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Interview

Interview: New Omnicommerce Research, with Todd Szahun of Kantar and Kerry Curran of Catalyst and GroupM

The ecommerce and retail media landscape is shifting under our feet. Todd Szahun of Kantar and Kerry Curran of Catalyst and GroupM teamed up on a new foundational piece of research across both consumers and industry professionals. They join Rob and Peter to dig into the stats and takeaways that will inform marketing strategies in 2021.

Transcript

Peter:

Hey there, Peter Crosby from the digital shelf Institute, the commerce, and retail media landscape is shifting under our feet, Todd Szhaun of Kantar and Kerry Curran at Group M Catalyst teamed up on a new foundational piece of research across both consumers and industry professionals. They joined Rob and me to dig into the stats and takeaways that will inform marketing strategies in 2021. Oh, and if you want to see the full research report, it's available at state of e-com state of e-com ECOMN2021.com again, that state ofecom2021.com. So Kerry and Todd, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast and the title of your research, "The Era of Omni-commerce, New Insights for Dominating the Digital Shelf" and beyond and beyond. And I feel like it has such content for the future, so I'm dying to get into it, uh, and let's go right to it. Um, Kerry, let's start with you. Um, what do you consider the most important finding out of the research? What really popped out at you?

Kerry:

Um, you know, we used the word Omni commerce a lot throughout the paper, because what we found is there really is no one linear path from awareness to purchase. Um, but what we're also seeing is that as retailers offer more and more information and selection, and reason to shop, um, customers are finding different sources of data. So where Omni-commerce is a kind of commerce everywhere, um, inspiration, discovery, research, and consideration. It's also the ability to purchase everywhere, whether it's Amazon, Google, even Pinterest. So, you know, that's when we look at the importance of a broader strategy, kind of an end to end strategy to kind of building awareness for your target audience, drawing them all the way through the purchase.

Peter:

And you know, I know between us and certainly out in the industry, we talked about the consumer is now in charge, but in fact, and particularly right now that is more true than ever and it showed up in your stats. Right?

Kerry:

Yeah. So what's interesting is that I, you know, there used to be a lot of question around is, are shoppers starting on Google or Amazon and, you know, taking this research to Mark current, um, opportunities, we found 63% of purchasers, um, will start at Amazon for their initial research. But then also, um, you know, 50% of purchasers are discovering new brands and products on Google and 62% are looking for inspiration on Instagram. So again, it's there, it's a nonlinear kind of path to get that product into their shopping cart and into their home.

Peter:

Yeah. Talk a little bit about shopper expectations in the context of that, you know, did anything jump out at you in terms, of kind of what's driving their ultimate selection?

Kerry:

And what's interesting is that you know, with so many options of where to purchase, you'd think that consumers were, um, you know, you might assume, I should say that consumers are looking for the lowest price, but what our research found was actually 66% of online purchasers are choosing, um, based on convenience. So they want what they want when they want it. And then only 47% are selected on price. So again, it's, you know, convenience, it's making sure that you are providing them the information that they need to make that decision quickly.

Peter:

Yeah. I noticed a stat that really jumped out for me in this omnichannel age is that 53% of online purchasers find ads helpful, or that they remind them of something they need. Are you finding that what does that, what's the implication of that stat for the people listening to this podcast is trying to figure out this Omnichannel strategy?

Kerry:

Well, as a marketer, it's job security, but, um, no, I mean, it just shows that like the more brands are thinking about being helpful and building an in a relationship, um, and with their target audience and, and really providing service or product value that their audience is actually finding their communication, whether it's through social or through, um, a retail platform, they're finding it helpful. And they're finding it as a way to find what they need.

Kerry:

Kerry, I'm interested in your opinion on the marketing funnel or the purchase path funnel. If it exists. I know we've seen so many variations of it from, it's not a funnel, it's a circle. It's not a circle, it's squiggly if it's not squiggly as it's, you know, this other thing based on this research, what do you think about it at this point?

Kerry:

Yeah, that's a good question, cause we do always talk about it as a funnel, but I think that's kind of just the more simplistic view. I, there's also the thought of it being an ongoing thing circled because once you get them into, you know, awareness consideration, purchase loyalty, you need to keep that going, but it is more picture like the flight of the B you know, a swirl going around and stopping at all these different. And if you think about it, you know, you might be inspired by something in an Instagram ad, but then you're going to go search for it in the house may be, and then, Oh, look, and then I'm going to pin it to my Pinterest page. And now I'm going to purchase it at, maybe I'm going to purchase it at a Home Depot. Maybe I'm going to Google it to see if I can get it cheaper at Lowe's.

Kerry:

So it is kind of that swirl of a, of a journey, a definitely a nonlinear journey. And, um, so I think, uh, you know, what we try to do is, um, make sure that we're there and provide a consistent story and a helpful story to the target audience at every stage. And making sure that, you know, as the planners and creative, um, are working together to make sure that that experience feels seamless to that target audience or that customer regardless of where they're first introduced in, where they ultimately make the purchase and all of those interaction points in between.

Peter:

Yeah. In addition to that, there's just a complexity, there's the explosion of endpoints and channels , it really is daunting. And we hear it from, from our brand manufacturer executives all the time. And so Todd, I feel like you've stayed silent long enough. Let's bring you in here. Uh, what were your sort of top findings?

Todd:

You know, I think I would echo a lot of, um, what Kerry had said, you know, understanding, uh, you know, a little bit about convenience and how that had risen to the top. I mean, for, for long in the history of e-commerce free shipping and convenience were the two primary methods and the reasons why people shopped online. And I think, well our survey, you know, collect did right at the time, uh, sort of March through may be started, uh, really to uncover, you know what really helped accelerate that we've all been talking about the great acceleration and whether you think it's three, you know, three years in three months or five years in five months, ultimately we've moved the needle forward. And, uh, and it wasn't free shipping or convenience that really drove that. And to me, you know, what we uncovered, I think was really interesting. It was a shift to more of an emotional and safety reason for driving that next level of eCommerce purchase. And in doing so, you know, not just through this study, but there's some of the other research that we do, can't start through stop shop or escape, excuse me. Uh, we discovered sort of the four mortars, you know, consumers are shopping more online, more frequently, they're spending more money and they're shopping across more retailers. And so to me, you know, those are some of the biggest sort of insights here that, um, that consumers are really trying to, uh, expand, uh, and, you know, and, and moving into new directions, uh, for different reasons other than just free shipping and necessarily just convenience.

Todd:

And that they're more open across new platforms and channels, uh, including, uh, you know, some non traditional retailers, you know, they're open to being inspired as Kerry had just laid out through, you know, social media, they're open to, uh, some of these last mile delivery partners and emerging platforms. I think one of the most surprising pieces was the sort of explosion into, uh, last mile delivery partners and online grocery, like Instacart and others. And as retailers themselves try to stand up capabilities, you know, it's really, uh, kind of a diaspora of partners out there today that, uh, shoppers have really sort of honed in on to really try to capture and you know, move forward with trying to complete an eCommerce transaction in today's sort of a post COVID, uh, eCommerce world.

Kerry:

Speaking of that, you get extra points for using the word diaspora on the podcast.

Peter:

I know it was very impressive in a post COVID environment. Yeah. Um, so Todd speaking of, of midst or post COVID, uh, you know, I've run a few research programs in my time, uh, but nothing compared to what you're doing every day. I can't do our research, uh, research in the time of COVID like, you're in the midst, you and Kerry, in the midst of putting this thing out into the marketplace, you must have. I mean, not that this was the most important, um, you know, changed, driven by, by COVID, but certainly the joys and terrors of trying to do research. That's going to hold up over time. I just tell me a little bit about being able to pivot and make sure that this would have, you know, meaning when it hits the market.

Todd:

This was an app salute a center point, as we kind of finished up all of our questions, get ready to go out. We figured out our addressable audience and who we wanted to get the survey out to. We took a pause and said, you know, uh, is it worth it? Should we be modifying it? And really what we thought at the time was, you know, our initial thinking was we already, COVID had already started. We decided, Hey, we'll ask, like, what was your shopping behavior before COVID? And as we started kind of evolving and thinking about it and getting a little further into it, um, we decided that, you know, we would have to pivot and really try to understand what was going on. So we changed our methodology a bit, and changed up a few questions. So ultimately, well, you know, the impact of COVID on this report cannot be denied. Uh, we decided to move forward to try to get a little bit more of an evergreen read and ask questions that would, you know, really reflect, uh, the evolving nature of how people were shopping online. And so, well, there were no specific questions dedicated to COVID, it's definitely built in throughout the entire report.

Peter:

And one of the things that really stood out was online grocery of course. And I was just wondering, what are some of the sort of trends that you saw coming out of here and online grocery stores to let you know that something new was happening? And do you get a sense of how, how it's gonna, how it's gonna last,

Todd:

You know, that's a great question. I think across all age cohorts we saw increases in use and adoption of online grocery. Um, you know, we saw, as I had mentioned previously, you know, record growth of last mile delivery partners as well, too. Uh, we continue to see that, um, you know, in the re uh, in the studies and everything that we've done, uh, since that, I would say that, um, you know, ultimately it wasn't even just about, um, what they had, uh, we're doing today, but it was about planning using it. And we found some really great statistics, which help us inform a little bit about that, you know, that people not only, um, planned to use it, um, you know, during this time, but they plan to continue to use it at, in the future as well, too. And across all of them Instacart delivers prime Postmates ship door dash, et cetera. It was a big trend for shoppers, uh, who had been exposed to these last mile delivery partners experienced the convenience of online grocery, uh, that they plan to continue to do that in the forwards or in the future. So I think T to us, you know, this really signaled, uh, not just a temporary shift in how they might receive their groceries, but really, uh, you know, consumers being open to that mindset of getting groceries delivered and, uh, and liking what they've experienced.

Kerry:

I'd say too, like, um, I was, uh, personally an Instacart super user prior to COVID and would always try to evangelize it and people would say, Oh, no, I don't trust. I need to pick out my own groceries. I need to, you know, touch and film, but tomatoes or something. And I, you know, I think what Cova did was presented a situation where people decided to try it and take what they previously thought was a risk and something they might not like very much. And I think that's where it kind of accelerated the growth there's people who were kind of hesitant in the past. And we even found one when one of our interviews, there was someone who had mentioned their mother-in-law who was about 80 and never had ordered anything online before and with COVID turned into try, you know, try it out the online grocery.

Kerry:

And, um, he became a super user very quickly themselves and, and is going to continue with that cause, right. Like who wants to spend time grocery shopping when they can bring it right to your door. So I think it's, yeah, it's the people that are testing it for the first time, um, out of necessity early on in COVID and have found that, Hey, this is actually really valuable. Um, addition to my life.

Kerry:

It's interesting that you bring up people not trusting other people to deliver their groceries, because there's also this thing about not trusting product information on a PDP or a product page, a lot of organizations and brands think of this PDP as the moment of, or just the moment where you just need to know is this product and this price. Right. And, and check out. But it's a lot more than that. Um, tell us a little bit about what you found out about the PDP.

Kerry:

So yeah, from the product description page perspective, I think a bit of it, as you know, this is your opportunity, not only to educate the customer about your product and provide all of the attributes, but it's also your opportunity to explain why your product is that is unique to their needs, or putting the idea in their heads of a new, unique attribute that they now require. So the more you can provide that information that differentiates your product, the more that it's going to help the customer recognize that it's something they want or need, but at the same time, it needs to be fast. You, you know, if you think about the customer's attention and they're scrolling through, or the Amazon or the Instacart or Walmart search results, um, they say they humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish or something like you really only, you have seconds to convince a customer that this is the product that they should be buying. So it's about having a product description page that is helpful and has the information that they need, but having it quickly to help them make that decision, that this is back to the product that they want.

Molly:

How does PDP relate to SEO? So we often think of SEO as sort of a separate practice. So SEO is for your marketing and media team, and PDP is for your eCommerce team, but is that how the consumer sees it? Is that right? The relationship between the two?

Kerry:

Yeah. So that's where we found that actually only 30%, 37% of e-commerce professionals reported, um, optimizing their PDPs for SEO. And when you think about it, it's search. So whether you're searching on Google or Amazon, you need to be relevant to what the customer is searching for. So that actually was very surprising to us that it was such a low number and something carried Shari. Do you have an idea of why that number is so low? So it's a couple of things. So I think that one is that it's a new idea to a lot of marketers they're used to having their merchandisers create content or they're, um, you know, using their product developers to write their content. Um, I used to use an example in a presentation where the whole PDP would basically copy and pasted out of the user manual.

Kerry:

So it's, you know, I think for so long brands are just so focused on so horrible. Um, for so long brands were focused on just, Oh my gosh, there's this new thing, eCommerce platform. And I need to partner with Salsify and get my content out there as quickly as possible, but they weren't thinking about what they're putting out there. They were just thinking about, okay, I've checked the box, I've got the title, I've got a description, I've got my bloods and I've got some product images. So that's the basics. You definitely need all of those, but then it's the art and science of SEO. So the content strategy am I using the vernacular that the target audience is actually using to search for my products is, am I targeting the right search keywords? So it's, it is kind of that, um, data from a search buying perspective, making sure you have the right keywords and then kind of art of content strategy and copywriting to again, to make sure you're providing something that's valuable and provides what they need to make that decision quickly.

Molly:

I've had this conversation with a lot of brand execs around the amount of attention that traditional media capabilities get in terms of the quality of the creative, the amount of resources, the amount of budget for creating that content for copywriting, that content for lifestyle photography for campaigns. Uh, and then see if we have an analogy, that's the main meal, like the restaurant, the main meal you're presented marketing presents the brand with this main dish of really great copy and lifestyle content and videos. And then eCommerce gets like the table stress scraps, like the stuff left over or some poor, uh, analyst at, uh, you know, our associate brand manager is left trying to cobble together commerce content, but you guys, the catalyst are describing commerce and commerce content and PDP is one of the first or second things that people referenced in their journey. So it just seems so interesting to me that that wouldn't be paid attention to.

Kerry:

I think, again, being with my roots, being an SEO, I think that the paid media is easier to measure and gets your row as, um, from, or whatever your metric is. And it's a more tangible result for the organic piece, takes a little bit longer and provides more, um, again, more of that art and science and creation

Peter:

Well, and the increased, um, impact of the whole PDP page experience really jumped out at me in a couple of stats that you had that 43%, excuse me, 49% of online purchasers reported scrolling past the first page to look for what they want and then 50. And as it, as we get younger in the generations, 56% of millennial and 54% of gen X online purchasers scroll past the first page when researching products and brands. So people are going deeper, they are putting in the time perhaps to find sort of the special brands that maybe get crowded out by the big money spender. Now I'm making up, this was not in your research. I presume, but what immediately came to my mind is that people are interested in authentic and real brands and they might be willing to search a little further afield to get what they want.

Kerry:

Exactly, I think that it goes to show that it's, you don't have to, it's not, you know, first page or bust, like there is, if you're again providing that, that product, that's going to solve their, their, what they're searching for, then they're going to keep looking.

Todd:

Yeah. To build off that, you know, as to some folks we interviewed and talked to, uh, specifically Amazon, you know, one of the interesting pizzas coming out of here is that the majority of searches and Amazon, or the category level or non-branded searches. And when you try to think about the role that plays with people scrolling beyond the first page, to try to find what they're looking for. Uh, one of the things that we found through this study is the level of scarcity driven by specific categories going out of stock. And as I had referenced before the four Moore's, um, you know, there was a period of high switching, uh, mostly because of lack of availability of products or disruption in supply chains. And it represented probably one of the lowest periods of loyalty that we've seen in e-commerce altogether. So you combine all of these factors, which are an already trending, uh, non-branded category level search behavior evolution with scarcity and out of stocks, uh, high switching and an opportunity for brands to really, uh, be in stock, the product detail page, uh, consumers were shopping them, and it became more important than ever, um, you know, to be the focus in the center point, as you described a little bit earlier, the main dish, uh, to win in ecommerce.

Kerry:

And I think to add onto what Todd was saying you know, there's your product, uh, imagery or your product packaging for e-commerce, doesn't have to fit the same product imagery and packaging that it used to do for a store shelf. So we're, you know, you used to need it, a large presence to be captured, or, you know, uh, to you used to need a large product or to catch somebody's eye walking down the aisle, when it's an eCommerce packaging, you don't need as much. So it's kind of customizing to, um, that smaller box or that person's role.

Peter:

And with the PDPs becoming so important or really the retailers, the search engine becoming so important and Amazon having such success with their retailer app platforms. Now, it just seems like you haven't had a platform. You haven't had like every single retailer. I just, I think I saw CVS today. Uh, same thing. So it's, it's just overwhelming. What is a brand executive to do when thinking about how to approach platforms and how do you possibly build a program that makes sense.

Kerry:

There, the product description page really becomes Somalia or the wine shop clerk. That's helping you choose the product in store. So because you're no longer going into the store and researching and asking questions, that product description page and that those 200 fields become your opportunity to differentiate your white wine from the next white wine in your, um, New Zealand Chardonnay from a California Chardonnay and providing that, you know, the, the description of the fragrance or the taste all in that product description page. And you see, you know, going back to the marketing executive, you put so much time and effort into your product sheets and the details that you're training your, Molly or the wine store clerks to provide that brand experience. Once they're talking to the customers and trying to steer them, turns your product, and when it's Instacart and I'm on my phone, listening to my kids and watching paw patrol on TV and just dreaming of some New Zealand, um, Chardonnay, you know, that that small piece of information is what's going to help me choose that product over the next product. And yes, I do have alcohol delivered via Instacart to my house.

Peter:

I was picking up on that. And I don't blame you

Molly:

When I was watching the webinars that you had shared with Peter. One of the slides that I wanted to have a party about when I saw was this idea of a new momentum mindset. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and why it's so important?

Todd:

I came out of all of the interviews that we had done and what we found in talking to all of the, uh, numbers of, you know, folks on the manufacturing side on, uh, throughout everything was really just that, you know, their old playbook was broken, uh, and trying to think about reaching for that perfect scorecard or trying to find the perfect measurement for that perfect business case. So that you could say, I can invest $1 in this e-commerce and get $2 and 50 cents out, you know, all the pieces of data and all of the parts, and all of the people are required to get this perfect output, just aren't there. And depending upon where you sit in the eCommerce ecosystem, whether you're a brand manufacturer, you're marketing advertiser, you're an agency, you're a retailer, you are missing pieces. This is still the case today. And I think what we found was really this concept that people tried to find ways to understand and develop a hypothesis, figure out what they could and could not measure, put, uh, all of their effort and their instinct together and say, you know what, in an imperfect, in a perfect world, we would have all of this in an imperfect world.

Todd:

We don't, but we're going to continue to try this and test our hypothesis out with the mindset of being able to move the ball forward, even if just a little bit. And that that really gave birth to this concept of a new momentum mindset is that, you know, you don't need to solve the big, big problems. You can start with the small problems, start with what you have access to see how it works, you know, try to separate the noise from the signals and, you know, move on and learn and share those learnings across your organization broadly.

Kerry:

So, you know, when the brands we talk to especially, um, again, not to make it all about COVID, but brands have to pivot quickly when your summer campaign, um, you know, I'm, uh, picnicking and barbecuing seven with all of your friends and families, suddenly it was no longer something that you should market. So what we found is brands with this new momentum mindset, what aligned with a time when all of a sudden brands needed to pivot and pivot quickly and figure out where, what investments should I still be making and where should I still be investing? And the, the, um, you know, in a lot of brands quickly pivoted to going online or quickly delivery, or, you know, um, and, and this is where brands found that they needed to increase communication across the organization, break down the silos, start talking to one another about what's going to market and get it to market in 24 hours.

Kerry:

So whether it's a consumer insight about, um, you know, something that's trending on Twitter, that's relevant to your product that you want to quickly capitalize on. You are able to quickly create the content and put it out on your own social feed, um, and get so that you're relevant to your customer, but still on brand. Like that requires a lot of, um, that often requires a lot of different approvals and levels of communication. But at this time where you need to stay relevant, quickly, brands have found a way to kind of break down those layers, take something to market more quickly, you know, um, one of my favorite examples of, to echo what Todd was saying is you kind of move forward at 80%. Like don't wait for it to be perfect and find a way to get it to move quickly. And that's really, I think not only the new momentum mindset, but also kind of something that we expect to see continue after COVID OFS brands have learned to kind of break down those silos so that they can, um, have some momentum.

Molly:

What do you think are some of the keys to getting brands over that hurdle? You mentioned one is the fact that everyone is struggling and that no perfect metric occurred, you know, right now. What are some of the other key components you believe have to be in place in order for someone to shift, to being comfortable with being 80%, right. Or 70%, right for the moment.

Kerry:

I think it's communication and making sure that there's buy in at all levels and making sure that there's trust at all levels as well. So I think that's where, um, you don't have the luxury of waiting and taking time to go through approvals and testing things multiple times to just kind of go, go to market.

Todd:

Yeah. To build off what Kerry just said too, as well, permission to fail. And I think that's what we found in some of the leaping brands that were really pushing forward and moving forward in this sort of new momentum mindset, the best is that, you know, that as Kerry had mentioned, they had a, you know, alignment all the way up to the top and throughout their teams that they gave their teams permission to fail. And they moved quickly. I think, you know, as it ties into some of the themes that we've discussed today, you know, some other topics that came out, you know, it used to be, you could just sit down and develop that on your annual e-commerce plan. And in many ways we're still in a transition period. I think what COVID has shown us in what this great acceleration has really, um, taught us all is that we need to be more nimble than that.

Todd:

You can't just, you know, write the copy for your product detail page once a year and set it and forget it. You can't just think about, you know, planning your budgets out one a year, once a year and set it and forget it. You know, as we talked about sort of the Oprah fication of retail media, uh, you know, platforms, everybody gets a new platform, um, you know, really like that age, you need to, that means you need to shift budget and be agile and have permission to fail, have the trust of your, uh, of your peers and your, uh, and the people in your company to try out new things. And it's not just a license to go out and try everything or jump to the shiny new object. And I think that that was part of the sort of caveat there was that, you know, while we may not have perfect information, we have what we know we can get access to. Let's just develop a hypothesis, test it, and then move forward quickly because strategic advantages, uh, and competitive advantages don't last for long and their lifecycle is even shorter in eCommerce.

Molly:

Yes, yes. Say that again. Strategic advantages and competitive advantages. What Todd?

Todd:

Don't last for long, specifically in e-commerce,

Kerry:

If you could get one thing out of this that's so huge.

Peter:

There's the t-shirt well, certainly when you're living in a world where prime day and your holiday selling season are going to be in the same quarter, there's a lot to confront. And I think agility is the key and Kerry and Todd, thank you so much for coming on and sharing the results of this survey and for keeping at it in the midst of so much uncertainty, I think it's actually sending the right message to brands. You just have to look around, you see what's going on and March forward with as much agility and to your point communication as possible. So, Kerry, thank you for joining us.

Kerry:

Thank you for having me. It's great time,

Peter:

Todd. Thank you so much for joining us from the land of the quadruplets everyone. He's an, he's a new father. He already has one son and now he is fat.

Molly:

The fact that Todd is actually assembling full sentences is in and of itself. Impressive.

Todd:

You know, the bar has never been low for, thank you, Molly. Thank you, Kerry.

Peter:

That's it for our podcast today, a reminder the full research report is available at stateofecomm2021.com. Thanks as always for being a member of our community.