How Food and Beverage Brands Can Win at E-commerce During the Holiday Season

Christmas Eve is only three weeks away, and if you’re anything like me, you still haven’t recovered from the stress of Thanksgiving.

This holiday season, many consumers are leveraging online grocery pickup and delivery for their food shopping as an alternative to battling busy stores. Capitalizing on this interest, the nation’s leading grocery retailers have launched expanded pickup and delivery options. Additionally, grocery pickup and delivery promotions are being used more frequently by retailers as a strategy to attract the 81% of consumers that will be influenced by holiday deals.

This “perfect storm” of conditions presents a major opportunity for food and beverage brands. In this article, I will provide brands with five things they should be doing to maximize their e-commerce performance this holiday season (and next).

Thanksgiving 2019 Search Trends

While research suggests that consumers are hesitant to purchase fresh and perishable food items online, their concerns aren’t preventing them from leveraging the convenience of grocery pickup and delivery during the busy holiday season. During the month of November 2019, almost a million consumers searched for “turkey” across 10 different e-commerce websites. Over 200,000 searched for “sweet potatoes” and “yams.” Another 187,685 people searched for “pumpkin pie,” and almost 80,000 searched for “dinner rolls.” Looking at nonperishable categories, 277,037 people searched for “cranberry sauce,” and 208,794 searched for “evaporated milk,” a key ingredient in green bean casserole and other Thanksgiving recipes.

How Grocers Are Responding

Expanded Pickup and Delivery Options

In the months leading up to the 2019 holiday season, many top retailers have announced expanded grocery pickup and delivery options:

  • Amazon: In October, Amazon announced that it was eliminating the monthly fee for Amazon Fresh and offering free two-hour delivery on orders of $35 or more. This aligns Amazon’s original grocery delivery service with Prime Now, which already offers free 2-hour delivery on orders over $35.
  • Walmart: In September, the largest U.S. grocery retailer announced that it was planning to expand its unlimited grocery delivery service to 1,400 stores this fall. Walmart’s Grocery Pickup service is also offered at close to 3,000 locations.
  • Target: On November 15, Target announced that it was making same-day delivery via Shipt available on the Target app with no membership fee required. To promote the service, it offered free same-day delivery on orders of $75 or more through Tuesday, November 26. Target also offers its Drive Up service at almost all of its 1,800 locations, though fresh and perishable items aren’t yet available.
  • Kroger: In early November, Kroger announced that it would be waiving its $4.95 fee for grocery pickup in select markets through the holidays. By the end of the year, the retailer will offer same-day delivery and pickup from more than 2,000 stores each.

Online Grocery Promotions

To complement their expanded online grocery fulfillment options, some leading retailers have gone a step further to incentivize holiday shoppers with promotions.

Target was the most notable retailer during Thanksgiving 2019. In addition to offering free same-day delivery on orders of $75 or more, it also offered special discounts on select holiday food and beverage favorites if customers used the same-day order services.

Amazon has been integrating more personalized digital advertisements leading up to the holiday season, and it’s offering Prime members discounted pricing on holiday favorites from Whole Foods Market.

Kroger is promoting the ability to alleviate stress with its free grocery pickup services this holiday season.

5 Ways That Food and Beverage Brands Can Win

Solve Consumers’ Problems

Arguably, most of the stress that comes with the holiday season stems from the unrealistic goal of trying to be perfect (or extremely memorable). Those hosting holiday meals and parties are left with an endless list of tasks that might be outside of their wheelhouse. These tasks could include choosing the best wine or beer to pair with turkey or finding appetizers to serve guests with plant-based diets. To really reach online consumers this holiday season, CPG brand marketers should focus on helping them solve these unique problems.

For example, Jennie-O Turkey has an annual hotline open during the holidays to provide advice to home cooks. This year, it’s leveraging well-known chefs, social media influencers and bloggers to answer customers’ questions, which helps the brand attract younger audiences that prefer to get their advice from YouTube or podcasts instead of cookbooks. On the Jennie-O website, consumers can also ask their questions via live chat and access calculators that help determine how much turkey to buy and how long it will take to thaw. They can also browse full dinner menus, recipes and ideas for how to use leftover turkey.

Think Outside the Box

When it comes to holiday food purchases, it’s not just traditional staples like turkey and mashed potatoes that today’s consumers are buying. Thanks in large part to a steady increase in Friendsgiving events in recent years, particularly among transient Millennials, holiday meals have become much more diverse. Non-traditional brands have an opportunity to reach this growing audience online by marketing their products in new and inventive ways. For example, the hummus brand Sabra launched a Friendsgiving marketing campaign on Pinterest that invites consumers to take a three-question quiz and receive a personalized “board” with relevant food and drink recipes, décor inspiration, hosting tips and other ideas.

Non-traditional brands can also develop limited-edition flavors and product lines that are only available online during the holiday season. This year, for example, Pringles released a special “Turducken Friendsgiving Feast” pack, which comes with turkey, duck and chicken-flavored chips, as well as cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie flavors. A limited number of the special Thanksgiving chips were only available at KelloggStore.com website and were not sold in stores.

Always Be in Stock

With Americans projected to increase e-commerce spending upwards of 18% this holiday season, it is paramount that your brand’s products are fully stocked and available online. Fact is, inventory management has always been trickier around the holidays because of the increased sales and marketing levers being pulled by both stakeholders. This year, retailers are again heavily promoting food and beverage products that are at least marginally associated with the holidays, and they’re combining them with promotions and discounts to influence online commerce. As an added complexity, brand marketers and sales professionals at CPG brands are also leveraging different demand and conversion drivers to meet holiday performance goals. Regardless, being out of stock is one of the biggest retail sins, especially during the holiday season, when consumer expectations are higher than average shopping experiences.

Optimize for Holiday Search Terms

The fact that product content optimization is “a process, not a project” is never more apparent than during the holiday season. While it might not be appropriate to completely overhaul your high-performing product listings’ copy and keywords, it’s important to understand the search behavior of consumers during certain holidays. Popular uses of your product may change during different seasons and events, providing opportunities to rank for new keywords. As an example, strategically optimizing your product content for seasonal search terms such as “holiday treats” or “Thanksgiving food” can ensure your products have maximum visibility in results.

Create Seasonal Product Images

Once you’ve optimized your content for non-branded holiday search terms, you can help convert those clicks into sales by creating seasonal variations of your product image carousels. Holiday shoppers are often looking for inspiration, so highlighting the features and benefits that are specific to that holiday can improve your conversion rates.

OneSpace Can Help

OneSpace helps CPG brands centralize, optimize and publish product content that wins top position on the digital shelf. By combining e-commerce search data and content optimization tools with software for content storage and syndication, OneSpace’s Product Merchandising Platform helps brands increase organic search visibility and conversions across multiple online retailers at scale. Contact us to see how we can help.

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