The Amazon Effect on eCommerce and CPG Brands

The use of digital technologies in conjunction with changing shopper behaviors is making eCommerce an indispensable part of CPG omnichannel success. Brands seeking to convert online consumers should focus their attention on convenience, and how important it is in the shopper journey. According to Jennifer Silverberg, CEO of SmartCommerce, “Consumers might not care that something is more expensive, but if they can order it online and they don’t have to go to the store, they will.”

eCommerce and its ease of entry is growing and brands are taking notice. In fact, strong growth is forecast in several eCommerce shopping channels:

  • Computers and consumer electronics total $62.7B in 2017 and that number is expected to hit $97.6B by 2021[statista]
  • Apparel and Accessories eCommerce dollar sales come in at $86B and is expected to reach $96.4B by 2021[statista]
  • Auto and auto parts currently sit at $51.6B with growth projected to reach $57.4B in 2019[statista]
  • U.S. online grocery sales totaled $7B in 2015 and that total is expected to more than double to $18B by 2020[statista]

The biggest driver of eCommerce growth continues to be Amazon.  Amazon’s success isn’t just a byproduct of its huge inventory and rapid service. The online shopping behemoth, according to Yaakov Kimelfeld, Chief Research Officer for Kantar Media, “is not a retailer anymore; it is the largest behavioral marketing company in the world.” Amazon understands shopper motivation not just with purchases but with research. Fifty-five percent of product research that led to a purchase started on Amazon.com compared to 28 percent of the same on search engines. Amazon is now the preferred starting point for product research. How did that happen?

Amazon’s march toward eCommerce preeminence starts with its creative customer service model.  Amazon lives at the perfect intersection between shopper and brand. By understanding shopper behaviors and patterns, they’re able to create actionable plans that can make a more immediate impact for consumers. They’ve also built brand affinity and awareness by positioning brands in the immediate shopper path of purchase. With a heavy focus on the customer, Amazon can optimize constantly, giving their consumers more of what they’re looking for, and driving conversions and shopper loyalty for brands. The shared success model is a driver of Amazon’s eCommerce dominance.

Where does that leave retailers like Walmart?  The shopping giant is responding by spending more on mobile and digital technologies to expand their online shopping capabilities. They’ve strengthened their presence in the eCommerce market with their purchases of men’s internet clothing brand Bonobos, and the innovative online shopping company Jet.com.  Another recent Walmart acquisition is Parcel, a New York-based same-day delivery startup that specializes in perishable grocery delivery, an attempt to leverage the former acquisitions and compete heavily in a market where they have no brick and mortar stores.

CPG brands know that being competitive in today’s convenience shopping environment means the buying process needs to be as painless to the shopper as possible. Luring consumers into buying your product is only half of the equation. Giving them the easiest path to purchase the moment they want to purchase will win the day.

Big Changes in Ecomm

This morning, Walmart announced a $3.3 billion dollar deal to acquire Jet.com—the highest price ever paid for an eCommerce company. 

Jet.com has quickly become known for “Gamifying Shopping” with its pricing algorithm based on encouraging higher average order value baskets, while producing savings for their customers. However, currently less than 1/3rd of Jet.com’s orders are fulfilled from Jet.com’s warehouses. With Walmart and Jet.com teaming up, Walmart is able to leverage Jet.com’s pricing algorithm while Jet.com will leverage Walmart’s wide fulfillment network. 

With this deal, Walmart discussed its intention to keep Jet.com as its own entity, but it is needless to say that there is going to be plenty of opportunity for data sharing across both unique companies. Strategically, Walmart keeping Jet.com separate from Walmart.com gives Walmart the advantage of using Jet.com as its innovation center and pushing successes to Walmart.com. 

With this deal, Walmart is clearly positioning itself to give Amazon a run for its (well, your) money in the eComm space.

It’s All In The Delivery

The ways we eat meals continuously evolve as our lifestyles, social dynamics and workloads change. The frozen TV dinner changed the landscape of meals in the 1950s, streamlining meal prep with readily portioned trays that could be popped in the oven for easy weeknight meals. Tupperware enabled make-ahead meal prep possible, as well as proper storage of leftovers for reheating later. The mainstream introduction of the microwave in the 1980s, lead to more adaptations of ready-to-eat meals (and of course, the HotPocket).

Take out and delivery used to only be synonymous with pizza and Chinese food; fast food was burgers and fries (itself an evolution from street food vendors and bar food). Now we have apps that will coordinate pick up and delivery from just about any restaurant you could possibly want, at the touch of your finger tips; we gleefully hunt down specialty food trucks or trek down to the food truck lot, serving as our modern day, anywhere food court. Our busy schedules may not even lend themselves for meals, which has lead to a rise in snacking, a whole different conversation but one that I wanted to at least acknowledge.

So, while all this should beg the question Does anyone really cook anymore? Quite a contrary movement has taken place. Instead, there is appreciation for the home-cooked meal. The traditional route still involves grocery shopping for items needed for recipes, cooking the recipes at home; the routine is broken up by inspiration found on recipe sites, blogs, Pinterest and those droolworthy videos popping up in your feed that make all cooking look easy. According to Joe Scartz, TPN’s Managing Director of Digital Commerce and Integration, “Grocers have seen the trend move toward simple prepared meals now for years and they have tried to fight back with white label brands and grab and go meals.”

Retailers are also offering up opportunities to streamline the traditional process through omni-channel retailing of buy online, pick up in store: Walmart grocery is available in limited areas; CVS is testing CVS Express for a rollout later in 2016; Harris Teeter Express Lane has been around for awhile, also offering home delivery; Ahold’s Peapod is a online grocery service delivering orders and providing them for pickup; Amazon Prime Pantry is gaining speed as well, just to name a few. Inspiration becoming a final product precipitates social sharing of successes or pride in fails.

Meal delivery services, for those who can afford it, offer an alternate route with the modern convenience of having everything you need boxed up for you, ready to assemble/cook, so you can post it to your social media, aka humble brag “I made this.” What was once relegated to weight loss programs like Jenny Craig, these meal services now embolden people to be their own top chefs in the kitchen, with recipes that range from updated American traditions to ethnic fusions with unusual ingredients, previously found only in restaurants. The types of services available seem to only be limited by an entrepreneur’s imagination: local farm-to-table services, gluten-free services, food allergy services, high-end, unique services, etc.

A natural fit for its brand, Weight Watchers has partnered with meal service Chef’d to provide points-approved options that work well with their diet plan. Blue Apron has taken the lead of the services, with a somewhat customize-able recipe offering and subscriptions with meals for 2 and larger families as well; their price range is roughly $60 to $140 per week, depending on the number of meals delivered. Blue Apron also offers wine solutions as well, to partner with the meals. The convenience takes away all guess work and is winning with folks who alternatively, ate out or brought home meals on a regular basis.

We’re seeing how retailers are adapting to our ever changing foodie landscape, what can brands do to adapt? “Brands should be doing more to partner with the home delivery meal services if they want to attract this type of consumer. That being said, while consumers “barely” have to go to the store, 97ish% of all of grocery shopping is still done in-stores of various formats. It’s one of the slower ecommerce categories to catch on but that is changing, slowly,” says Scartz. To that point, “Brands need to worry less about the fresh food meal delivery service and need to worry more about being shut out of impulse purchase as grocery ecommerce does grow. For example, once a consumer creates a list for Amazon.com, they are apt to reorder the same products. Same goes for Instacart or Peapod or whatever. Brands need to market and merchandise on those platforms with an eye toward subscription, especially as omni-channel retailing becomes more the norm.”