The 21st century food shopping experience is all about efficiently streamlining tasks. This is evident not just through significant investments in eCommerce, but also through the rise in delivery service offerings. Online food delivery is booming in particular — the number of Americans who have ordered food online has grown from 17 to 24 percent in the past year. With so many options available, I grew curious about the details differentiating each app’s respective shopping experience. I decided to order from a different app each day for four days, journaling my thoughts while munching on salad one day and sipping soup the next. Convenience means comfort — especially for online food delivery It was a Wednesday night, and I had ordered a soup from my favorite restaurant, eager to maximize my comfiness after a tiring day. After two respective days of UberEats and Postmates, I had settled into a pleasant routine of online food ordering. When I saw that my “Dasher” (of the DoorDash app) had arrived, I summoned up the strength to pause my show, leave my couch, and walk to the door. After receiving my food, I collapsed back on the couch. Upon opening the bag, however, I was disappointed to find that there was no spoon for my soup. I sighed, paused Mad Men, turned on the lights, and made my way to the kitchen. I thought back. Did I forget to indicate that I wanted utensils? Was there a field that suggested including them? Perhaps an “add note” section? Pictured: my squash soup and the accompanying slices of bread. Peeking out in the top right is the infamous spoon from my kitchen. Brand takeaway: My primary reason for ordering food delivery wasn’t just about convenience - I had a vision of curling up in front of a show in my pajamas, and treating myself to minimal movement and maximal indulgence. While the spoon debacle wasn’t catastrophic, it interrupted that vision. If delivery services can identify the true need-states they fulfil, they can better cater to them — and ensure that shoppers have the most seamless ordering experience as possible. Trusting tech is hard. Inputting one’s preferences on an app — without any human interaction — leaves room for doubt. What if the kitchen messes up my order or the app glitches? What if the driver doesn’t get my note to come up to the 8th floor of my office building? I sat in my office’s lobby, this last question lingering in my mind. I saw on the Postmates tracking system that my driver was “here,” but I didn’t see him. Did my Postmate leave the food in the downstairs lobby? Was he in the elevator? Was he waiting for me to meet him outside? After a few minutes, I gave up, went down 8 floors, and saw my food waiting for me at the front desk. The receipt taped to my salad didn’t have the full address I wrote in the app, which included “AMP Agency, 8th floor.” Brand takeaway: Two-way communication is key. As technologically advanced as today’s shopping experience is, there’s always room for error when relaying information. Shoppers will naturally worry about an app acting as a middleman between them and their food. To lessen this worry delivery services can assure the shopper that their unique details have been “seen” by their driver, maybe even sending them a notification of a “read receipt.” It feels good to feel heard. Scrolling through DoorDash’s restaurant options, I hoped to see the bahn mi sandwich cafe just a couple miles away. I searched for “Vietnamese.” It appeared, alongside a button that said “request,” suggesting an option to add the restaurant to DoorDash’s offerings. Wow, I thought. They care about what I want! A screenshot of me single-handedly bettering Boston’s bahn mi delivery scene. Brand takeaway: No reasonable customer expects for a food delivery app to mirror their every preference. A small gesture that acknowledges a shopper’s wants (accompanied with the hope of fulfilling them), validates the shopper. This subtle approach to customer satisfaction allows the shopper to feel both that their opinion matters, and that the app genuinely wishes to improve its service. Superlatives Like many consumers, I honed my preferences by trying multiple services. I like to think that I’m now qualified enough to assign (subjective) superlatives to each app’s respective customer experience. Best delivery time predictor: UberEats Of all the apps, UberEats was the only one that didn’t adjust its delivery time, estimating the total cooking and delivery time very well. Would recommend for squeezing meals in between meetings. Best first-delivery perks: Doordash I still don’t understand whether I stumbled upon some month-of-July promotion or if the first delivery fee is always waived. Regardless, my frugal self was pleased at this opportunity to save some money. Best notification experience: Grubhub While some apps blasted my phone with notifications via app, email, and text, Grubhub let me manually input how I wished to be notified upon arrival of my food. I typed “please call when you’re outside” and my request was fulfilled. A blank canvas for notification preferences Best delivery flexibility: Postmates Free delivery if I join a “party?” By. All. Means. Postmates’s “party” option allows one’s delivery to be pooled with others in the area. The catch: delivery time could be as long as an hour. Without pressing appointments, party-ing is a lovely option to save on delivery costs. Extrovert, introvert, dancer – or not – Postmates has a “party” for all. Most likely to use again: UberEats A delivery fee cheaper than others, many restaurant options, and a familiar GPS format (I take the occasional Uber, so I’m biased), UberEats is my food delivery app of choice. Bonus perks: The UberRewards program. With every eligible meal and Uber ride, I get points that I can use for either.
Confession: I am a Fitting Roomer. I read this fashion industry term recently in a swirl of shame as the article identified my exact online shopping behavior: buying multiple sizes in an item with the intent to try them on at home, keep the one that fits, and return the others. My entire spring/summer wardrobe was purchased online, with at least 50% returned. I could hear the fashion execs whispering tsk tsk in my ear, admonishing me for what some have called the ticking time bomb of costly retail returns. Apparently we Fitting Roomers are terrible for the bottom line. We’re taking advantage of the system. Amazon has even banned the most extreme habitual returners, identifying us as bad for business. Except we’re not. E-commerce fashion is a $545 billion industry and growing. This growth is fueled by convenience including the ability to return: 88% of online shoppers appreciate shopping day or night and easily finding products. And free shipping and returns are the top factors making people more likely to shop online. Without a good shipping and return policy, retailers lose a huge chunk of sales. Because here’s the thing. Shopping for clothes online isn’t like shopping for other goods. It’s not just the quality that matters, or that items are true to their online representation. You may receive a beautiful blouse in the mail that every bit lives up to its description and photo, but when you put it on you happen to look more frumpy than sophisticated. Those amazingly edgy, high quality jeans might be the epitome of your personal style, but they also just might squeeze you in all the wrong places. The top two reasons for online returns are “size too small,” and “size too large.” In other words, a key part of what drives apparel purchase is how the clothes fit on your body. It’s why every brick-and-mortar retail location has dressing rooms. With clothes, you need to try before you buy. So when considering the state of online returns, retailers are making one fatal mistake. They’re thinking of online returns as a follow-up to the buying process, when in fact they’re part of the shopping process. We Fitting Roomers don’t think of paying for multiple sizes online as akin to buying and returning. We think of it as a sort of refundable deposit to try on clothes we haven’t committed to yet. Fitting Roomers aren’t taking advantage of the system. They’re showing brands what an online shopping process looks like when you need to try before you buy. Andrew Bowden, Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at TradeGecko, an inventory management software company, understands that for brands to avoid getting gouged by growing customer return habits, they need to think of it as part of the larger experience. “The most important question to ask when assessing your reverse logistics process,” he recently told Shopify, “is whether or not you’re designing and optimizing the experience for the customer or your business — ideally it’s a mix of both. When in doubt, default to the customer.” Instead of punishing or dissuading the shopping behavior of fitting rooming, why not embrace it? What would the online retail customer experience look like if we shift the way we think of fitting rooming from a “return” to a “try-on?” Some are already doing this. Digitally native direct-to-consumer brands like ThirdLove and MM La Fleur have redefined the experience to embrace how the need to try on shapes a shopping journey. ThirdLove is so focused on fit, they incorporate an in-depth fit quiz before purchase and let customers return bras even after they’ve already been worn and put through the laundry. While I was trying on my new bra at home, I texted with a ThirdLove “Fit Stylist” for a new size recommendation. When I needed a new style, she provided the most seamless repackaging/shipping logistics I’ve encountered. Knowing this, I’m guessing they have an air-tight reverse logistics process built for efficiency and minimal cost, too. Over the last six months I’ve returned two bras. But I’ve kept five - and become a serial repeat customer. That’s a big deal when repeat purchases are the aim of a whopping 83% of shopping journeys. Digitally native DTC brands like MM La Fleur and ThirdLove build their retail customer experience to accommodate the need to find the perfect fit. It’s the more traditional retail brands that haven’t quite figured this out yet. Their struggle with the cost of returns leaves you guessing on how an item looks on a real body, receiving multiple packages that can’t be re-used, being charged extra fees, and printing labels. These brands look at Fitting Roomers as a problem to be combatted, but brands and customers both win if we shift how we perceive the role of returns in the online shopping journey. Because at the end of the day, we Fitting Roomers are not serial returners. We’re just online shoppers. Greer Pearce, VP of Strategy AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience deep-dive series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
Buying and preparing food is a huge part of most of our lives and routines. Almost everybody grocery shops – but not everyone shops the same. Strategists Jen Herbert and Greer Pearce recorded grocery diaries for a month and sat down to compare notes on the modern grocery experience. LIFE STAGES SHIFT FOOD ROUTINES Greer: Jen and I are in different life stages, and one of our big takeaways was not just that our shopping routines are different, but that changes in our lives have acted as triggers for a whole new food routine. Marketers have known for a long time that there are some brief periods in a person’s life when routines are disrupted and shopping patterns are open to change, and we saw that play out clearly in our own lives. When Jen moved in with her partner, Jason, grocery shopping became a team effort. She had to start coordinating weeknight schedules and planning differently. They shop together, so the actual shopping experience became more fun: they make funny faces at each other in the produce section and gamify splitting up the items in their cart at checkout to try and get as close to possible to a perfectly split bill. When I had a baby last year, I also got a new shopping partner – my son, Teddy. Pre-shopping trip, that meant planning more carefully so I could get in and out of the store faster, and new items on our list as he started to eat solid foods. In-store, it meant less time looking at labels or new products, and more time solving the puzzle of how to physically shop with him, a tiny human either taking up most of the cart in his car seat, strapped to my body, or trying to escape from the child seat. These new routines are markedly different from how both Jen and I shopped as single young professionals, when we made more, smaller trips to the store and only bought food for one. Brand Takeaway: Consumers need different things at different life stages, and there are multiple phases when they’re actively adjusting their routine. Meet them in the moment to offer them solutions specific to their needs. Life stage shapes how people shop. Jen and her partner shop together and gamify their routine to make it more fun. Greer looks for items that will distract her toddler. GROCERY SHOPPING STARTS BEFORE THE GROCERY STORE Jen: What Greer and I came to appreciate as we traded our grocery stories was just how much effort we both spend on “pre-work” before ever stepping foot in-store. Before a list can be constructed, we both meal plan our future dinners, but our sources for drawing meal inspiration are very different. Greer knows that her family will be home and in need of dinners every night of the week. She sits down and plans each of those seven meals, surrounded by her go-to resources: three favorite cookbooks, the New York Times, and Bon Appetit’s online recipes. Meanwhile, Jason and I start meal planning by assessing when we’ll both be home – these are nights when it feels “worth it” to invest time in a homemade dinner. Then, we’ll scan the fridge to see if anything is in need of repurposing, which will often spark a meal idea. In the warmer months, we’ll also check the weather – if there are sunny days ahead, we’ll grill. If we’re still stuck, I’ll head to my Saved posts on Instagram. (When I see an easy meal idea, I proactively flag it for times like these.) Finally, I’ll do a scan of the house for staples – everything from vitamins to eggs to Kleenex – that we are running low on and should also be added to the list. When we finally arrive in-store, our routines don’t stop. Greer follows the same pattern around her store each time, while I go so far as to “code” my list by the section of the store I’ll find each item in. Brand Takeaway: Going in-store with a clear plan of attack helps the shopping experience run on autopilot, guaranteeing the trip is relatively efficient and even free of in-the-moment decision-making. With that insight, we both agree that well over half of our “grocery experience” actually takes place within our own homes. Consider ways that your brand can build relationships with customers outside of the physical store, when they’re more likely to be in an open, “inspirational” mindset rather than cruising on autopilot. The grocery experience starts with inspiration and preparation. Jen and Jason make a detailed list before heading to the store. SURPRISES MAKE A SHOPPING TRIP BEAUTIFUL Jen: With all that prep-work, what’s in our basket is often dictated by what’s on our lists. But Greer and I also found we welcome pleasant surprises and unplanned ways to treat ourselves. Greer sometimes treats herself to a pretty bouquet of flowers if they catch her eye, or spontaneously grabs swordfish if it looks particularly good. She distinctly remembers being excited one spring when her store’s typically uninspiring produce section had fiddlehead ferns. Jason and I typically “allow” ourselves one or two surprises when we do our weekly shopping. This could be, like Greer, a spontaneous bouquet of flowers, a fancy candy bar or pastry, or a new flavor of protein bar or ice cream (usually one with eye-catching packaging!). Another welcome surprise is when large grocery chains begin carrying beloved brands from the Northeast. Just the other day, we happily discovered coffee from our favorite roastery in Maine, which we typically had to purchase on-vacation or online! It’s moments like this that infuse a trip that could feel like a chore with a sense of fun. Brand Takeaway: Basket-building moments center around beauty and reward. While the idea of grocery shopping is quite beautiful – fresh, colorful produce, nurturing loved ones, etc. – grocery shopping in practice is often anything but. Finding small opportunities to encourage customers to treat themselves to something beautiful is a reward for an accomplished store trip. PROXIMITY ISN’T THE ONLY FACTOR Greer: It seems obvious that where we grocery shop is dictated by where we live, and to some extent this is true. But within a person’s grocery options, several factors might trigger them to buy at one store over another: The List: Jen’s list dictates where she’ll shop that week, and she doesn’t decide where to shop until it’s complete. If the recipe’s she’s making calls for hard-to-find produce, or she’s craving the fancy yogurt she likes, she’ll drive a little farther to get to a store where she knows she can find what she needs. Physical size of items: Greer gets all her bulky items like diapers, paper towels, dog food, and toilet paper via Amazon so she can avoid carrying heavy items home from a physical store. Price: Both Jen and Greer have price compared the stores in their area, and make the less expensive store their go-to for staples. In-store experience: Both Jen and Greer sometimes go out of their way to find an experience that offers elements of fun, beauty, and excitement. “Type” of grocery visit: Different grocery occasions call for different stores. Greer does her weekly, well planned trips to one store, but goes to a smaller, closer store for an unplanned mid-week trip. Season: In the summer, both Jen and Greer completely switch up their routines to incorporate farmers markets and CSAs where they can get fresh local produce. This means less trips to the grocery store overall, and meal planning driven by in-season items. Brand Takeaway: The need for food drives a grocery visit, but many factors go into where and how you shop. While shoppers may have a default routine, they are open to deviating from it – or redefining it when it will make their lives easier or more enjoyable. Brands should consider how to meet the needs of multiple types of grocery occasions. AMP is on a quest to humanize the total customer experience. This article is a part of AMP’s Customer Experience Deep Dive Blog Series, where we take a first person approach to understanding the modern shopping experience.
The Strategy team at AMP is on a mission to better understand marketers’ most sought-after consumer segments. Each week, individuals from these segments take over @AMP_Agency Instagram stories to give us a peek into their world as part of our digital ethnography series, “Through Their Eyes.” In May we focused on Gen Z college students and saw the world from the perspective of Courtney from Oregon State University, Cortes from California Polytechnic State University, Alexa from UMass Amherst, and Haidar from the University of Rhode Island. Move over, millennials. Marketers’ latest obsession is with Gen Z, the cohort born between 1995 and the early 2010s. You might already know that they’re pragmatic and frugal, multicultural and accepting, and native to the digital world. But we uncovered a few more insights as we followed four college students preparing for finals and the summer ahead... Everyday, they’re hustling Everyday Gen Z is hustling, and we mean that quite literally – a decorative sign with that very motto was spotted in the background of one of Alexa’s posts, next to a Post-It reminder that said, "Harvard Business or Bust.” Follow any one of these individuals around for the day and be prepared to be exhausted. Both Courtney and Cortes found time for workouts between multiple classes, work shifts, and study sessions, while Alexa is on the board of five different clubs and Haidar’s roster of classes as a Global Business Major and Arabic Studies and Engineering double minor is enough to make your head spin. Our team wasn’t surprised to see this given what we’ve read about the generation as a hard working and focused bunch – only 38% think work-life balance is important, compared to 47% of millennials, and 58% say ‘bring it’ to working nights and weekends in exchange for a better salary. No (iced) coffee, no workee While all that hustle is self-driven, it’s apparently also fueled by caffeine – specifically in the form of iced coffee. We couldn’t help but notice that three of our four participants made a point of creating a post specifically in admiration of their respective iced coffees, ‘gramming it beautifully against a flowering bush, decorating their coffee selfies with a “good day today” gif, and even adding Will Smith’s “Just the Two of Us” as background music for the post (below). It all made sense, when our research showed that 56% of Gen Z has purchased iced coffee in the past month. They find fun in responsibility We were impressed by Gen Z’s ability to create joy, even during times when duty called. Courtney took her studying outside to a scenic patio. Cortes savored a sparkling coconut water in the sunshine. Alexa got a little sassy with her Stats study guide. And even Haidar, who was busy observing Ramadan during his feature, took a selfie with a friend as they stood in the aisles of a convenience store shoveling down cups of cereal in the early morning hours for Suhur. Despite their exhausting schedules, on-the-go nature, and mountain of responsibilities, Gen Z is clearly able to appreciate and enjoy each moment. In the future, they’ll be looking for workplaces that encourage this outlook as well – 65% of Gen Z look for a “fun” working environment when assessing whether a company culture is a good fit for them.
Our own Sara Whiteleather, VP of Media, was recently interviewed for eMarketer's latest report on Global Digital Ad Spending by Jasmine Enberg. The report details fascinating findings, like the fact that for the first time, digital will account for >50% of total global media ad spending. Sara spoke with Jasmine in depth about the shifting media landscape and AMP Agency’s focus on driving greater efficiency and a stronger customer experience through the convergence of digital and traditional channels. In the report, Sara shares, “Brands are continuing to break down the traditional marketing silos and think about customer experience first and foremost. That applies to traditional vs. digital and paid vs. owned. They’re thinking holistically about how to reach consumers across all the different touchpoints in the full marketing ecosystem.” Check out the full report from eMarketer here: https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-digital-ad-spending-2019
It’s rare to go a full day without reading a headline in your email inbox or on a news site highlighting the rapid demise of the retail industry. Many brands that have become household names are undergoing massive business restructuring or shuttering their doors altogether. Shopping malls that once served as go-to destinations for many communities are experiencing increasing vacancies. The perception largely driven by the media is that brick and mortar retail is a sinking ship, but what is the reality? Deloitte set out on a nearly year-long study to better understand the state of retail as it stands today and the driving forces behind recent changes. And what did they find? The silver lining. Despite the onslaught of negative press, retail is still growing and in many places, thriving. Backed by a stable and growing economy, consumer confidence is at an all time high. Experts predict that in the next five years, online sales will grow 11.7 percent annually, and in store sales by 1.7 percent.1 That’s healthy growth across the board. Deloitte found that a big contributor to the success of brick and mortar stores actually comes down to income. Today, shoppers in lower income brackets prefer to to buy in physical stores. As the wealth gap continues to widen, more and more Americans are losing their discretionary incomes and landing in this low earning bracket. The purchases they make will likely be in person, so brick and mortar stores stand to benefit the most from this change in the distribution of wealth. With this in mind, here are a few marketing priorities to consider: 1. Fine tune your customer acquisition strategy Yes, you know a lot about your customers, but are you investing into the right channels that will lead them (and other audiences who look like them) to make a purchase? As mentioned previously, even details like household income (HHI) play a significant role in the way people shop. Consumers with a low HHI may compare prices online before ultimately going into a nearby store to make a purchase. Your marketing dollars should be aligned with these behaviors. For many brands, it may be time to reevaluate how consumers search, and ultimately buy. Find an agency that can help you understand the unique features of your most profitable audiences, and then identify the right mix of channels to activate them. Small optimizations on the front-end can have a big impact on long-term growth. 2. Make it easy for consumers to compare prices and find inventory at nearby stores Eighty-one percent of consumers do online research before making a purchase.2 Whether shoppers are becoming more cost conscious or simply cost aware, the fact is they are more informed than ever before. Retailers should leverage local ads to motivate store visits. Solutions like Google’s Local Inventory Ads and Brand Showcase Ads allow shoppers to quickly locate information on the products they’re looking for as well as their availability in nearby stores. Google also has a feature that allows advertisers to adjust bids for individuals with a certain income range (from the top 10% to the lower 50%), who live within a certain geography. If you’re a multichannel retailer who sells discounted items, you may want to increase bids for searches that originate in an area in the lower 50% household income level. To measure the impact these ads are having on driving purchases in stores, check out Google’s Store Visits tool. Store Visits uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure the number of people who click or view ads and later visit a store. 3. Build superior storefront shopping experiences The digital and physical shopping experience shouldn’t be planned in silos, rather they should be developed as a consistent end-to-end experience. Forty-two percent of in-store shoppers search for more information while in a physical store3 and savvy retailers like Sephora are combining digital elements into their physical stores to make it easy for shoppers to explore, find and purchase the products that are right for them. Discount retailers like Marshalls are making the physical shopping experience more social by encouraging store visitors to share their unique finds with their social networks using the hashtag #marshallssurprise. 4. Leverage partnerships to grow awareness and sales Brands and retailers often market to the same consumers, so by working together, their power is magnified. With ecommerce set to experience double-digit growth over the next five years, digital co-op investments are a great way for brands to increase their exposure online and drive sales across channels. The right agency can help you identify, manage, and measure the outcomes of these opportunities. While the Retail industry is alive and well, we are seeing a massive shift in the way multichannel retailers operate to meet the changing needs of their consumers. And let’s not count out pure-play e-tailers. Amazon is working hard to turn low income shoppers into loyal customers. Individuals who receive government assistance can qualify for a reduced $5.99 a month Prime membership, and EBT cards can now be used to pay for qualifying groceries. We expect that as brands compete more on price and free shipping becomes more universal, consumers from all income brackets will begin to make more purchases online. As Socrates once said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Here’s to building the new. You can access a copy of the Deloitte study, The Great Retail Bifurcation, here. 1 IBIS World 2 GE Capital 3 Google, Ipsos
Younger millennial email users are more hit or miss than older US email users when it comes to opening marketing emails, with larger percentages either always or never opening those messages. You’ve got mail.
The food and drink industry faces criticism from every angle. From government regulations on the advertisement of alcohol, society’s pressures to keep trim and slim and ‘Lean In Fifteen’, to the impact of waste and resource on the world’s rising temperature; food and drink brands have to cater for any possible criticism. How sweet it can be.
The nation’s largest food companies now face competitive pressure from two different directions. From one side, there is a movement toward simplicity — simpler recipes, fewer ingredients, less processing. A nice way to label this shift toward simpler foods is “the undoing of food.” At the same time, and from the opposite direction, there is the “re-doing of food” — a process whereby entrepreneurs take on existing categories and seek to reinvent them in a way that improves on the incumbent. Unfeed me.
Online shoppers are 68% more likely to open a retailer’s email during the holiday season than at any other time of year, according to a recent study from Adlucent. In addition, 32% of online shoppers suggested that they would be more likely to click on a retail ad. Holiday mode on.