During Path to Purchase’s Virtual Expo, Quotient CEO and founder, Steven Boal, teamed up with Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships from Peapod Digital Labs (an Ahold Delhaize USA Company) to discuss “Omnichannel Marketing in the COVID Age: Using Shopper Data to Connect CPGs, Retailers and Consumers.” During their session, the message was clear: the time for single-tactic planning is over. Omnichannel marketing is the future of grocery retail.
Omnichannel Is Here to Stay
2020’s events continue to permanently reshape the grocery retail landscape. But according to Williamson, that hasn’t slowed Ahold Delhaize down. The company reported strong earnings during Q3—in part, due to the increase of digital sales that the company saw during that period.
As part of his role, Williamson leads one of the nation’s oldest grocery eCommerce platform. The strong demand for grocery eCommerce we experienced at the start of the pandemic, (which some labeled consumer panic buying), is not going away anytime soon. In fact, Ahold Delhaize recently announced growth of 115% in their eCommerce sales.
“Today’s crazy is tomorrow’s normal.”Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs, an Ahold Delhaize USA Company
As the past six months have demonstrated, grocery retail is always subject to change. It’s up to brands to embrace this new, dynamic environment. As Williamson said, “the challenges we’re able to solve for today may be completely different in the future. It’s critical that we don’t get stuck in past behaviors when the current circumstances dictate that we change.”
COVID Brings About Collaboration Between Advertisers and Retailers
Boal pointed out that collaboration between advertisers and retailers is at an all-time high as a result of the demand created by COVID. Brands have had to come together to dynamically plan out their digital engagement strategy, and that’s something that Boal hadn’t really seen before at this level.
Williamson agreed, calling partnership the recipe for success. He quickly realized at the start of the pandemic there had to be true collaboration between advertisers and retailers to keep up with the current pace of change. From handling supply chain shortages to adequately staffing across all areas of the business, advertisers and retailers had to work together if they wanted to continue providing essential grocery services to consumers.
Initially, Williamson noted that brands were pausing their media plans because they didn’t know what was happening. But as the situation normalized, the conversation became how retailers and advertisers can partner together differently in order to win in omnichannel. Brands have gotten more strategic, looking at things like eCommerce penetration, shopper behavior and the breakdown in category shopping in-store and online. As Williamson put it, “when everything is normal and predictable, you can stack legacy decision making and have confidence that it’s going to work. But when you don’t know where your supply is, what replenishment looks like or what brands are being carried in what stores, you have to start asking different questions and looking at the data differently.”
“One thing I’m excited about, in large part because of our partnership with Quotient, is we’re using advertising technology to look at the total business. We can use that information to inform what media programs look like moving forward, allowing us to be nimble based on what the circumstances are on the ground.”Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs, an Ahold Delhaize USA Company
Excelling in eCommerce
According to Boal, regardless of how eCommerce continues to grow during COVID, the retailers that excel will be the ones that have the best relationship with shoppers. He talked about brand affinity and brand experience being key. Grocery shopping is an experience, and Boal believes that the desire for personalized shopping experiences will return post-pandemic. If retailers can create a synthesized relationship with consumers that is the same across online and offline shopping, Boal believes that they will win in eCommerce.
From Williamson’s point of view, the focus is on bringing his expertise in omnichannel into the retailer-customer relationship: “If you look at what we’re doing in the marketplace, it’s all about omnichannel. It’s about creating various fulfillment points and letting the customer decide what they want to do. They are the captain of their own ship.”
The retailer’s job is to create a seamless shopping experience across all touchpoints of the business so that consumers have the same brand experience, regardless of how they choose to shop.
Now Is the Time to Break Norms
Smart omnichannel marketing is a must. Ultimately, retailers and advertisers need to work together to ensure that the brand experience remains consistent across channels and that consumer expectations are met along the way. Shopper data plays a big role in this. Brands can use shopper data to customize the grocery experience for consumers, creating a rewarding shopping experience at every step along the path to purchase.
“We have to challenge each other to be courageous and think differently. This is hard stuff, but we’re in an era of needing to reinvent what we do because customers are expecting it.”Mark Williamson, VP and Head of Media Partnerships at Peapod Digital Labs, an Ahold Delhaize USA Company
Boal and Williamson also talked about breaking norms to succeed. By optimizing campaign strategies in real-time with data, brands can truly “take the wheel” in achieving their campaign objectives.
To learn more about Quotient’s approach to omnichannel marketing in the digital age, download our latest eBook on data-driven campaign recommendations for the Q4 holiday season or get in touch with our team at [email protected].