Consumers can’t use your products if they can’t find your brand where they’re already shopping. Staying relevant requires your brand to be seen, so your products have to go where the eyeballs are.
That’s always been true in retail, but it’s starting to mean something new. ‘Findability’ used to be all about staying on the shelves of your customers’ favorite physical stores – even as those favorites changed.
Now, it’s increasingly about being present in the digital environments where your audience is headed.
As customers continue to change their shopping habits, retailers need to adapt.
Hershey is leading the charge by leaning in on digital. Tony Southard, senior director of e-commerce sales for Hershey, told attendees at the recent Retail Innovation Conference (RIC) that “we want our brands to be the most seen, found and heard” of any snack company.
That means having the best content and creating a path to purchase everywhere our customer wants us to be. Our online presence has to be consistent with the experience customers expect of our products.
“We all have a store in our pocket open 24/7 now, and that’s changed the game completely,” said Southard of smartphones. “There are different expectations.”
“It’s incumbent upon us that as shoppers are going online and offline, that we really deliver consistency in our brands. The messaging, the campaigns, the imagery – it has to be consistent,” said Southard. “That’s true whether we’re building awareness, or we’re at the actual points of conversion.”
Across RIC, speakers talked about how riding the waves of retail change is central to brands’ success.
Delivery, for example, has been a rising trend for years – starting with on-demand food delivery apps, then advancing into grocery. Grocery business models are still adapting to shoppers’ interest in delivery, but a third era is already on the horizon: Convenience.
On-demand models are making delivery more accessible for convenience items. Like many innovations, it started trending on college campuses first. GoPuff – which delivers snack, drinks, and essentials within 15 to 30 minutes – began as a late-night delivery service for students at Drexel University. Now, it serves 75+ markets in university or urban areas. (GoPuff stores 2,000+ product types at each delivery facility.)
Convenience store chains are developing these models too. To benefit from the opportunity, brands will have to make sure they’re in the mix of deliverable items.
When it comes to on-demand partnerships or any other digital endeavors, however, all companies have to keep value top of mind. Sometimes, embracing a new idea doesn’t deliver returns.
Some retailers are reevaluating their investments in apps, for example. There are plenty of use cases where it makes sense, such as AR room planning and beauty filters. But for others, what really is the role of apps that aren’t about media?
Barney’s New York has found that its mobile app is used by the highest value customers, but accounts for a very small percentage of sales. Meanwhile, their mobile website delivers up to 65% of their overall digital traffic daily (depending on the day).
“We’ve actually been having the debate internally about mobile web versus mobile app,” said Katherine Monasebian, CTO EVP, Barneys New York at RIC.
“The app takes about 15% of QA and digital experience [resources]. It’s very expensive from an investment perspective to basically just have a shopping experience – we don’t have a content play, or a replenishment business where’s there’s a sort of utility to it,” she said.
“Now that the experience with mobile web has converged so much, there’s a lot to debate.”
Barney’s team is still very bullish on mobile. Monasebian said the rise of mobile shopping has “changed our mindset about how we look at creative and think about user experience.” Doing that provides better service to the Barney’s customer.
Mobile shopping behavior is something Macy’s has spent a lot of time thinking about, too. Their team recognized that as online behavior was becoming more social, so was the shopping experience.
The launch of Macy’s StyleCrew – a social media community comprised of Macy’s colleagues “who are passionate about sharing what they love most about fashion and style” – was part of the retailer’s shift from being “a company selling to people, to people selling to people,” said Macy’s Parinda Muley, VP of Innovation & Business Development, at RIC.
StyleCrew is just one area of Macy’s focus on retail as a service. To stay findable for their customers, brands have to be where the service happens.
Whether online or offline, your brand is still fighting for eyeballs against every competitor on the digital or physical shelf. That’s why it’s important for brands to understand how shoppers use each one of their favorite shopping environments, and how their products fit into that journey.
For more insights on being as “findable” as possible for your shoppers, download Hershey’s new report on retail, Creating Value in a Shopper’s World.