How Retailers are Developing Digital Tools that Influence Reasons to Buy
Recently, private label brands have evolved from strictly low-cost alternatives to become preferred choices in the fight to earn loyalty and share of the consumer wallet. Partly fuelled by the explosive growth of online grocery retailing in response to the pandemic, availability and lower price in the height of this crisis, and partly continuing a trend we have witnessed for a while, we see these “stores own” alternatives inching out well known brands as consumers’ primary choice. In addition to nudging presence on-shelf and in the e-commerce grid, ‘Stores Own” Brands are now seizing a new way to influence the omnichannel shopper choice: digital content.
Especially when it comes to meal preparation and household maintenance, our digital world leads us to many outlets of information. When consumers, who are spending an increasing amount of time at home, are searching for solutions, they are met with a multitude of sites that will guide newcomers to easy and appealing recipes and household tips. But some online content seems to have origins in another realm - the newly activated private label brands of major retailers, creating content for their customers. Though some retail giants are leading this movement, some are still slow to adapt.
A large retailer that has pioneered this innovation is Whole Foods. They are enhancing the adoption of their 365 brand by offering stay-at-home, virtual courses called Home Ec 365. Its focus is to teach shoppers how to live an economical and efficient lifestyle in their homes. To no surprise, this is achieved by utilizing the newly invigorated 365 brands in each category offered.
In the spirit of virtual socializing and online events in the wake of COVID-19, this Whole Foods initiative is bringing traditional teaching practices to the screens found in every home. Additionally, with each session attended, consumers are given coupons for the featured 365 brand items. These benefits combined work together to provide a longer lasting product experience, one that opens doors to drive sales to other private label products at shelf.
Brick and Mortar as a starting point
Even with the explosive growth in digital grocery, most U.S. shoppers still buy at brick-and-mortar stores, even if their path-to-purchase has become an omnichannel experience. PRS IN VIVO has reflected on this phenomena in other postings as far back as November of last year (Article here). With an increase in shoppers researching online, even while in the physical store, brands need to be top-of-mind, if not top-of-search results to influence a shopper towards their products. Finding paths to relevancy are key to staying in shopper mindset and influencing behavior.
Omni recognizes the ‘how’ and ‘where’ to market
Whole Foods has understood the importance of digitization of content with this at-home online curriculum for shoppers. Their newly updated vehicle introduces 365 brand benefits from both its practical uses and some less familiar. How Whole Foods positions its private label brand could be equally, if not more important, as to where it sells its product. Using social media like Instagram to attract those curious for a coupon, new recipe and routine effectively reinforces the private label brand portfolio for Whole Foods.
Another US retailer, Wegmans, already offers many recipes online that showcase their private brand of meats, breads, and greens. A grocery retailer that builds on its own arsenal of goods like this increases its chances of competing with well-known brands for increased share of omni presence. But, taking the brand one step further would benefit the consumer, as well as the franchise. Positioning Wegman’s line of products in recipes on site is just the tip of the marketing iceberg. Social media posts help to align a reason to buy, in this case the opportunity to create an enhanced experience for family members. Surrounding customers with experiential activities instead of only recipes is a large step in the omni-channel shopper journey.. A holistic examination to understand touchpoints in the Wegman shopper’s habits, both in store and online, would paint a greater picture of the ideal shopper journey. If, for example, shoppers are more likely to interact with store employees, such a diagnostic could recommend basic private label product guidance for employees to recommend products to customers. Minute changes to store associates’ habits and practices could influence larger decisions made by visitors.
Where does this leave well-known brands? With many distribution partnerships to maintain, some with retailers promoting private label products competing for the space in the consumer’s shopping cart, this is a dilemma.
Private labels are a chance for retailers to create a closer bond and relationship with their frequent visitors. Being able to influence shopper decision with practicality and feasibility is a path from which retailers could benefit. Whole Foods Home Ec class is a Class-A example of emboldening the connection to its shoppers, staying relevant, useful, and resourceful in ever-changing landscapes of post-COVID habits. In this Whole Foods case, turning a private brand into something completely different, becomes a public good and lifestyle guide for all shoppers of the 365 Brand.
Other retailers and supermarkets are apt to follow the 365 model, creating content to influence and drive choice. But whether it is a retailer or a brand, many may not know how, or where, to start.
PRS IN VIVO’s OmniPath™ suite of tools are designed to reveal the opportunities in a holistic path-to-purchase in which a brand or a retailer can influence behavior and consumer choice.
Understanding how, and where, to intercept the shopper journey optimally can uncover the shopper needs and desires that when activated can help all brands impact behavior to benefit and drive growth.
Nicholas Licitra is an Insights Analyst on PRS IN VIVO’s Quantitative team. Based in Teaneck, Nicholas works on a host of categories in US, European, and Latin American markets. With a degree in Marketing and Music from the College of New Jersey, Nicholas pairs new-age market research experience with simple artistry of composition and aesthetics to understand the narrative a brand’s packaging articulates.