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Why Retailers Must Think Outside—and Inside—the Store

The onus is on both suppliers and retailers to deliver seamless in-store and online experiences
Photograph: Shutterstock

In today’s world, shoppers have more options than ever before. Whether it’s in-store or online, consumers want the shopping journey to be quick and uncomplicated, and that’s where shopper insights and research can help. From the shopper’s point of view, the journey from in-store to online must be seamless, and frankly, the retailers my team works with are laser focused on the shopper and what he or she wants. I know from 18 years in CPG retail, that by deeply understanding shopper insights and fundamentals, retailers can increase trips and build baskets.

Our Retail Snacking Experience Team (ReSET) spends a lot of time understanding shopper behavior and is invested in bringing these insights to our retail partners, who marry our insights with theirs for a broadened view of the shopper. We know that when shoppers win, retailers win, allowing them to unlock their full potential both online and in the physical store.

Understanding the Shopper

In our annual "In a Shopper’s World” snacks retail report, we found on average, a shopper takes nearly 60 trips per month online and in-store, with most visiting about 17 retailers a month. The path to purchase is wide and we know that people have the ability to shop many stores, but our insights team found only 12% considered other retailers for each particular trip. Consumers select their retailers based on three main components—spend, time and experience—which is why it’s important for retailers to understand what they are known for in their shoppers’ eyes. Once they understand their unique identity and competitive advantages, retailers can unlock three fundamentals for success: findability, engagement and personalization.

Fundamentals for Success

In my experience, the strongest growth-oriented organizations are insights-based, and what drives category growth is understanding the needs of your consumer. Whether you are online or offline, you should be able to help shoppers find what they need from the start and guide them to where they want to go even faster. A shopper has limited time, which is why navigation is key, and time is currency. When a retailer understands "findability," they can simplify the search and help build baskets.

The next step is improving engagement. While retailers like to push out content to shoppers, the key is understanding your consumer group and target audience to create engaging experiences. Data is critical to helping retailers curate and deliver content that’s relevant.

Personalization is the ultimate, “I want what I want, when I want it.” It’s all about the individual. Shopper data—that’s responsibly collected and organized—helps retailers find ways to reach their consumer and develop a relationship with them that is mutually beneficial.

Unlocking Your Growth Online and In-Store

Mining through shopper data can be difficult, but at Hershey, we know that data is the key to insight, which gets turned into effective retail strategies. When a supplier and retailer expand their partnership to mine through this data together, they can create the magic and find the best information to unlock growth.  

It’s important to implement consumer feedback and insights, both in-store and online, to ensure shoppers have the same experience during online ordering, at pickup or with delivery. Retailers have listened to consumer comments for decades and have implemented this feedback in-store. In the digital world, it is no different. Retailers are simply implementing feedback through a different avenue. But, in both scenarios, it all begins with putting the shopper at the center of your strategy.

Grocery is so much more than just buying stuff. It’s how people take care of their family, and they’re putting their trust in the retailer to help. It’s up to all of us, both suppliers and retailers, to listen to our shoppers and their challenges in life, and implement changes to make their journey seamless in-store and online. By doing this, we are making the shopper the priority and building their loyalty.

Marlene Creighton is VP of Food East for The Hershey Co. She can be reached at mcreighton@hersheys.com.

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