Optimizing E-Commerce for the New Behaviors of American Consumers

A version of this article was originally written by Rachel Tipograph for Candy & Snack TODAY.

Today, the line between digital and physical shopping experiences is disappearing in the United States, and omnichannel commerce, once thought to be the future of shopping, is here. If companies want to keep up with the changing behaviors of American consumers, the metrics and best practices from yesterday’s e-commerce strategies must now be foundational for a consumer-driven, omnichannel commerce experience. 

So what are the changing consumer behaviors driving the commerce evolution in the U.S.? How can candy and snack brands leverage consumer preference data to succeed in an omnichannel world?

Know Your Consumers

MikMak works with grocery brands including The Hershey Co. and Nestlé to understand their American consumers’ online behavior, determine the best use of marketing dollars and drive sales and have seen many examples of brands successfully leveraging e-commerce consumer insights to strategize with brick-and-mortar retailers. In one case, geolocation data allowed a leading grocery brand to use data showing a spike in consumer demand to negotiate with its brick-and-mortar retailers to adjust stocking. In another case, a brand was able to look at what product messaging resonated with its consumers online to reposition itself in another product sector. In every case, having access to consumer data and understanding consumer preferences were key to omnichannel success.

Omnichannel today starts from the moment brands begin planning the campaign strategy. From ad engagement to retailer checkout to last mile delivery, this is a world in which consumer preference plays a role in determining every single step of the shopping journey. For grocery brands to succeed in this world, it’s critical to recognize the importance of gathering and making sense of consumer preference data and using it to tailor a shopping experience for consumers regardless of where they are engaging.  

Forecasting Demand In Real Time

First things first: optimize inventory to make sure there are enough products on hand to keep pace with demand, so regardless of whether they are purchased in-store or online, they get to shoppers when they’re wanted. 

MikMak supports brand partners is by helping them leverage consumer data as a leading indicator to forecast product demand. Brands need to know commerce trends for the shopping occasion being planned and when consumers begin preparing for it. 

In one example, MikMak’s Shopping Index showed purchase intent for groceries had been climbing since April 17 in preparation for Mother’s Day, and was at 5 percent, which is 1.5 times higher than the industry average of 3.3 percent. When looking at e-commerce traffic for grocery, 91 percent was being driven by awareness-based media — typical for popular events that are top of mind for shoppers. 

Understanding these insights, grocery brands might opt to run awareness-based media on the top channel their consumers are engaging in, and make sure the media is not only live at least two weeks prior to the event date but also shoppable.

These shopping occasions offer lessons for candy and snack brands on how to prepare for one of their biggest American holidays of the year: Halloween. Doug Straton, Hershey’s chief digital officer, mentioned on the Brave Commerce podcast that the brand learned sales online weren’t taking place evenly across all retailers, but were concentrated at several big retailers. Thus, they were able to leverage their e-commerce experience in Halloween 2019 and Easter 2020 to execute a full-blown activation around omnichannel across retailers for Halloween in 2020. 

Make E-Commerce Profitable By Basket Building

Another important approach to making e-commerce sales profitable is through basket building. If a company is selling candy online, becoming profitable will be a serious obstacle if it is only sending consumers one chocolate bar at a time. For candy brands to truly capitalize on e-commerce, it’s critical to look for opportunities to increase the basket size by way of bundling. 

Showcasing complementary products for purchase, like graham crackers and marshmallows to transform a simple chocolate bar into s’mores, is one way. Consumers could also be prompted to add candy to their orders upon checkout at an online retailer or eGrocer. This process is pretty much the same as a consumer making an unplanned purchase in the checkout line at the supermarket. If you have access to sales insights, check out what your product is frequently purchased with. 

From ad engagement to retailer checkout to last mile delivery, this is a world in which consumer preference plays a role in determining every single step of the shopping journey.

Remove Shipping, Fulfillment Roadblocks

Candy and snacks are often unplanned purchases. American consumers want instant gratification, and they don’t want to have to wait several days, or even hours, to satisfy their sweet tooth. 

Retailers can solve this problem by partnering with delivery platforms such as Instacart, or by embracing the click-and-collect method in which consumers buy something online and pick it up in the store. Consumers get the products they want quickly without having to pay for shipping or waiting in long lines for a cashier to check them out. Because many people might still be wary of being in close quarters with strangers, this functionality can be a boon for forward-thinking retailers.

Brands have been successfully leveraging data and insights across the digital and physical shopping experience to understand their consumers and drive sales. As American consumer habits evolve, developing an omnichannel strategy that helps brands know who their consumers are, how to reach them and where they like to shop is a surefire way to drive sales and build a loyal customer base in the U.S.

Contributor Info: Rachel Tipograph, the founder of MikMak, an e-commerce acceleration platform for multi-channel brands, considered herself amongst the digerati since the moment she became an eBay power user at 13. She is widely celebrated, with Forbes listing her as one of its “30 under 30 Who Are Changing The World.” Additionally Marie Claire named her one of “The 50 Most Influential Women in America;” Fast Company tagged her as one of “The Most Creative People in Business:” and AdAge named her one of “The Most Creative People of The Year.”

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