How CPG Brands Can Respond To The Recent Shift In Shopper Behavior

I’ve noticed my shopping behavior shifting dramatically over the last couple of months. Not only am I spending more, but I am also buying new brands and products that I haven’t purchased before, mostly to stock my pantry and substitute products that aren’t available. While toilet paper and milk have been returning to the shelves, my shopping behavior has changed permanently to include some new brands and products that I’ve discovered.

In marketing 101 we learn that several things influence buying behavior including demographics, key motivations, attitudes and beliefs. Significant life milestones, like marriage, becoming a new parent, or a pandemic, can also shift buying behavior.

This pandemic has catapulted us into an unexpected, yet major, life event which impacted typical buying behavior in an unforeseen way, specifically affecting consumer packaged goods or CPG brand purchases. According to Nielson, the CPG industry saw an $8.5 billion increase in a two week period beginning March 21st, 2020 – 15x the average rate for change. The unknown length of the impact and cooking more meals at home led to consumers buying more. When a desired brand or item wasn’t available, consumers selected new brands and new items to ensure they had what they needed. CPG brands landed in the hands of new consumers and now have an opportunity to engage with these shoppers and gain their loyalty. 

So what should CPG brands be doing to maintain market share and turn these shoppers into loyal customers?

Understand your insights.

If you are a CPG marketer, you’re likely discovering a lot of insights and leveraging analytics to understand what momentum your brand has in your current distribution channels. Knowing what is happening with your product in-store, through e-commerce and delivery/pickup allows you to understand your new shopper and how to continue the relationship. Use these insights to shift brand strategy and adjust your marketing plan to reflect where you want your brand to go. While online shopping isn’t a new buyer behavior, the convenience and safety of online shopping led to a 35% increase in shoppers purchasing CPG items compared to a typical week, according to Nielson. This means your online distribution may be growing, but knowing that consumers’ confidence will return, you’ll need to maintain some point-of-purchase activity through discounting or merchandising display. Understanding the behavior both online and offline is critical in selling your product and maintaining your brand loyalty.

Develop digital content guidelines.

It’s no secret consumers are doing their research, too. They look for more information around the brands and products they are trying through their social channels and online communities. I discovered a new coffee brand while my go-to was no longer on shelves. I selected the product based on availability but sought out this brand on my next shopping trip because I loved their brand and the message they shared online. It’s almost like their brand personality made the coffee taste better. It’s important to have consistent messaging and consistent experience throughout the purchasing journey. Your brand is expected to have a social presence and be active and engaging. Many consumers visit social platforms to hear your brand voice and see how you engage. We want to learn more about your brand, we want to be entertained and mostly we want help making a buying decision. Establishing digital content guidelines that include goals and objectives, brand messaging, content criteria and a content calendar will help maintain consistency with online platforms and ensure your brand is active and engaging. 

Embrace your website.

New consumers also visit your website for more information about your brand and to determine where else they can buy your product. If you have an e-commerce component, you may have seen an increase in your direct-to-consumer purchases because of a lack of availability in grocery chains. I wanted to ship Bobos bars to a gluten-free friend who was about to learn that she needed something quick and easy to snack on so she could keep up with her newborn. I looked into purchasing online through Amazon and my grocery store, but I couldn’t find the right quantity or variety to send. So I went to their website and was able to send a gift box, exactly what I was looking for. One of our clients also saw an increase in direct-to-consumer sales because they offered weekly deliveries. While they weren’t serving the restaurants due to closures and curbside pickups, they were able to increase their consumer-base with their e-commerce offerings. Knowing where you can shift your product distribution also increases your market share.  

Because consumer needs, preferences and consumption have changed, brands have the opportunity to gain new loyal customers by looking at their recent analytics, investing in content and messaging, having social engagement and evolving into new distribution channels.