our clients to think of their packaging as the single most important owned media they have. It's actually in the consumer's home and with them every day.
I'll offer two things to consider on the "second shelf" — the shelf at home. First, think about how to optimize your packaging for counter/shelf visibility. Maybe the package/label can be so beautiful that it is "counter-worthy." Maybe your packaging dispenses in a way that makes it handier to leave at the front of the shelf, rather than pushing to the back. Perhaps you fit perfectly in the heaviest-use fridge shelves, rather than being easy to store in the short ones in the back. Here you are optimizing to drive usage.
Second, if your product is stored in the package, consider using it as a way to drive direct reorder. Use a QR code or text action to let a consumer drop the product in a retailer cart of their choice for repurchase, bypassing the competitive shelf entirely and delighting the busy consumer along the way.
Times of rapid consumer behavior change can be the best opportunities for brands to build share and relevancy. Given the current market data and trends, like the 40-plus percent year-over-year growth in online shopping, which is expected only to continue growing post-COVID … now is the time for brands to evolve.
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, provider of Click2Cart, the only path to purchase that was purpose-built for the unique needs of the CPG category.
Related story: Winning the Online CPG War: Capture Purchase Intent Immediately
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.