There’s a new way of doing things in the consumer product space, and it’s your consumers who are shaping the way.

People are shopping for groceries, packaged goods, and the things they use every day in a fundamentally different way. They’re using digital tools to address their own specific needs, and it’s presenting a brand-new opportunity to assist them and get ahead of your competition. Brands stuck in the old way of doing things—those that see online interaction only as a point of transaction and not as the point of influence it truly is—will likely struggle for relevance. It’s the brands that look at this situation as an opportunity to create an assistive experience that engages, energizes, and inspires consumers along their journeys that will thrive.

The old way

The traditional method of interacting with a consumer was to wait for them to think “I’ve run out of the multi-purpose cleaner I like. Where can I conveniently get a replacement?”

The belief was they already knew what they wanted and had a top-of-mind product they were familiar with and loyal to. For marketers, the strategy was a consistent barrage of commercials and advertisements to link consumer thinking to their product.

Traditionally, we believed that a consumer decision is a simple one and it’s easily influenced through repeated messaging. They already know what they want, they get to the shelf, then brands cash in and await the next transaction.

But the data doesn’t bear this out.

What’s changed

What we’ve found, and maybe more important than anything else we address here, is that many CPG shoppers’ minds aren’t made up. Instead, today, they’re more curious, impatient, and demanding than ever. They’re researching things they wouldn’t normally research in the past. They’re considering more options across all products than they used to and carrying that consideration with them into their planning.

In fact, 73 percent of CPG shoppers said they considered two or more products as they browsed and researched during their recent journey, while 43 percent considered three or more. With 220 million shoppers in the U.S., that’s nearly 90 million people.

Notably, as Google searches for a variety of food/beverage and beauty/hair categories increased from 2015 to 2017, so too did the unique terms used to explore. For example, mobile searches for condiments and dressing grew 165 percent while lipstick and lip gloss grew 110 percent. These categories, respectively, saw over 165,000 and 535,000 unique search terms used by shoppers seeking assistance.

The reality for most consumers today is that they carry handheld access to an almost unlimited set of options to meet their needs, whenever they want. Thanks to mobile connectivity, they have easy access to more information and are in control of their journey more than ever before. Our own data shows that 37 percent of in-store retail sales (nearly $1.4T) in 2016 were influenced by a shopper’s mobile device. Of CPG shoppers, 43 percent said they used search to be inspired, browse, or research in their recent shopping journey. That’s more than any other digital resource, including a retailer website.

With so many interactions being informed by digital research and behavior, there is a clear opportunity for you to have a better understanding of your consumers, anticipate their needs, and redefine what makes them act in those moments. They are actively curious, impatient, and demanding in these moments. They’re thinking “I want to know more!” Or better, “I need to know more!”

There is a real opportunity for you to build significance by assisting these digitally-engaged consumers with answers that speak to their needs.

  • Understand your consumer. Data from both first and third parties, such as retailer insights about purchases and Google search data about shopping intent, is readily available to give you insight into what consumers want, when they want it, and how they’re making their choice.
  • Anticipate their needs. Take this complete understanding and filter it through analysis of who your consumer is, what they care about, how they behave online, and what specific things they are most likely to buy and you begin to anticipate their needs with accuracy.
  • Redefine impulse. Impulse doesn’t just happen at the checkout line anymore. Especially when so many shopping decisions are made before the shopping trip begins. So it becomes integral to the effort to redefine impulse and understand when, where, and how you can intercept consumers to influence their behavior.
  • Reach them before the competition. The data shows that shoppers leave a clear digital trail behind them that provides signals to you about when connecting with their need matters most. Consumers are being inspired and researching earlier in the journey, and these signals are cluing you into what they need. It’s in the “I want to know” moments that you’re able to have more powerful influence than in the “I want to buy” moments.

Interested in learning more? Download our whitepaper, or contact one of the following team members: Jeff Simpson, Rob Bamford, David Kearns.