Skip to main content
Snacks Retail Expertise

7 Insights from Industry Experts on Connecting with Today’s Shopper

Kate Silver
  • The retail industry is transforming and so are ways of reaching today’s complex shopper.
  • Today’s shopping experience is both digital and physical.
  • Retailers and manufacturers must work together to understand and delight the shopper.

Today’s shopper has more choices—and more control—than ever. If retailers and manufacturers don’t work together to stay a step ahead, they risk falling many steps behind. Industry insiders recently gathered at the 2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo to talk about the state of the industry. There, they discussed the overlap of digital and physical retail, the importance of experience, the need for collaboration between retailers and manufacturers and more. Read on for their insights.

Today’s path to purchase is more complex than ever

Matthieu McAuliffe, head of food and beverage with Google, talked about how to better connect with consumers across the digital path to purchase. He pointed out that today, the path to purchase frequently involves both digital research and physical trips to the store. “It’s more of a pretzel than it’s ever been, more than that funnel that we traditionally know,” he says. “This is where digital can really influence the consumer journey.”  

To Brad Santanna, team lead, digital commerce at Hershey, the key to simplifying that shopper journey is creating an online shopping experience and in-store shopping experience that are consistent and connected. “Visualize your shopping experience in the physical store and begin to design a similar experience in your online platform. Transposing aisle flow and shelf organization from the physical world to digital environments is key to creating a seamless experience,” he says.

Our mobile and digital behavior dramatically influences how we shop

A shopper’s journey is influenced by physical trips to the store as well as digital. Both experiences are incredibly important, says McAuliffe. “The data shows that over half of all grocery sales are actually influenced by digital,” he says. “Beyond that, we found that food and beverage shoppers actually buy twice as much of a brand when they visit a brand’s website during their path to purchase.”

In fact, according to Hershey, one-in-three store purchases start on online, and one-in-four online purchases start in store. 

The shopping experience matters

Regardless of where they shop, McAuliffe says that today’s consumer—who is curious, impatient and demanding—is looking for a seamless experience. “They like to shop and convert at places that are frictionless, that make it super easy to get the products that they want—their favorite retailers or their favorite brands,” he says.

This is particularly salient at check out, which is the close of every shopping trip be it online or off. Through shopper research, Hershey has uncovered that the pay point experience ranks third most important to shoppers behind price and location. 

Consumers want personalization

Shoppers want to “make it mine,” says Marcia Mogelonsky, PhD, director of insight, Mintel Food & Drink, adding that personalization is driving a lot of snack choices and shopping choices today. “We want to have what we want, when we want it,” she says. “It’s no longer ‘I’ll eat whatever you give me.’”

Doug Straton, chief digital commerce officer at Hershey, goes even further, explaining that customers want to be able to create their own digital shelf and have their shopping history accessible. "Shopper loyalty has never been more valuable, and retailers that don’t offer personalized shopping experiences are at risk,” he says. 

Be smarter with digital ad dollars, and you may see greater ROI

When advertising, it appears that those who go beyond targeting demographics and instead target specific audiences and particular offers see the ad recall lift more than double, according to preliminary research at Google. “The benefits of segmenting consumers means we can personalize at scale and achieve higher resonance,”McAuliffe says.

Charlie Chappell, head of media and communications planning at Hershey, concurs about looking beyond basic demographics. He shared that as much as 50 percent of sales can come from outside your bulls-eye "age" target alone. 

Share-ability matters

Mogelonsky highlighted the top trends in the snack industry for 2019, and one of the buzz words she shared was “Instagrammable.” “Can you share this?” she asks. “Will it capture the attention of your followers?” That applies to the snack, itself, as well as the packaging, and could even extend to the shopping experience, as consumers seek out shareable moments through social media.

Sometimes the best way to create shareable moments is to embrace user-generated content like ratings and reviews. "User-generated content should be embraced, as it provides our shoppers with transparency and provides retailers with a new way to build trust,” says John Maitrejean, director, digital commerce portfolio and capabilities at Hershey. 

When manufacturers and retailers work together, the customer benefits

"Growing in today’s complex retail environment requires unprecedented cross-functional collaboration and partner data sharing,” says Phil Stanley, Hershey’s chief customer officer. By working together and sharing insights, retailers can better reach the right people at the right time. 

Patrick Fitzmaurice, CEO of Caterpillar Farm, Inc., a consultancy that drives organizational change, agrees, explaining that both retailers and manufacturers have reams of data that can help each other better understand their consumer together. He says they can best collaborate by going beyond a basic joint business planning process to share data, strategies and insights and align on higher priority business goals. “In this world of commerce that’s changing really fast, manufacturers and retailers have to collaborate this higher way, because we both have to unite on connecting with that shopper. Because that shopper is in control,” he says. “If we don’t do it together, we’re all going to lose.”

The latest insights from industry insiders are in lockstep with research by Hershey. For Hershey's guide on how to unlock your retail potential, and to learn more about all of the advice above, download the full  report, “Creating Value in a Shoppers’ World.”