Anyone reading this blog over the past couple of weeks could be forgiven for thinking that this is a fitness-oriented publication. First, the FitBit (last post), and now this article about the potential impact of on-line grocery shopping on snack sales. In reality, however, both posts simply illustrate the way individuals (and, collectively, a society) respond to our deepning relationship with ever-pervasive technologies.
This week, I purchased grass seed and a 1TB external hard-drive on-line. They should both arrive at my door tomorrow. Can I source grass seed locally? Of course, I can. Am I to lazy to drive 20 minutes to the garden center? Affirmative.
But, I'll be the first to admit that I looked for a recognizable name when I selected the seed. Oddly, I was less discerning with the hard-drive, but that might be because I identified the best unit through a Spock-like virtual vetting process. Food makers are facing similar consumer habits. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), name brand groceries are more popular than "private label" brands with on-line shoppers. Several factors may be at play: (1) name brands may pay for prominent placement; (2) consumers might make their first on-line purchase a known quantity, which then often places that brand at the top of their list the next they look for "sugar frosted flakes of ground corn"; and, (3) craving convenience, many shoppers will simply click the item that appears first.
Other name brands, however, are trying to determine how they can get their foot in the door. The WSJ reports that Hershey is endeavoring to develop a techonology that will replicate the impulse purchase of a chocolate bar or pack of gum in the check-out lane (56% percent of us fall prey to that clever ploy). But, snack vendors will need to contend with the fact that the instant gratication of tearing into a bag of chips while walking out of the store simply does not exist when one clicks and then waits 24 hours for an order to be delivered. At that point, my better senses may have talked me out of the extra-spicy jalepeno cheddar cheese sitx.
The growth of on-line shopping will also disrupt traditional marketing models in which brands can command prominent positioning on end-caps and in aisles. To wit, when the last time you looked first to the bottom shelf when searching for a jar of dressing? There is a reason why the national brand is at eye-level.
There are few industries that will not be disrupted by our deepening digital experience. So, the next time you reach for that candy bar, just ask, "Would I be doing this on-line?"