The Supply Side: Walking in shopper’s shoes a harsh reality for CPG brands

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 463 views 

According to Rick West, consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands must go “beyond the numbers” and understand the real challenges and priorities of everyday shoppers to win in the marketplace.

West, the CEO of crowdsourcing data firm Field Agent in Fayetteville, recently presented at the P2P Summit Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He gave key insights into how consumer packaged foods companies must go beyond the numbers to connect with shoppers on a personal level.

He said just knowing the number of households that shop for people with severe food allergies, or how many shoppers use grocery pickup services, is not enough given marketing has become more granular.

FOOD ALLERGIES
West said it’s essential to understand how households with severe food allergies shop for “safe” foods in-store and online. Field Agent recently interviewed 2,100 Americans with allergies and documented their path to purchase. The research found 99% who grocery shop in stores and 45% who shop online are doing so for someone with severe food allergies or dietary restrictions.

Other findings include:

  • 76% said the most trustworthy sources for them are product labels;
  • 12% cited family and friends as trustworthy sources;
  • 11% turn to online reviews for trustworthy sources; and
  • 1% said they rely on store employees for their knowledge.

“It’s crucial to go beyond basic facts and figures or the number of food-allergy sufferers or the specific foods they avoid, to become intimately familiar with their everyday shopping needs and challenges, West said. “When CPG brands legitimately understand shopper struggles, they’re rewarded with stronger sales and customer loyalty.”

Field Agent found 86% of those who suffer from severe food allergies or dietary restrictions said unclear label information caused them to forego buying specific products. They simply can’t risk buying the product when they don’t know exactly what they are purchasing, the report stated.

West said shoppers with severe food allergies and dietary restrictions are oftentimes looking for clear labels, and they read the packaging as well as product-detail pages when shopping online. He said companies weak in those areas will lose sales.

One respondent said she has a 3-year-old daughter with a chronic liver and kidney disease with several dietary restrictions. The shopper looks for phosphorus, potassium and sodium on nutrition labels because she has to restrict her child’s intake of those, but she also wants to ensure she is getting maximum calories.

“Grocery shopping for us is crazy,” that respondent said.

Another respondent has a severe allergy to bananas and said there are so many products that contain bananas. She has to read every label and avoids items with ambiguous wording she does not understand.

One respondent said shopping for food for her son is very confusing as he is allergic to an artificial food dye that is placed in many foods that are labeled “all natural fruit juices.”

“You would think that labeling would mean they used natural coloring, but it often does not. These artificial dyes are put into products and … the labels don’t easily disclose that information, and it makes grocery shopping very difficult,” the respondent said.

For instance, the Fruit Loops cereal box says “natural fruit flavors” on the front of the box, but the ingredient list shows Red 40 and Yellow 6 food dyes are in the product.

Some shoppers said they prefer to shop online because they can read labels and ingredients in the comfort of their home.

A downside expressed by respondents was that not all retailers offer details of product ingredients and reviews online for products they might like to try. Respondents had varying opinions about the value of online grocery. Those with severe food allergies tended to favor this shopping mode.

But others said often the items they want are priced too high and require a certain amount to be purchased. Some shoppers said they use online grocery to beat the crowds and save time. But just as many said they like to feel, touch and sometimes sample the products they buy, and that requires being in a store.

Shoppers said retailers could do a better job segmenting out foods for specific allergies inside the store. They have done a good job segmenting the gluten-free items, but it can be an exhaustive hunt around the store for the items suitable for shoppers with other severe food allergies.

“For me to find products that are low sodium in a store, I have to search and search every area,” one shopper said. “It takes so much time to read every label.”

MOBILE RESEARCH
West said consumers need convenience but that varies widely between households. Those shopping with severe allergies view the experience differently than those with no allergies. Mobile research allows CPG companies to walk in the shopper’s shoes.

He said companies can go inside a customer’s experience as they are shopping for products in-store or online, or while they are using products at home.

“Mobile research methods make it possible to be with shoppers at the moment of influence, the very moment when shoppers are able and willing to reveal deep insights into what it’s like to be in their shoes,” West said.

Mobile Research is at the core of Field Agent’s work. By crowdsourcing smartphones, mobile research enables companies to connect with customers anywhere, anytime. West explained the process with three basic steps: A company identifies a research problem, a mobile research project is generated, and responses are collected and analyzed for shopper insights.

West said because crowdsourcing is used, the results can be gleaned in a few days or even hours, where traditional research can take weeks or months. He said mobile research also has built-in quality control safeguards. For instance, time-date stamping and GPS allow mobile research firms and their clients to know exactly where photos or videos were taken and survey responses submitted. Companies may track and manage results via an online dashboard provided through the mobile research firm.

Most importantly, West said mobile research allows companies to attract customers in the act of consumption. One such example shared by West was a Field Agent survey of tailgaters asking them about beer, soda and salty snack preferences and the primary reason they participated in tailgating. The results found 88% participated in tailgating because of the social aspect of being with friends and family, 52% said they enjoyed the food and beverages, 32% cited tailgating as a way to relax and unwind, 28% took part to support their favorite teams and 26% said they just enjoyed being immersed in a party scene.

West said with knowledge like this, CPG companies can do a better job of target marketing this demographic and capturing a bigger share of sales in the process.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.

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