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Snacks Retail Expertise

Unlocking Growth by Putting Data to Work

Kate Silver
  • Earlier this year, Groceryshop brought thousands of industry insiders to Las Vegas to discuss innovation in grocery and consumer packaged goods.
  • Experts shared how technology and data are being used in new and different ways to harness growth.
  • Businesses need to look at today’s shopper, as well as tomorrow’s shopper, to understand consumer behavior and build loyalty.

Growth, collaboration, technology, insights—these were just a few of the buzz words spoken time and again at Groceryshop, a four-day event focused on innovation in the grocery and consumer packaged goods markets. One key theme that arose during the conference was this: brands are continually finding new opportunities to leverage data and technology to fuel growth. Here are five key takeaways on how businesses are doing that.  

1. Brands are using data to find innovative approaches to target advertising to consumers

Hershey is reaching consumers in new and exciting ways by looking at weather reports and advertising s’mores, accordingly. Charlie Chappell, head of media and communications planning with The Hershey Company, said that in the past, Hershey advertised s’mores during summer months on a national basis. But in doing so, they realized they were leaving certain markets behind—namely, the areas that have campfire weather outside of the summer season. The team began using weather forecasting to pinpoint where to advertise. “If it was showing that it was going to be ideal for S’mores in that particular location, we would start advertising more and driving people into stores to go pick up the things they needed to have a S’mores weekend. But if it was too hot, we wouldn’t waste our money on that particular location to do that,” says Chappell. “We’ve been doing that this year and seeing some great results.”

2. Retailers and brands are working together to better understand consumers

Across different panels during the conference, experts agreed that collaboration can help drive sales. Rucha Nanavati, group vice president, information technology at Albertsons Companies, said that retailers have always had access to large amounts of data. Today, the key is to derive insights from that data and share it with partners so they can work together and know what promotions to run and when to run them. Doug Straton, chief digital commerce officer with Hershey, said sharing data can benefit all parties, because retailers have access to consumer data, while brands such as Hershey have data and insights regarding their whole category. By working together, they can unlock a deeper understanding of the entire pipeline. “Hershey is in an advantaged position with many of its retailers in terms of category advisor-ship. So we do have a fair amount of data and we do have the ability to take a look at what’s going on at a more robust level to develop decisions that are going to alter the entire category, and within that, hopefully help the Hershey business,” said Straton.  

3. Changing consumer behavior means new opportunities for sales

Today’s shoppers have more options than ever. A number of panelists at Groceryshop pointed out that those options create new opportunities for sales. April Carlisle, vice president of shopper marketing for national retail sales with The Coca-Cola Company, said that click-and-collect consumers are still going into stores for certain purchases, such as selecting their own produce or to pick up a cold beverage or snack. “So everything we’re still doing in store is still equally important, and we still have to be at the front end,” she says. Chappell added that brands need to focus on getting on “the list” with digital shoppers, so that it’s easier for a consumer to purchase those items again in the future. “Once we actually get them on that digital shopping list that becomes the big thing, so when they get to that easy reorder you’re already there, you’re clicking and you’re invested again,” said Chappell.  

4. E-commerce is complex—and important 

E-commerce entails multiple models and can be a complicated system. “In the last 7 or 8 years, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that e-commerce is not one thing,” said Straton. “The fact of the matter is, e-commerce cuts horizontally across alternating sectors and customers.” There’s ship-to-home, click-and-collect, grocery delivery, on-demand delivery and more. Straton pointed out that retailers and brands must understand that each model has different architecture and economics, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Steve Henig, chief customer officer with the supermarket cooperative Wakefern Food Corp., pointed out that consumers who start shopping online tend to expand their purchasing behavior to multiple channels. “One thing we know with great certainty is that the customer who started shopping with us online, their sales explode,” he says. “We look at that omni customer as critically important to our success over time.”

5. To grow, businesses must always be looking forward

A company’s culture is key to its advancement, and, according to Straton, it’s important to evangelize the message of being digital-first and data-first across all departments. For Hershey, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, that’s meant examining where talent comes from and how new hires are integrated with legacy team members, as the business primes itself for another 125 years.

Henig pointed out that businesses need to start talking more about Gen Z, the generation born after 1997, who have begun graduating college. “They’re the first generation that’s 100 percent digital native. They think differently about brands. They think differently about how to shop. They think differently about how brands should connect with them," said Henig. "Organizations are still talking about millennials, but that ship has sailed. We have to start talking about the next generation and how to engage them."