How to Overcome Key CPG eCommerce Challenges
The increase of online buying in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry didn't start with the advent of the COVID-19 crisis. ECommerce retail sales have been rising steadily in the U.S. since 2009 at an increase of 1% each year, according to research done by Digital Commerce 360.
That is, until 2020 shattered the existing trend with a staggering increase of 5.5% over 2019, shaving five years off of the original projected time frame. The trend may not be new, but the remarkable shift is reflective of new consumer buying habits following the pandemic, whether their interest is to avoid going out or simply to enjoy the newfound convenience of online shopping. According to a survey done by McKinsey & Company, consumers plan to continue their new digital habits after COVID-19 subsides.
CPG Companies Need to Embrace Online Sales
With such major growth in online shopping and the expectation that these trends will continue post-pandemic, there is more pressure than ever on CPG companies to embrace digital commerce opportunities. While this does offer a great opportunity for CPG brands, it also presents a unique set of challenges.
Many CPG brands already see the potential of improving their internet sales efforts-- and yet, adoption of B2C eCommerce platforms in this industry is still lower than in other sectors. For these companies, the barrier to entry is the challenges that come along with online selling, some of which can prove such a hindrance that these companies are left wondering if it's worth the effort, time, and investment.
Fortunately, these CPG eCommerce challenges can be solved with a combination of the right strategy and the right CPG software.
Pull Customers in with Your Online Storefront
In the age of the informed consumer, it's common for customers to enter brick and mortar retailers already having educated themselves on what products they can expect on the shelves. Whether your prospective customer is going to shop your digital shelf or your physical shelf, they’re more likely than ever to visit your website first.
The success of this interaction hinges on meeting customer expectations, but that means more than just having a working interface. Customers are looking for two things on your website—the "Amazon" experience and consistent branding that resonates with them.
In other words, they want the eCommerce features they can expect when buying from the online channels they frequent, such as:
- Shipping calculators
- On-screen shopping carts
- One-click shopping
- Suggestive search
- Shipping notifications
- Easy reorders
- Order confirmation emails
From your customers’ perspective, these aren’t premium features. They’re the bare minimum and it’s not unreasonable for consumers to expect them, or even to see a lack of the usual features as a red flag. You never want to create an encounter that leaves the customer feeling like their buying experience was an afterthought.
Likewise, the look, feel, and purpose of your brand is extremely important to today’s consumer.
Why "Brand Consistency” Is More Than a Buzzword
"Brand" may sound like a buzzword if you're unfamiliar with the term, but it essentially means aligning what your CPG company stands for with your target audience. Buyers love to get behind brands with a clear purpose that resonates with them. It presents an opportunity for them to express themselves by intentionally choosing what brands they support.
Develop your brand so that it resonates with your buyers, and you'll develop "brand loyalty," which simply means buyers will be more likely to purchase from your CPG brand than your competitors’.
Let’s say a prospective customer likes your website’s look and feel. Enjoying what they see, they proceed to your online storefront-- but it’s a 3rd party website with an entirely different look and feel. This jarring shift is enough to make them double-check they’re in the right place. They are, but this unfortunately common situation is enough to stop them from completing their purchase or to purchase from a competitor.
Fortunately, there are CPG eCommerce platforms that are purpose-built with your business to consumer (B2C) storefront in mind. These solutions often offer a comprehensive suite of shopping cart features across an elegant, on-brand online storefront customized to your CPG business, allowing you to create a positive, brand-consistent buying experience with each customer interaction.
Bolster Your Brand with Strong Product Content
Your brand is much more than just your site or your slogan or your storefront layout. If you've already succeeded in creating a profitable online storefront, or are already selling via other marketplaces like Amazon Seller Central, it might be time to start thinking about how you're managing your product information, especially across multiple channels.
Remember, in online shopping, your product information plays a key role in whether your customer decides to make that purchase. Because they can’t see or feel your products in person, your descriptions, images, and videos must be even more compelling.
Again, the key to successful branding is consistency. That means that you need to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information on every one of your products, even if you have hundreds or thousands of offerings. This can quickly become overwhelming, either as a result of a growing product line or expanding into new channels.
If you want to manage your product information to ensure the highest consistency and accuracy (and the least number of headaches), a product information management (PIM) solution might be right for you.
With it, you can leverage technology to keep all of your content in one place so that you can be confident your prospective customers are viewing the best, most up-to-date information available on any product.
Need to update a minor specification on one of your product listings? With a PIM, this change will be updated across every channel that product is listed. In most cases, you can link your PIM to major ERPs or other channels, depending on your needs, for streamlined workflows.
Plus, a PIM with digital asset management support offers you a great way to manage your product media, including photos, videos, and, in some cases, compelling 360-degree product views to drive sales.
How to Deliver on Customer Service Despite Order Volume and Complexity
Creating the storefront and offering your customer a great buying experience is crucial for getting the purchase and making the right first impression. Now, your business needs to be able to deliver on the promises made during the purchase process.
The reality is, when online sales increase, many CPG companies may struggle with the high volume of individual orders. Others will struggle with transitioning from shipping huge B2B pallets to shipping small parcel B2C packages.
What do customers want to see with the shipping process?
- Fast order processing
- Fast shipment times
- Accurate shipment information
- Low shipping cost
- Branded packaging
Additionally, your CPG company wants to avoid the following:
- Bottlenecks in the shipping process
- Costly returns
- Shipping errors
- Expensive rates
If these major pain points are among the issues with which your business is struggling, pack and ship software can offer significant relief. These solutions help offload the tedious manual work surrounding fulfillment by leveraging automation software. In doing so, they prevent bottlenecks and reduce the potential for human error.
This technology can be used to streamline the shipping process no matter how complex the order is, preventing costly delays, and, most importantly, keeping your products moving. Pack and ship software typically also allows you to easily create batch shipments, add or remove items from orders, and, in some cases, negotiate with shipping carriers to get you the most competitive shipping rates. With tighter turnarounds and smoother workflows, your business will increase in efficiency and your customers will be happier.
How Will You Leverage Technology to Optimize Your Brand?
With online sales growing faster than ever for CPG brands, there is no better time to take advantage of the many solutions available to optimize your online presence, build your brand, and streamline your workflows. If you’d like to learn more about any of these solutions or how TrueCommerce can help your CPG company, contact us today.
About the Author: Craig Ross is the VP of Sales for the TrueCommerce Nexternal eCommerce Platform. He has been on the Nexternal team for over 20 years and has been involved with the evolution of eCommerce from its infancy. Craig lives in Redding, Connecticut, and in addition to eCommerce, he is passionate about cycling, motorsports, skiing, and music.