Today, our lives have become more and more “busy,” with notifications on countless social media apps, being connected 24/7 to our professional demands, and trying to teach our digital assistant Alexa or Siri to understand us. While the digital age has surely made us a little bit smarter along the way, our technological advances have also created an extremely noisy environment for CPG brands and retailers trying to get a consumer’s attention.
It’s no secret that attracting and retaining new customers has never been easy, but it feels like that competition is relentlessly notching higher daily. If your CPG brand can’t find ways to get new customers to consistently view your social media, regularly visit your website, or sign up for your email list, the chances are low that those customers are going to be loyal.
How Technology Is Changing Habits
Habits are a powerful force of human nature. Much like animals in the wild, our habits cause us to behave in instinctive ways, often overriding the knowledge that we should act otherwise. For those CPG brands and retailers seeking success in this new environment, the most important factor to watch is the reshaping of consumer habits by new technologies and online social interaction. Everyday activities that have driven marketing strategies for decades are now attracting fewer people every year. For example:
- Weekly grocery trips: According to a 2017 FMI report, weekly grocery shopping trips have steadily declined since 2012.
- Spending a day at the shopping mall: According to a CoreSight Research report, mall traffic has declined by 9.1% since January 2015.
- “Black Friday” in-store deal hunting and holiday shopping: A survey released by the National Retail Federation estimated that 108.5 million Americans shopped online over the 2017 long weekend that kicks off the holiday shopping season in earnest, well above the 99.1 million who hit stores.
The traditional paths to purchase are being replaced by highly personalized consumer journeys, enabled by smartphones and digital assistants, and layered on top of new forms of logistics such as curbside pickup and same-day delivery. In this new world, every product and brand is always accessible through social media and websites. Information is now limitless, variety is infinite, and delivery is nearly instantaneous.
Creating New Digital Habits
Digital Content Creation and Self-distribution
Historically, content creation and distribution was done by traditional media companies like CBS and Fox. So, unless a CPG brand had millions of dollars in marketing budget to allocate to national television or radio, it was left in the dark. Today, those gatekeepers are now complemented with self-distributed media options such as podcasts and social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Astute brands will follow the proven strategies that created value for traditional media frameworks of the past decades. A CPG brand can become a part of our everyday habits by producing video, voice, and written content and distributing it at set times and/or on set days. The habit of watching/reading/listening to content offers a routine and provides a better probability in attracting loyal customers to the brand.
"The habit of watching/reading/listening to content offers a routine and provides a better probability in attracting loyal customers to the brand."
Social Media Marketing
Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram have continually seen increased monthly active users and more engagement annually since their launch. Instead of fighting this trend, CPG brands should look to divert that habitual attention to their specific pages on the sites.
Since these customers are drowning in choices, they increasingly turn to people they know. Therefore, CPG brands should adopt influencer marketing strategies. Customers are now more connected with influencers (both celebrities and micro-influencers) than ever before, so they have stronger bonds that mimic relationships with people they know in person. Similarly, the internet gives CPG brands an ability to use reviews to scale the recommendation effect that was once localized and grassroots. With the growth of online marketplaces like Amazon, feedback loops like reviews have proven that customers base their decisions on comments from strangers.
"Instead of fighting this trend, CPG brands should look to divert that habitual attention to their specific pages on the sites."
Not Giving Up on Analog Habits
Product Use Habits
Daily habits provide us nostalgia, familiarity, and a sense of connectivity and belonging. Great CPG brands know the power of habits in our lives, and they use this power to create brand habits. Brand habits convey importance and could be as easy as creating the “right” way to use your product.
If you think about this in terms of consumable CPG brands, good examples are Oreo and Blue Moon beer. Think about how, even as a kid, you saw brand messaging that showed you the “right” way to eat an Oreo: twist, lick the cream in the middle, and then dunk the remaining cookies in milk. This conveys a sense that the way you eat the cookie matters, which means the cookie matters, and that elevates its perceived value and desirability in the eyes of consumers. Similarly, Keith Villa began showing up at bars in Blue Moon’s hometown of Denver with a bag of oranges, a cutting board and a knife. The revenue growth of Blue Moon after that shift in creating a brand habit is monumental in the beer industry.
"Great CPG brands know the power of habits in our lives, and they use this power to create brand habits. "
CPG brands that want to win in the changing 2018 environment should explore nuances of the brand, product and its associated marketing that could lend themselves to becoming habitual. Creating a habit around your brand could be one of the most effective tools to cut through the noise of the extremely competitive market of attention.
Joshua Schall, MBA has an 11-year background in the emerging and intersecting CPG/FMCG categories of functional food and beverage and nutritional products.
He currently is the owner of J. Schall Consulting, an Austin, TX-based boutique management consulting company that focuses on digital growth strategies for CPG/FMCG brands that range from pre-launch to portfolio companies with $500M in yearly revenue.
Joshua enjoys an active healthy lifestyle but still finds himself spending way too much time scanning social media and digital grocery aisles for new consumable brands.