After 17 years transforming the way brands, researchers and marketers understand shopper data, Todd Morris is ready to make similar changes to the information consumers get about products online.
Starting today, Morris, the former global president of shopper data and insights firm Catalina, is the new CEO of Label Insight. In this position, he told Food Dive he wants to fix the broken system consumers use to get information on grocery products.
Today's consumers who want information about food and beverage products often turn to the internet. Online grocery sales now account for 6.3% of grocery-related spending in the U.S., and have been used by 25% of households, according to an analysis last year from Brick Meets Click. Shoppers want to know which products meet their needs — such as if a particular item is gluten-free, high in protein, sustainably farmed or if a nearby retailer has organic vegetables.
But Morris said the way brands and retailers present information online makes this information much harder for consumers to find. Some of the problem is the antiquated way brands and retailers think about product information, he said.
"Over 80% of all searches [in] online grocery are attribute based, not brand based. But there's no central place of truth of what attributes are accurate and standard and searchable," Morris said. "And so I'm really excited about bringing about an incredible new capability for consumers to find the products that meet their dietary and health and sustainability needs, but at the same time, helping ... brands and retailers figure out how to win in a very different consumer-driven world."
During 17 years at Catalina, Morris changed the perception of shopper data from a transactional look focused on product quantities and dollars and cents to one that created a picture of who consumers are and their needs and desires.
Morris said understanding these consumer needs and desires is vital to improving the way product information is cataloged online. Today, he said, a consumer may do a search for "peanut free" and the first product that comes up is peanut butter. Or a consumer searches a retailer's site for gluten-free products and 16 items come up — but there are actually 260 gluten-free products in stock.
"I'm really excited about bringing about an incredible new capability for consumers to find the products that meet their dietary and health and sustainability needs, but at the same time, helping ... brands and retailers figure out how to win in a very different consumer-driven world."
CEO, Label Insight
"An unanswered search for a consumer is like an empty shelf in a physical world," Morris said. "Retailers are wired to never have an out-of-stock. And when there is one, they all jump on it and they fix it. We need to start treating a search the same way."
Label Insight has been working to solve this issue for years. It currently has a database containing hundreds of thousands of product attributes that can be used to describe items, ingredients and nutritional value.
Morris wants to use these attributes to both paint full pictures of products, but also to learn more about what consumers are looking for in terms of search and attributes. For example, he said almost half of consumers are following specific eating regimens. By paying attention to the keywords and searches shoppers use to arrive at the products they want, Label Insight can help retailers and brands find the items consumers would want in the future.
"E-commerce is the easiest place to switch a retailer," he said. "They [consumers] don't have to get in a car and drive to a new store. And so that ease of switching for the consumer will make the retailers who embrace this type of transparency and searchability or discovery real winners."