Largely driven by the rise of online shopping, some food companies are taking their products online, while some startups are ditching brick-and-mortar stores altogether.
Selling direct to consumer through e-commerce gives consumers better control over their supply chain and cuts down on middleman costs. As e-commerce continues to grow, consumers are expecting a seamless and personalized ordering process.
When selling direct to consumer, companies can control the customer’s journey from when they arrive at the site to the check out process. It allows them to control the brand’s story and cultivate relationships with customers that can transcend retail shelves. Unfortunately, brands may not have the insight, resources, or technology that retailers have accrued over years that can make providing a seamless shopping experience a challenge.
Food companies have been trying to get into e-commerce, but it wasn’t always a slam dunk, associate manager of new products at Ben & Jerry’s Jody Eley told Food Dive.
In order to be successful, e-commerce efforts must be supported by strong marketing — especially in the United States, where grocery e-commerce isn’t as popular as it is overseas, Greg Pulsifer, vice president of global e-commerce at General Mills told Food Dive.
Brands use tactics and strategies like organic and paid search, ratings, reviews, creative copy, and banners to promote their products online, John Carroll, general manager of e-commerce at Coca-Cola, told Food Dive.
General Mills packages foods together to create what it calls an online “meal solution.” The brand has a variety of products that it can create a breakfast solution using only its own products. Large companies like General Mills have an expansive portfolio of products and can offer a one-stop shop to consumers that aren’t keen on placing many orders on different websites.
“We can combine frozen goods that we make through Pillsbury. We can take a yogurt through Yoplait and we can take granola through Nature Valley and combine those together to offer a meal solution,” Greg Pulsifer, vice president of global e-commerce at General Mills told Food Dive.
Ben & Jerry’s site allows customers to buy ice cream in bulk or limited time online-only flavors. The web-exclusive flavors included Marshmallow Moon, which was made in partnership with “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon.
Bear Naked, owned by Kellogg, created a website that allows consumers to create their own granola with the help of IBM’s Chef Watson. Watson chooses which ingredients would taste good together based on the chemistry of the ingredients and how they’re often combined. Customers also have the choice of opting out of Chef Watson’s advice and making their own granola mix. Ingredients include chocolate covered espresso beans, bacon, bourbon, matcha, pretzels, and dried black olives.
“The big part of the experience is really driven around content. It’s the ability to tell a brand story and the way that comes to life,” said Pulsifer.
General Mills uses video imagery and rich copy to get consumers excited enough to write a vibrant review and recommend the products.