Category Management Online

In a recent Mintel report online grocery sales were predicted to be worth £11.1bn in the UK in 2017 -an increase of £1.1bn since 2016. Other data shows that the online channel accounts for six percent of all grocery sales, and that the proportion of shoppers buying most or all of their groceries online is growing – 14 percent in 2017 vs seven percent in 2014. For now in the UK the largest retailers are also the largest e-tailers, so the growth in online has made little change to the status quo – and your trade teams are able to focus on the usual key customers.

All that could be about to change, however, with Amazon making bold moves into grocery, and initiatives such as food boxes starting to make an impact. So, what does this mean for suppliers like yourselves?

Regardless of whether your brand is being sold on or offline or both, you still need to maximise sales by influencing shoppers. And yet with many regular online shoppers using a favourites list to really milk the convenience and speed of online shopping, how do you make sure your brand stands out enough to get onto the list in the first place, and subsequently stays on that list?

These challenges can feel miles away from the usual issues around visibility in-store, but if you take a step back it is clear that the same broad issues faced in store also apply to online shopping:

  • How do we effect change in this developing channel and ensure we maximise ease of shop, engagement and sales?
  • How do we positively interrupt behaviour in order to influence what shoppers do?
  • How do we ensure that we simplify and make the task easy, but maintain choice?

Just because your brand is on a page rather than a shelf doesn’t mean some of the core business principles are no longer relevant. Category management alongside shopper marketing is crucial in optimising ease of shop in the online channel, improving product pick up and purchase, and ensuring that the shopper’s need of choice are delivered.

This means that it is equally as important to understand shopper behaviour in this channel if you are going to stand a chance of influencing shoppers’ decision making, and deliver the ease of shop that is so important in relation to convenience. You may feel that as a supplier you can’t effect change on the retailer’s website, but in the same way that category management and shopper marketing can influence shoppers in stores, you can become the retailer’s trusted advisor for your category online if you have key pieces of information at your fingertips: knowing the role of your category online; recognising the points of friction in the path to purchase; and identifying the opportunities to influence shoppers.

Understanding online shopping isn’t just about creative or easily navigated websites, it is also about the core fundamentals of shopper behaviour and decision making, and the retailer / brand business relationship. You may not have any input to the website design, but you have plenty of opportunity to use your trading relationships to nudge the category in the right direction and help shoppers buy.

By Danielle Pinnington, MD at Shoppercentric