Win in Grocery E-Commerce: Stock the Digital Shelf by Using Attribute Data

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Today’s grocery e-commerce consumers have an extensive and varied list of things they care about when shopping for products online. They want to know exactly what ingredients are in the products, what functional benefits they can expect and how products stack up to their standards for environmental stewardship, animal welfare and human rights. These product attributes are driving search behavior, and the brands that are optimizing their product listings for relevant attributes are the ones winning the purchase.

But according to research from an analysis of Q4 2019 customer data from Label Insight’s e-commerce insights platform and Comscore shopper panel data, 84% of brands fail to claim one or more of the three most-searched-for attributes that their products actually meet. There’s a lot of unclaimed revenue waiting for the brands that take action.

How grocery e-commerce brands are stocking the digital shelf

A few brands are capitalizing on this opportunity—such as Conagra’s Slim Jim. Slim Jim’s success story is now well-known. A decade ago, Slim Jim’s sales were struggling. Sales leaders were racking their brains to come up with a way to get sales moving. They noticed the popularity of fad diets, including the (at the time) newly-rising Paleo diet, and they figured they could hitch Slim Jim’s star to this trend.

The company launched new advertising and refreshed Slim Jim’s branding to focus on high-protein. The result was an immediate uptick in sales. But a few years later, it was time to innovate again. When the keto diet came along, they shifted their product messaging to match consumers’ search activity around the new diet. Thanks to the company’s attention to changing attribute searches, Slim Jim’s sales have nearly tripled since their 2010 dip.

What grocery brands and retailers can do to claim lost revenue

The problem of failing to capture revenue associated with popular attribute searches is easily fixed. Here’s how grocery e-commerce brands can effectively leverage product attribute data to begin claiming revenue they’ve been leaving on the table.

1. Understand the customer

Traditionally, brands have built buyer personas and refreshed them, at most, once a year. They base their marketing on these personas, which often become out-of-date within a few months: As soon as a new fad develops, a new scientific finding is reported or a shift occurs in the way language is used. To capitalize on shopping trends, however, retailers must have an up-to-date understanding of their consumer base.

Case in point: Customers may search “keto” in high numbers one month but search “low carb” more frequently the next. If retailers aren’t aware of the latest popular term, they’ll likely miss out on capturing those purchases. Additionally, search terms vary by platform. For example, Label Insight reports that customers looking for cold coffee most frequently searched the term “cold brew” on Amazon, while Walmart’s customers favored “iced coffee.”

How can retailers know what terms their customers are searching? Look to data. A grocery CPG brand will need a central source of up-to-date data that tracks their customers’ and general consumers’ buying behaviors.

2. Know which attributes apply to which products

In order to optimize for attribute searches, retailers need to know which attributes are relevant to each product. Scan product labels and apply algorithms to automatically determine which products match the criteria for gluten-free, organic, kosher and other attributes. To associate these attributes with a product, include them in the retailer set-up process for each SKU, and be sure to use the keyword in the product title and description. Other areas of the product listing can be optimized as well, including images and videos.

3. Take advantage of hidden search terms

Hidden search terms are those that aren’t visible but help the platform’s algorithm know what terms are relevant to a product. Retailers can use any keyword as a hidden search term, including “gray area” terms that a product may or may not qualify for. FDA regulations are often imprecise, so it can be challenging to know if a certain product could claim the term. Depending on how popular a term is, retailers may want to consider optimizing for it even if the product lies in a gray area.

Claim the attribute, win the purchase

Ultimately, winning the purchases associated with attribute searches is a matter of having the relevant data, analyzing it for opportunities and then putting it to use. Brands that do this will quickly pull ahead of those that don’t, especially as the world continues to move toward increasing online grocery shopping.

Want to see more insights based on grocery brand e-commerce data? View Label Insight’s report, Activating Product Attributes: How brands can avoid missing millions.

This post is sponsored by Label Insight