Developing products that sell on digital shelves

February 13, 2019

By Lynn Petrak | BakingBusiness.com

The importance of consumer-facing package appeal hasn’t changed. It’s just where and how consumers are facing products that has changed.

In addition to browsing bakery and snack products on a shelf or in a case, shoppers are virtually sizing up offerings from their device and computer screen. In its 2018 Grocery Retail Consumer Perception Survey, KPMG found that more than half of consumers will shop online for groceries this year and those who do are likely to increase their online spending. Chicago-based research firm I.R.I. reports that e-commerce sales in 2018 increased by 35.4% The consumer research company Nielsen pegs the e-commerce market to reach $4 trillion by 2020.

That said, e-commerce poses both challenges and opportunities for manufacturers, from aesthetic appeal to package integrity that will withstand deliveries and click-and-collect pickups.

Although e-commerce merchandising isn’t right for every product and brand, it is effective for some. How does a baking and snack company decide whether or not to pursue e-commerce product development and marketing and make plans to overcome challenges?

“It starts with the knowns and unknowns and how likely a consumer is to even think about buying any given product on the internet — what the conditions have to be for someone to consider an e-commerce transaction,” said Jeff Sward, chief executive officer, Merchandising Metrics.

Companies with established followings can be successful with certain products that would be trusted and desired by shoppers, whether that’s a multipack of individual snacks that go into a school lunch or a twice-weekly regular grocery list item like bread loaves, to name some examples.

“If consumers have a favorite brand and are really familiar with the product and trusts it, then they make the leap to buying it online,” Mr. Sward remarked.

Afterward, a manufacturer can work on ways to present that product to consumers in the e-commerce space.

Consumers are presented with a steady and almost overwhelming number of choices online, making the push for a product to stand out even greater.

“The number of images that consumers look at is increased exponentially,” said Burt Flickinger, managing partner of Strategic Resource Group. “For the number of items that shoppers see in a week, the brand has about 1/10,000th of a second to make an impression.”

That underscores the importance of enticing graphics on a package, Mr. Flickinger said, especially among younger consumers.

“With the quality of the imaging on digital gaming today, people want state-of-the-art art graphics,” he noted. “For a consumer to catch onto package imaging, from Amazon to Wayfair, to Macy’s to Walmart, to Wegman’s, to Aldi and Lidl, they need to invest in graphics and digital looks.”

Brands, including bakery and snack brands, also need to amp up the information they deliver to consumers via e-commerce, where product descriptions are front and center and searchable.

“It’s about connective consumer communication, starting with the packaging and labeling through the product benefits, especially with healthy, organic and natural benefits,” Mr. Flickinger said.