Sweets and Snacks: How To Survive in an Omnichannel World

Meagan McGinnes

In order to survive in the new retail landscape, companies need to build strong brand equity, according to market research firm Harris Insights & Analytics.

In a presentation last week at the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago, Emily Mescher, managing director of Harris Insights, emphasized the need for manufacturers and retailers to build brand equity by innovating around evolving consumer needs and emerging shopping channels in response to shifts in brand loyalty.

Consumers are connecting with five to 10 brands, rather than the 10 to 20 of the past, Mescher said. According to 2017 Harris Insights research, about a quarter of all snack companies saw significant declines in consumer familiarity with their brands, and 17 percent of companies saw a decline in emotional connection.

“Consumers are presented with a multitude of products; there are over 30,000 products in a typical grocery store, and a continuous stream of new innovations. With so many groups vying for customer attention, your brand’s equity is all the more important,” Mescher said on stage. “It gives consumers a mental shortcut to think of you during snacking occasions.”

To better stand out amid crowded shelves, Mescher stressed the importance of ecommerce to the snacking industry and explained why industry leaders need to devise new strategies to engage consumers online. The number of consumers who are considering shopping for food online has tripled since 2013, according to Mescher, and it’s expected to continue to outpace brick-and-mortar growth.

“The digital path to purchase expectations are heightened so brands need to personalize every interaction in-store and online,” Mescher said. “If brands are able to successfully build these connections, [they’ll] build a bigger basket size.”

A crucial step in building brand equity is communicating values. Consumers buy from brands they admire, and millennials — who have a reported $200 billion in buying power — are the digital natives companies should be targeting, she said. Many of the top companies among millennials, according to Harris research, are new to the industry and respond to these customers’ desire for socially conscious, entrepreneurial brands.

How brands communicate their values to this demographic should be consistent across all media touchpoints, from physical to digital shelves.

To “win the [shopping] ‘trip’ and win the snacking occasions,” Mercher advised brands to study how they can make those shoppers’ lives easier. For some, she said, that may be on-demand, personalized or subscription based services, while for others, it may be more cost-driven offerings like online promotions and digital coupons. Whatever the need, the goal is to “become an auto-pilot choice for your audience,” by building trust through delivering on promises.

“Technology will continue to enable all this with the end goal of making shopping more personalized and relevant for consumers,” Mescher said.

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