Engagement is a Distraction (and a Sales Killer)

Imagine you’re a busy mom who sees a video ad for new toddler-friendly pancakes (Sprinkles? Sparkles? Whatever, but they’re toddler-friendly in some meaningful way). Tired of fighting to get your little one to eat, you click on the ad to buy the product.

But wait! First, you’re taken to a pop-up asking you to “like” the Facebook page (because some marketer read that if you like their Facebook page, you are 70 percent more likely to buy their product). Then, you’re presented with a 20 percent off coupon if you’ll just post about the pancakes and tag your friends. You’re busy, so you skip these options. You also don’t even know if you like the product yet, so why would you give it your approval online? Finally, you hit the page, where you’re presented with six different flavor options, two different package options (sparkles or sprinkles) and 17 different retailer choices with delivery options.

The mom is gone at this point. And she’s not going to remember your pancakes when she places her Instacart order. Opportunity lost.

Engagement is counter-productive for CPGs.

The common wisdom is that consumer engagement boosts sales. Brand managers often believe that the path to purchase involves a complex web of ads, social media, coupons, store visits and search. This web of touchpoints that consumers may enter and exit several times before converting is an assumed “path to purchase” – and it does reflect the real shopping journey for many items. It’s a pattern often followed for apparel, electronics, appliances, etc. as consumers research, consider and price compare.

CPG products are different. Their lower price point and shorter shelf life turn them into low-risk impulse buys. If you think of the marketing “feel-think-do” paradigm, impulse purchases go right from “feel” to “do,” and the thinking just gets in the way. This is great news for CPG companies because all that’s required to drive a new CPG purchase is to create enough interest to overcome this low trial hurdle. Most brands have become excellent at creating marketing that drives this desire. The problem is that most don’t know what to do next.

Putting engagement in front of the sale with consumers who have already developed purchase intent frustrates them. The best thing brands can give them is a simple path to conversion.

Consider the in-store experience: A consumer sees a display that drives interest. She may pick up the package and read a little bit about it, but she doesn’t invest a great deal of time before deciding to toss it into a cart or put it back on the shelf. Here’s the problem: What if before she was allowed to buy it, she had to click through the brand’s social page, download a video, provide her email address, create a login and password, and write down her credit card number? Most of the time, she’s going to say, “That’s way too much trouble!” and put the item back on the shelf. This is precisely what is happening online.

Beeline to the cart. Don’t worry about abandonment. Stay out of the way!

The first thing CPG brands can do to improve online conversions is make the path from interest to shopping cart as short and easy as possible. The online shopping journey for CPGs should look like this: Awareness → Interest → Cart

That’s it.

Today’s consumers keep active carts and they are quick to add items of interest. It’s akin to tossing an item into a physical cart in a grocery store.

A recent survey showed that over 90 percent of online consumers store products in shopping carts to purchase later. It may take weeks, but an item left in a shopping cart does not mean the cart has been abandoned. Think of it as a modern-day shopping list. All of the items on it will get purchased when the consumer goes to the store; similarly, carted items will be purchased when the trigger is pulled on the entire thing.

This new way of shopping online is growing. The average consumer reports keeping at least two active carts of products they intend to go back and purchase later. This makes the job of CPG marketers fairly straightforward: Get items into consumer carts. Then, let the retailer do the work of guiding the shopper to checkout when she is ready.

In short, commit to resisting the urge to place any roadblocks on the way to the cart. Shoppers’ impulses are fleeting at best, and the path to purchase is not the time to distract them. Get the product in the cart, then in their home, and then maybe drop an invite to your Instagram account into that sparkly package to get mom back to buy again.

This article originally appeared in Shopper Technology Institute.

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