Critical Priorities for CPGs to Maximize Omnichannel and Ecommerce Opportunities

Online shopping has seen exponential growth in the past several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted even more shoppers to look to the safety of the web for their needs. Not only is that online behavior prominent now, but many studies have shown the majority of shoppers who are doing their business online plan to continue, leaving both the CPG and retail industries changed forever. According to Boston Consulting Group, product makers are facing a radically less familiar sales environment as more shoppers turn to ecommerce and even directly to brands. In order to succeed in this transformed landscape, CPGs must nurture emerging capabilities, as well as adopt new strategies and partnerships quickly and effectively.

This means a turning point for CPGs, fundamentally changing the way they reach consumers and maximize wallet share. For many years, the growth of ecommerce could almost be ignored, with reliance on physical retail holding strong. According to BCG analysis, ecommerce only accounted for about 3% of all food and beverage sales before COVID. A small volume by most standards. However, the pandemic accelerated ecommerce to represent as much as 15% of total retail food and beverage sales. Most interestingly, the BCG analysts predict that 70% of CPG sales growth through to 2022 will come from ecommerce. This opportunity will be won by the CPGs with the most agile and sophisticated omnichannel capabilities

Online shopping increased by 50% during the pandemic (Nielsen, 2020) and social commerce grew by 37.9% (eMarketer, 2020).

In addition, the 2021 Food and Health Survey from the International Food Information Council reported that 1 in 3 Americans are shopping for groceries online more often, and that the majority of them intend to continue these habits. 1 in 3 Americans are shopping for groceries online more often, and that the majority of them intend to continue these habits.

BCG analysis reveals that 40% of the recent growth in online grocery is from people trying it for the very first time. By 2022, ecommerce’s share of grocery is expected to be as much as 3 times higher than pre-pandemic levels.

So what can you do to capitalize on these opportunities?

  1. Accurate forecasting

    An overarching theme of shopping during the pandemic has been an insufficient available product inventory. Shoppers have experienced their standard, favorite, and even second-favorite products going out of stock – sometimes for months on end. This has led shoppers to trial and shift to alternative brands, and those which have been available when needed have often seen a permanent demand shift. Even during the most normal of times, a CPG’s critical capability is to accurately predict and respond to changes in demand, ensuring stock ends up exactly where the real-time need is, whether online or offline. These predictive analytics abilities allow more inventory to be allocated accordingly, whether it’s by geographic region or channel. Are you going to rely on retailer demand forecasts? Wouldn’t it be better to have these insights available in real time and with both accuracy and granularity?

  2. How do you adapt your marketing and assortments online?

    The levers for marketing and promotion are completely different when selling online vs. in store. Instead of allocating shelf facings and space with tactical deployment of in-store gondola ends, power aisles, and POS, you are dealing with digital shelves. CPGs need to deploy strong relationships with ecommerce shops to secure online visibility and placement. Additionally, a focus on which range of SKUs in each category are essential to meet demand is imperative. It’s not always possible for a full range to be stocked, so making quick decisions on the most profitable and in-demand lines can mean the difference between winning business or losing it to a competitor.

  3. Have a deep understanding of the online consumer

    Well executed consumer activation is reliant on an understanding of the shopper. How will they find you? When someone searches for your product, how and where will you appear in the search results? Are searches being conducted by brand name? Product name? Category? Will the shopper behave differently when they have instant access to consumer-generated content and reviews from other buyers? Winning in omnichannel is no simple or easy battle: balancing retail, DTC, ecommerce, marketplaces like Amazon, and delivery partners such as Instacart keep CPGs on their toes. The most valuable tool for managing these challenges will make sense of multi-channel data and make smart, go-to-market decisions using it in real time.The good news is that technology has risen to the challenge; platforms boosted by machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science are enabling CPGs to optimize their operations in real time, making sense of the mind-boggling combination of supply, demand, marketing, promotion, assortment, pricing, and activation metrics.

It’s the brands who can make all these complex, go-to-market decisions faster and with more accuracy that stand to grow and earn the largest share of wallet.