As U.S. consumers change how, when and where they purchase groceries, the shift has created challenges for companies like Mondelēz International that are heavily dependent on impulse buys for sales.
Americans are doing more buying online through click-and-collect and curbside pickup than ever before, significantly limiting a company’s ability to influence them during their shopping trips. Shoppers that visit a brick-and-mortar location are spending less time in the building and often are distracted by tasks like doing their own checkout, which reduces the amount of time they have to find an impulse item.
“There’s a lot of factors that are working against us to make it a more challenging environment,” said Cristina Marinucci, global head of shopper excellence insights and analytics at Mondelēz.
Impulse buying remains a lucrative source of revenue for CPGs.
According to a survey conducted for CreditCard.com, 84% of U.S. consumers admit to having made impulse purchases. It’s especially pronounced in e-commerce, where impulse buys represent almost 40% of all the money spent. Additional data from Slickdeals shows that the typical American will make an average of 12 impulse purchases a year, with the practice highest in food and grocery.
Mondelēz recently found that two-thirds of grocery shoppers have some level of unplanned behavior — either they didn’t plan to buy the category or didn’t have a specific brand in mind. This was especially pronounced at checkout, with 76% of shoppers giving themselves “permission” for indulgent products.
Mondelēz is best known sweets and snacks such as Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, belVita and Swedish Fish — brands that are especially conducive to impulse purchases. To keep consumers buying, Marinucci said Mondelēz has conducted extensive research to find the times and the most effective ways throughout the shopping trip to disrupt and engage shoppers.
In e-commerce, Mondelēz found it’s important to catch people earlier in the shopping experience rather than during checkout when they are less likely to add an item to their cart. Unlike a store where consumers can more easily toss an item into their basket impulsively, shopping online tends to be more planned and done over a longer period.
In many cases, people will simply reuse a previous order or saved shopping list, so reaching them before they check out is paramount.
For example, Mondelēz uses prompts to encourage online shoppers to add cookies if they are already buying milk or items that suggest they are planning a school lunch or weekend picnic. Other opportunities to snag an impulse buy include offering limited-time products; buy one, get one promotions; or incentives to unlock a promotion or discount if they spend a certain amount on specific products.
Still, other practices can work online as well as in the store.
A product like Oreo also can connect itself to other food sections such as sweet and salty combos (paired with chips, for example), seasonal aisles (stocking stuffers, Easter basket treats) and gifting (cards, flowers and balloons). There’s also an opportunity to connect with additional snacking occasions like movie night, celebrations, back to school or sporting events.
Mondelēz has embraced a test-and-learn approach to understand which tactics generate the best response from consumers. In stores, it has scores of data it can review that allow it to figure out the characteristics of a display — where to place it, what messaging to include to attract attention and convey information, how to design it and what categories or brands are more likely to result in an impulse buy.
In convenience stores, cookies can be placed on the perimeter of the outlet with other grab-and-go food or meals, or next to a self-service checkout as a way to entice the shopper to grab a pack as a dessert for their lunch or an afternoon snack, Marinucci noted.
“The world around us is constantly changing,” Marinucci said. “Sure, the pandemic was a much faster pace and certainly unexpected, but we always want to be evolving and thinking about where our shoppers are going to next or what their needs might be and staying [at] the forefront of that.”