Highlights from day one at the Digital Food and Beverage conference

From ‘algorithmic nudging’ to virtual cross-selling: Is ecommerce changing the rules in grocery?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Istockphoto-BsWei
Picture: Istockphoto-BsWei
Selling food & beverage brands online has some obvious advantages: you can get to market more quickly, get rapid feedback, and find out who your customers are. But it’s not all plain-sailing. Here are some takeaways from day one of the Digital Food & Beverage Conference* in Chicago.

1 – Keywords really matter​:  

One of the single most effective things you can do to give your brands greater exposure on the virtual shelf is to include search terms consumers are actually using in any given category (‘organic cat food’… ‘eco friendly laundry detergent’) in your product titles, said successive speakers, although incoherent titles overcrowded with keywords can backfire.  

In home baking, for example, ‘cupcake liners’ has a much higher search volume than ‘baking cups,’ said Stephanie Leffler, CEO at OneSpace​, which is dedicated to helping firms improve search rankings and maximize conversion rates across e-commerce platforms.

People often search for things like ‘best toothpaste,’ she noted, adding that only 14% of searches for snacks cited a specific brand, with shoppers more like to search for things such as ‘gluten-free snacks,’ ‘individually wrapped party snacks,’ ‘school lunchbox snacks’ or ‘snacks for toddlers.’  When new trends gain traction, such as keto, brands should also include them in product titles to cash in, she added. “Keto has been off the charts since around January 2018.”​  Similarly, adding the term ‘heart healthy snacks’ to ‘dry roasted peanuts’ will generate 10 times more traffic, she added.  

2 – ‘Algorithmic nudging​:’

As Netflix and Amazon fans already know (people who watched this also watched this​…), online consumers are surprisingly open to ‘algorithmic nudging’ online, and will often go along with what is selected by computer algorithms unless they have very particular brand preferences, said Corbin de Rubertis, head of Innovation at Meredith Corporation​.  

If a recipe site builds a shopping list for consumers seeking to make a cake containing butter, for example, and the list-builder selects Land O Lakes butter, most users just accept the choice, and go on to re-order the same list if they make it again, which can present big challenges for brands that are not favored by the algorithm, said de Rubertis.   

3 – Voice ordering:

Voice ordering could also present challenges for brands if it becomes more popular, predicted Leffler, who noted that Alexa voice shopping (which can be used to order Prime-eligible products sold or fulfilled by Amazon) will in the first instance recommend something you’ve already bought before, and if you’re a first time user, will recommend the Amazon’s Choice product in that category. If that is rejected or not available, it will recommend the top ranking Prime offer for the supplied keyword phrase.

4 – Standard rules don’t apply to cross selling on the virtual shelf​:

Cross selling/merchandising opportunities that may not work very well in stores (milk and breakfast cereal) may work well on virtual shelves, said Kellogg Global Director, eCommerce Capability, Andrew Freeman, citing the example of Kellogg breakfast cereal and Coca-Cola backed fairlife milk.

5 – Just because hardly anyone buys​ product X online doesn’t mean its sales are not digitally influenced​:

While consumers may be more likely to purchase certain products at Home Depot or Whole Foods on their way home from work, rather than on Amazon or another online platform, they may have made the decision about which brand​ to buy entirely through an online search, perhaps after browsing reviews on Amazon, or conducting a price comparison, noted Constellation Brands VP ecommerce and digital, Wayne Duan.

In other words, just because pregnancy tests and cough remedies are not huge online sellers doesn’t mean you're wasting your money by featuring them on Amazon or other online platforms, because ecommerce sites are increasingly being used for research, he stressed.

6 – Being on Amazon is not just about sales​:

Continuing this theme, said Duan, it still amazed him how few ecommerce platforms developed by bricks & mortar retailers featured ratings and reviews, when they know this is a key tool used by consumers to research and compare brands, whether they ultimately choose to buy them in physical or virtual stores.

7 – Baskets are 40% bigger when people are shopping for recipes vs for products alone…

...According to Audra Carson, head of content marketing and media platforms at General Mills, who said the aim is to make every recipe on the Betty Crocker website “shoppable​” in future.

8 – Not everything Amazon touches turns to CPG gold​:

For all Amazon’s success with private label, not every brand it has created has been a hit, with disappointing results from Wickedly Prime and Happy Belly and mixed results from Mama Bear, said One Click Retail​founder Spencer Millerberg.

9 – “Data without insights is worthless …”

We leave you with a quote from Peapod senior director Linda Crowder.

*Find out more about the two-day conference – which was organized by WBR – HERE.​  

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