See consumers in their full life*

*Paraphrased from a recent report by Accenture, we look at the ways shoppers and consumers have changed in just a few years and how companies and retailers can remain relevant for them.

Consumer and shopper habits remained the same or similar for decades previously. They changed only when there was a major disruption in the market that warranted it or when consumption power moved from one generation to another. This was usually a once in a lifetime occurrence.

A few lifetimes in one

These days, we pack the experiences of a few different lifetimes into one. We wrote about this previously.

According to the article by Accenture, ‘The world today is radically different from the world of two years ago … or even two months ago. A non-stop barrage of external life forces—health, economic, social, environmental, political and beyond—is affecting day-to-day decisions in unavoidable ways.’

We, at salesBeat, argue, this has been the case for a few years now. Ever since social media came into being. Social media has proved to be the both the delight and bane of a brand’s existence. In the initial days of social media, brands were excited by the potential for them to target consumer and shopper groups.

Social media influencing sales & consumer behaviour

While the articles by Accenture, Forbes and by McKinsey, don’t specifically call this out, social media has been influencing what consumers buy and when for sometime now. This has been making it difficult for both brands and retailers to anticipate demand and stocking requirements.

Another layer of complexity that brands did not take into account with social media is what happens when consumers post their negative experiences with the brand on social media. Or when certain (in)actions cast the brand in a poor light in the court of public sentiment. ‘Cancel culture’ has taken over the world of FMCG & retail too as we saw during the early days of the Ukraine/Russia conflict.

In a time and age when everything makes its way online sometime or another, companies need to anticipate not just how their ads perform, but how the brand itself is perceived by consumers.

Changing priorities for consumers

While sustainability was top of mind for most Gen Z & Millennial consumers & shoppers previously, today, with rising inflation sustainability has taken a back seat. Where personalisation and authenticity were important factors in shopper decisions, again, these are playing second fiddle(s) to value for money today.

According to the Accenture report referenced, ‘People are giving themselves permission to be inconsistent. As they evaluate a growing list of things that matter to them, consumers realize they can’t expect perfect choices in every circumstance. As they make decisions, paradoxes become inevitable. And those inconsistencies are being seen as strengths, not weaknesses.’

Market & geopolitical realities

In the last 3 years, not only has social media been a constant in how it has influenced behaviour, but so have covid, unseasonal weather (climate change) and conflicts, in the form or ‘war’ or trade conflicts.

These have completely changed (and continue to change) the way we live, work and shop. However, companies, both retail and brand are still playing catch up driving uncertainties from a supply perspective.

See consumers as a whole

Accenture suggests 3 ways a company can catch up and keep pace:

  • See customers in their full life
  • Solve for shifting scenarios
  • Simplify for relevance

The paper by Accenture resonated with us as we developed salesBeat keeping in mind the consumer and their life. salesBeat isn’t only about how consumers shop or how shoppers behave, but also about how they react to the changes in their life and how this in turn impacts their choices. Also, as Salesbeat tracks the drivers of consumer behaviour and does not assume that the environment remains static, shifting scenarios are accounted for through them.

More companies need to start seeing their consumers as people whose decisions change with the circumstances around them. Currently their personas are developed based on socio economic and demographic factors that can change with changes in the economic environment around them. After all, shoppers who previously used to frequent ‘premium’ supermarket chains are now trading down to cheaper alternatives, including frequenting discounters more often.

For more detail or to read the Accenture paper in full, follow this link. If you’d like to learn more about salesBeat, visit our website or mail me on veena@salesbeat.co

DtC scaling – strategies to mitigate risks

There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated growth for several e-commerce FMCG/CPG (FMCG = Fast Moving Consumer Goods; CPG = Consumer Packaged Goods) brands. However, scaling DtC (Direct to consumer) brands online is far more expensive than scaling through supermarkets.

According to Statista, 80% of sales are still happening in store. Whether that is ‘buy online, pick up in store’ or ‘buy in store’. Also, conversion rates in supermarkets range from 20% – 40% vs online conversion rates of 3% on average.

Also, as more established companies and brands enter the DtC & e-commerce space, they push up the cost of customer acquisition due to their deep pockets. According to Statista, the cost per click on Facebook in Q4 2019 was $0.81. In November 2021, this was $1.22. Compare this to supermarkets or convenience stores where significantly more consumers walk by the shelf (an impression) at no incremental cost.

So what do DtC brands need to be aware of when entering the brick & mortar space?

  • Lack of proximity to shoppers & consumers: A key advantage that DtC brands have that has allowed for accelerated initial growth vs brands by large FMCG companies is that the teams behind the DtC brands are closer to their consumers. They leverage the data from their own DtC website to understand shopper behaviour, consumption patterns and preferences, which they use to fuel their supply chain. Also, they get valuable product feedback through reviews on their platform that they leverage to improve their brand.

    Large companies/brands, in contrast, are typically at least one step removed from their consumers as they sell through retailers. So the retailers are usually the ones who get the data on shopper preferences and consumer preferences. This may not always be passed on to the ‘brand owners’.

    When entering the brick & mortar space through supermarkets & convenience stores, DtC brands face the same risk. DtC brands can mitigate this by building a strong community for the brand as this encourages brand loyalty and feedback. Also, this can be mitigated, partially, by maintaining an online presence while also selling through brick & mortar stores to remain close to their consumers and shoppers.
  • Supply chain unpredictability: As mentioned in the previous point, DtC companies are able to leverage the data on their e-commerce portals to forecast sales. However, when selling through 3rd party aggregators (supermarkets, convenience stores and discounters), they are dependent on their customers sharing this data, which is not always common. This makes it difficult to predict sales as they then do this on the basis of historical orders placed by customers. So when they receive unexpectedly large orders, they are at times pressurised into fulfilling customer orders at the cost of going out of stock on their online stores. This may result in alienating loyal consumers who have been buying the brand since launch.

    This can be mitigated by taking a data driven approach to sales. DtC brands should consider making data sharing a key part of the negotiations during the listing process. This can help anticipate spikes in demand from customers that they can be better prepared for.
  • Inability to influence order volumes: As the size of revenues that DtC brands generate at aggregators is a fraction of the revenues that large and well established brands generate, sales teams at DtC brands are less able to influence order decisions made by ordering teams at these aggregators. So in situations when these aggregators should be holding more of the brands in stock at warehouses due to higher expected demand, DtC brands most often are not able to influence order volumes which results in stock outs at stores, losing them sales and market share.

    Conversely, aggregators may order significantly higher volumes than they should, which results in overstocking at their warehouses. While this sounds like a good outcome for DtC companies as they generate better revenues, it puts them at risk of an eventual delist if they do not sell the stock fast enough or, if some or all of the stock expires/is damaged while in the warehouse. This can be lethal for small companies.

    DtC companies should consider hiring seasoned sales people who have established relationships with customers. This may help with influencing order volumes placed by replenishment teams. Alternatively, DtC companies should consider ‘owning’ inventory management at retailers to the extent that a sale is recognised only when the brand is sold to the consumer.

    Given how this may ease working capital for the retailer, they maybe more willing to concede/collaborate on other areas like data.

If you have any questions or would like more information on the above, please leave a comment or contact me on veena@salesbeat.co