As she opens the bags that her grocery store just delivered, Sarah realizes that, once again, she forgot to buy that new mayonnaise made with olive oil. She’s been seeing the ads again and again, and her best friend even posted a delicious looking recipe using the mayonnaise on her Instagram. Despite her strong intent to try this interesting product when it pops up, she keeps forgetting to add it to her online cart. That’s frustrating; but she’s not going to place a special order just to buy it.
This is annoying to Sarah, but it’s an even bigger problem for the product manufacturer and grocer because it represents a lost sale for both of them. Think about all the time, money and energy expended marketing the product — and it worked, because Sarah really wants it! But it’s all for nothing if she keeps forgetting to buy it. This scenario plays out every day, all over the world, because there are so many distractions and things on people’s minds.
We call it “intention deficit disorder,” and it’s both a problem and an opportunity.
What makes this lost opportunity even worse is that Sarah is willing to convert the moment she sees the product online. Like most Millennials, she is an “always-on” consumer, willing to make a purchase whenever the mood strikes. But, it has to be easy. She doesn’t have the time to go searching for a product so she can add it to her digital shopping cart. If clicking the image of the product on her social media feed took her directly to that cart, she would have added it immediately. Then, she wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting.
The biggest missing piece in omnichannel retail today, especially for consumer packaged goods (CPG), is bridging intent to conversion.
Motivating consumers to take action — to turn intent into an actual purchase — has always been difficult for manufacturers. It used to be that if you were responsible for marketing a low-involvement product like a consumer packaged good, the holy grail was getting onto a shopping list.
Today, online shopping carts have largely replaced paper lists and consumers regularly use them to “store” intent. If they see something they like, they add it to their digital carts so it is there waiting for them when they decide to convert on the entire cart — but adding the item has to be seamless. When it takes more than a couple of clicks, would-be buyers lose interest and the intent is lost.
Bridging this intent, particularly digital intent, to conversion is more important than ever because the tools marketers could rely on in the past (like in-store shelf displays and endcaps) are being seen by fewer and fewer customers. Today’s consumers are doing much more shopping online and visiting stores less frequently, limiting their exposure to in-store promotions and displays. When they do visit, it is often to pick up items that have already been ordered and paid for online. This moves product discovery entirely out of the store, making it an online experience.
Discovery-based e-Commerce is the digital bridge between intent and conversion. The key is to give consumers the power to add merchandise to online carts at the point of discovery. If the olive oil mayonnaise that Sarah saw on her Facebook and Instagram feeds had been cart-enabled by the brand, a simple click would have added it to her preferred online shopping cart. When she is ready to convert on the entire cart, the product is automatically already there. It’s what she expects to happen.
Discovery-based e-Commerce emulates the organic process of seeing something you like in a store and tossing it in your shopping cart. It enables the always-on omnishopper to become the always-on omniconverter at any time of the day, no matter where she is. It doesn’t replace search-based e-Commerce (where consumers can add goods to their carts after they have found them through search engines or e-Commerce sites), but adds value during the other 23.5 hours of the day, when customers aren’t actively shopping, but may be influenced by an ad, social post or other content.
Digital serendipity is even more critical to drive impulse buys.
Every brand benefits from enabling digital conversion, but for some brands that have very short intent windows, the value is exponential. Everyone knows that stores place items close to checkout aisles hoping to tap into a last-minute impulse. Whether it’s that candy bar consumers really want, the gossip magazine they simply have to read, or the batteries they totally forgot they needed, impulse purchases are valuable paths to conversion for many brands.
Several forces have cut into these impulse buys over the past several years. The rise of self-checkouts has kept customers busily scanning their own items, distracted from impulse offers. Also, smartphones give bored shoppers an option to skip looking at available items on checkout aisle racks.
The decline of those in-store impulse buying opportunities is moving them where customers are shopping more — online — and it’s putting the power to govern how those opportunities reach consumers into the hands of the brands themselves. Brands no longer have to negotiate for placement with retailers because that placement is driven by the advertising and marketing that they are already executing. The impulse buy is not limited to store-controlled checkout aisles. Brands can place impulse opportunities anywhere online that they feel are most likely to drive intent.
The always-on omnishopper has also become the always-on impulse converter. All she needs is the pathway to that conversion paved for her; she’s ready to run down it. The winners will be the brands and retailers that partner together and make the path from discovery to intent to conversion the seamless process that always-on omnishoppers demand.
Jennifer Silverberg is the CEO of SmartCommerce, the international solution helping leading CPG brands like P&G, Unilever and Nestle own and drive their customers’ online buying experiences. SmartCommerce provides unique, brand-focused solutions that help build brand-customer connections in the rapidly changing CPG marketplace.