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Blog Posts

Thriving in a Transformational Time

April 09, 2019

Sam Richardson

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This year’s Food Marketing Conference at Western Michigan University focused on the ongoing transformation of the industry, which is being driven by the maturation of omnichannel shopping behaviors and expectations. Below are some important takeaways that resonated with me during my time at the conference:

1. Learning isn’t hard; forgetting the old ways of doing things is hard

The fact is, the new realities call for lots of letting go. Among the most important things to forget? Thinking that (a) “channel” comes before “shopper,” (b) today’s competitors are your biggest threats, and (c) your brand is tied to a specific physical product. As an example of this last item, one alcohol beverage company is riding the wave of cannabis legalization by transforming its purpose to “mood management.”

2. There’s a big difference between digital sales and digitally-influenced sales

The first may be small for many brands, and the second may be large. Today’s omnichannel path to purchase (P2P) creates many interactive touchpoints, with instore and online research and purchasing influencing each other. As a result, many ecommerce teams are misreading shoppers’ online research as missed sales when they are actually a purposeful part of the P2P. Understanding this interaction is critical to mastering the omnichannel P2P.

3. The Customer Experience (CX) grading curve isn’t the same as the academic grading curve.

The speaker’s example: 99 – 100 = A; 96 – 98 = A-; 93 – 95 = B; 91 – 92 = C; < 91 = F. He further suggested that this “Tiger Mom” scale is going to further tighten as shoppers raise their expectations based on the best customer experiences they encounter. If you’re not creating better and better customer and brand experiences, you’re falling behind.

4. Know whether your Brand is in line with the experiences your customers are expecting

Customer Experience is the new Brand, and vice versa. Brands are becoming retailers through direct-to-consumer platforms, and retailers are becoming (stronger) brands through their own-label products and an increasing array of services, like delivery. Brand equity is created – and tested – through every experience in which consumers and shoppers experience the brand. Is your premium brand is found in off-price stores, that’s a disconnect. And if your “better for the environment” brand is advertised on a show or network that downplays the risks of climate change, that’s a disconnect, too.

5. When it comes to omnichannel, are you all in, or just all over the place?

As businesses accelerate and execute their omnichannel strategies and tactics, there’s often more emphasis on activation than integration. Make sure your efforts are coordinated and evaluated holistically. Being “all in” in omnichannel means seeing it and building it from the shopper’s perspective, making the most of each touchpoint, and knowing which ones matter most to shoppers and your bottom line.

Blog Posts

Omnichannel Revolution Requires New Marketing Measurement

April 04, 2019

Sam Richardson

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The new solutions that help marketers thrive

Marketing measurement and analytics needs a new playbook. Learn how understanding the new omnichannel Path to Purchase and a revamped Marketing Mix Modeling strategy can tee up your organization for success in today’s omnichannel environment. Enjoy the following sections:

– Looking beyond traditional methods and metrics to map a better understanding of the shopper journey

– A shopper-centric approach to understanding the omnichannel Path to Purchase

– A better understanding of Marketing Mix Modeling, which has had a breakthrough of improvements powered by advances in technology and data integrations

Download here

Blog Posts

Tackling Your 2019 Marketing KPIs With a Unified Approach

March 07, 2019

Sam Richardson

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“How do you really feel about me?”

It’s an awkward question in a relationship. It’s also a difficult one for most brands to answer, but it can be key to a successful campaign. The problem is most brands don’t even bother to ask. Research has shown that as much as 95% of purchasing decisions are made based on fast, intuitive thinking as opposed to a slower, rationale process. In other words, emotion.

Emotion provides a pathway to activation. Recognizing this, market leaders are starting to move some resources in the direction of the upper funnel, e.g. brand building. This acknowledges that increasing marketing efficiency isn’t just about activation and sales; it’s about understanding and measuring brand and brand impact on ROI across channels. It’s about establishing an emotional beachhead in the consumer’s mind early in the decision-making process. Missing that window can mean missing the sale and, just as important, forgoing the chance to start a long-term relationship.

We live in an omnichannel world where customers search for product information and make buying decisions when and wherever it suits them. Tracking the path to purchase provides insight on key inflection points but it doesn’t always go to the emotional core of the decision-making process.  In spite of this, advertisers continue to invest more in activation focused communication than in building brands. One major reason: technology makes it increasingly possible to optimize and follow-up the short-term effects of communication.

An omnichannel perspective is key

Understanding activation is great, but it’s not enough.  Differentiating your brand from the competition and creating the kind of unique and compelling experience that drives customer loyalty and sales requires building an emotional connection, too. To achieve this, you have to adopt an omnichannel perspective, measuring brand performance across all media.  And you need to bring a similar view to measuring KPIs, seeing them in context, using data and analysis to understand not just what the consumer does but why.

If consumers walked a completely logical path to purchase, there would be no need to analyze the emotions that define the upper funnel (consideration for purchase). But they don’t, and there is. If you’re not asking (and answering), how do you really feel about me, you’re missing an opportunity to build brand and boost ROI.

Blog Posts

3 Key Takeaways from The National Grocers Association Show 2019

March 04, 2019

Sam Richardson

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As someone who has worked in the customer experience space for over 20 years, across multiple industries, I was happy to bring it back home to my earlier days by attending this year’s NGA Show in San Diego. Right away it was easy to see what a great representation this year’s conference was in showcasing the growing number of resources available to independent grocers – who are competing in today’s technology driven world.  As I reflect on the providers and exhibitors, I’m left with dozens of takeaways, however below I havsae prioritized on my top three:

1. Mobile Mania & Omnichannel Omnipresence

It’s really no surprise that mobile accessibility is key to winning and keeping customers.  From independents up to the largest chains, many shoppers are using a mobile device to research grocery purchases, build shopping lists and pay. And today, price comparison only accounts for a small part of that research. Keeping things like ingredients and brand reputations in mind, this means grocers will need to have a seamless experience at all levels: online, mobile app and in-store.

It’s no longer enough for CPG brands to understand the omnichannel path-to-purchase, but retailers also need to step up their game.  Pay by mobile is increasingly an expectation, and if a retailer doesn’t already accept mobile payment, they are behind.  It was Steve Bishop who said it best in his presentation, “Independent retailers need to consider how to make it seamless for shoppers to move between online and in-store.”

2. Marketing (R)Evolution

Creative marketing can be a real win for local grocery retailers – whether an independent or large chain.  While traditional mailers and circulars are still a key aspect of the advertising push, the drawing power of a low-cost YouTube video can really maximize returns in marketing.  It doesn’t have to be Academy Award winning. It can be about your stores’ core beliefs or even footage from a service event. At the end of the day, it just has to be authentic and show your customers the respect you have for them.

3. Experience Maximization

Brick and mortar store locations can meet future shopper expectations by taking advantage of readily available technology and continuously working to improve the overall experience.  Advances in mobile technology are available to help shoppers find the right aisle, pick the right product and even market to them while in store.

Smart home devices will start to roll out into grocery stores to provide that same type of assistance and, eventually, work between store and home (“Alexa – can you tell me how many rolls of paper towels I have left?”). Despite the emphasis on technology, the in-store experience will continue to be significant. No matter your store size, it will be essential to evaluate and measure customer experience and more importantly, further enhance it with actions that drive profitability. Not everyone can afford a data scientist, but everyone will need to be able to respond to data.

It is not by mistake that I have mentioned technology numerous times. Over the past few days I met with at least a dozen “data aggregators”– everything from basket data, to SKU analysis to inventory. Almost every retailer I spoke with talked about the changes from just two years ago when all focus was on product variety and traditional marketing.

Today, experts in the industry have recognized that gathering data is essential for the future success of a business. I would take it a step further to suggest that it is essential for the future success of a business to know how to take action on that data. Having a dedicated function at every location isn’t always possible. However, having a road map to achieve and partners that support you in that effort will always help you win with your customers.  As the grocery industry continues to go through massive change, a huge opportunity exists for retailers that use data to deliver omnichannel experiences that meet their customers changing needs.

Blog Posts

Making good things happen on the omnichannel path to purchase

February 01, 2019

Sam Richardson

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The old proverb has it that “good things come to those who wait”. According to the Internet, Abraham Lincoln added “but only what’s left by those who hustle.”

Whether Lincoln said that or not, the point remains: Waiting for shoppers to find your brand is not a winning strategy. Today, only a few brands and shopper insights leaders are beginning to fully understand the omnichannel path to purchase from the perspective of their shoppers. Those who invest in understanding shoppers’ behaviors and motivations through the omnichannel path to purchase are increasing conversion rates and growing market share by focusing investment and activity on touchpoints that matter most to shoppers. These leaders will enjoy growth, while brands that rely on outmoded constructs that separate online vs. offline, behavior vs. motivation, and paid vs. earned vs. owned, will fight over the scraps.

Early adopters across the globe are seeing the benefits of connecting the dots across dozens of online and offline touchpoints. Here are three ways Nepa is seeing shopper-centric understanding drive conversion and grow sales and market share:

1. More effective initiatives and investments, based on what matters most to shoppers

Many of the insight sources and marketing analytics techniques employed today haven’t kept up with explosion in touchpoints that can influence conversion. For example, Marketing Mix Modeling is a solid approach, but it’s typically limited to evaluating paid media with years of historical data. Similarly, multi-touch attribution modeling relies solely on online touchpoints, ignoring offline interactions. And many approaches disregard the ways in which online touchpoints influence offline sales, and vice versa, which we see across multiple categories and geographies.

In short, traditional methods don’t line up with today’s purchase paths, which might include an online product search, skimming a blog post, checking prices in store, reading a friend’s social media post, and, perhaps, a purchase on an eCommerce site. By capturing the shopper’s actual omnichannel experience, Marketers can learn the conversion power of every touchpoint, individually and in combinations, and make more effective decisions on budgets and other resources.

2. Competitive Intelligence and Inspiration

Traditional marketing analytics focus on one brand and how it’s marketed, as well as related consumer behavior. But brands and markets don’t exist in a vacuum. Omnichannel path to purchase methods recognize this obvious truth. By taking a shopper-led perspective at the category level, omnichannel sheds light on how every brand and touchpoint impact the shopper’s decisions along the path to purchase – including those of competitors. The insight gained can inspire brands to try new strategies and tactics, and to identify and neutralize their competitors’ advantages.

3. Strengthen Retail Partnerships

The path to purchase involves decisions on where to buy, as well as what to buy. Multiple retailers with similar offerings are competing for shoppers’ dollars. An omnichannel approach can help identify exactly where and why a retailer is losing category sales to a competitor. Early adopters are applying these insights to strengthen strategic retail partnerships and establish themselves as trusted category advisers. For example, Nepa recently provided a CPG client with insights and recommendations that helped its largest retail customer, Walmart, understand exactly where and why they lost purchases to Amazon. This kind of actionable intelligence leads to competitive advantage and growth.

The point is clear to early adopters of omnichannel analytics: along the path to purchase, good things happen when you hustle.

Blog Posts

How to Embrace the Retail Revolution

August 02, 2018

Sam Richardson

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Dramatic changes in technology and shopper expectations are fueling a revolution in the retail industry. Retailers that embrace the change and meet today’s omnichannel demands will emerge victorious. Matt Nitzberg, Nepa’s Chief Client Officer, recently opened the Retail Revolution Summit at the Shopper Insights & Retail Activation conference with 10 changes that are redefining the new retail world.

This post introduces a few of those concepts and some strategies to win the Retail Revolution. If you want the full list – check out Matt’s 12-minute webinar.

Unlimited Choices

Shoppers have unlimited choice readily available at their fingertips – both digitally and physically. This can be a challenge for retailers that have relied on reducing assortment complexity as a strategy. As new brands emerge to meet a diverse range of consumer needs – be it an eco-conscious toothpaste or convenient men’s razor subscription – retailers must never give a product-based reason for the shopper to choose another retailer. A great example of this is Target’s decision to subscription-based Harry’s Razors, which helped them to compete strongly on Amazon’s Prime Day.

More Choices, Less Store Space

Despite the need to offer more products to win and maintain shoppers, the old retail mentality of “more stores, more sales” is no longer an effective strategy. Today, having “more stores” is a possible indication of more overhead that risks distracting a retailer from the omnichannel priorities of shoppers. As we forge into the retail revolution, it is better to think about the role of the physical store in the total customer experience than merely the number of stores.

Effortless Shopping

The days of increasing basket size by leading shoppers on a treasure hunt through the store are numbered. The new reality is a demand for effortless shopping experiences – where retailers make it convenient for shoppers to get what they desire, when and where they want it. This change is fueling another change that Matt introduces, from “going to the store” to “the store comes to me”. Delivery services like Instacart, meal subscriptions like Blue Apron, and the rise of small format stores are proof of the effortless shopping trend.

How Can Retailers Grow amidst the Revolution?

As you consider these trends, Amazon will surely come to mind as both a source and benefactor of these seismic shifts. Their share of total US retail sales has increased from ~1.5% to over 5% today. The time is now for retailers to start adopting new techniques to compete with Amazon’s impressive growth – here are some useful strategies:

Accept the Omnishopper Reality

Headlines about eCommerce eliminating traditional brick and mortar retail have been replaced with eCommerce-players expanding their physical presence (e.g. Amazon and Warby Parker opening stores, Casper opening showrooms and partnering with major retailers). The Retail revolution will reward companies that adapt the role of physical and digital channels to provide shoppers with more choice and frictionless shopping experiences.

Master the complex Path to Purchase

Shoppers are not only buying in multiple channels – our research confirms they are moving seamlessly between physical and digital interactions as they research and compare brands and products. According to Nepa UK’s Managing Director Lindsay Cowan, “Marketers that connect these dots across online and offline touchpoints will influence action at different stages of the shoppers’ journey – allowing them to invest more effectively to attract new shoppers, get on the shopping list, optimize conversion and increase penetration.” For more on how to succeed in this “New Era of Shopping” – check out our Q&A with Lindsay.

Optimize CX for Revenue & Profit

While companies have appropriately pursued Customer Experience strategies to create loyalty in advocacy, there has been too much focus on improving intermediate metrics like NPS or C-SAT. Tracking these metrics and driving them upward is important, but leading brands are now collecting CX feedback on a continuous basis and aligning it to operational data to prioritize investments that improve the customer experience and the bottom-line.

Make no mistake – Retail is in the middle of dramatic changes due to technological disruptions and shopper expectations. Companies that fully embrace the drivers of this revolution can adapt and make the investments needed to thrive.

At Nepa, we take an omnishopper view that blends “why” and “what” research competencies to help clients embrace this new reality, master the path to purchase, and improve ROI on CX investments. Click here to contact us.