Shoppers who visit the web sites for consumer packaged goods brands before setting foot in a store spend up to 37% more on those brands in store than those who did not come to the web sites, according to new research from Accenture, comScore and dunnhumby USA.
The study, which looked at web site and in-store behavior relating to 10 top unnamed brands in the food and beverage and household products sectors from September 2010 through February 2011, found that the average web site visitor to these brands spent $2.86 a month on that brand compared to $2.14 per month spent by the average non-visitor.
Web visitors also returned to the store more often to buy the brand: 3.2 buying occasions per month against 2.3 for non-visitors. And site visitors spent more per month in the product category of a brand whose site they have gone to, spending on average $6.86 a month in the category versus $4.83 for those who have not been to a brand’s site.
The report, entitled “Are Your CPG Brands Maximizing the Return on Your Digital Investment?” took online behavioral data from comScore’s panel of 1 million U.S. subjects and combined it with dunnhumby’s point of sale UPC scan data for 60 million U.S. households to arrive at consumer insights from a panel of about 300,000 consumers.
“We were able to measure the indirect effect that brand web site visits had upon in-store behaviors,” says Jerry Lohse, partner at Accenture Interactive. “The top line is that visitors to the web site spent 37% more on the brand than non-visitors, bought 48% more units and made 38% more brand-buying purchase occasions.”
Those results are averages across all 10 CPG brands examined. In some cases, contributions by web site visitors were much larger, Lohse points out. “For the very best performing sites, visitors actually bought 100% more in-store than non-visitors did,” he says.
On the other hand, two of the 10 brands examined in the study actually saw web visitors buy less in stores than customers who had not been to their web sites. Lohse says that’s an indication of the power CPG web sites have to drive deeper engagement with customers—but only if they choose to use it properly.
The study arrived at four primary benchmarks that a CPG brand web site needs to achieve to have maximum point-of-sale impact:
- Offer a compelling brand value message that gives the visitor a reason to buy the brand—unrelated to a coupon or price offer.
- Web site content should be fresh, updated at least weekly to bring visitors back to the site often.
- Site navigation should be intuitive, with clear site maps and click paths to the information users want.
- CPG brand web content should be designed to engage online visitors, encouraging them to participate in online surveys, offer up product ratings and reviews, or contribute their own content to recipe banks, forums, etc. Charitable causes are particularly effective at driving web visitor engagement with CPG brands, the study found.
One notable finding of the research is that web visitors to a brand’s site pay on average 8% less per unit than non-visitors do when they buy that brand in stores. Conventional wisdom would suggest that since they are more engaged with a brand online, those visitors might be willing to pay higher per-unit price than non-visitors. But the likely explanation is that these engaged web visitors were coming to the brand web sites specifically to download coupons.
“Two of the brand sites in this study had very compelling brand value messages rather than coupon-heavy strategies,” says Lohse. “At those sites, web visitors actually wound up spending 2% more per unit than non-visitors when buying in store.
While digital couponing is an important strategy for CPG brands, Lohse says the findings of the report suggest they should take a more targeted approach to the tactic, which represents only about 1% of all couponing but can make up anywhere from 13% to 60% of all coupon redemptions.
“Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach and give everyone the same coupon, these brands actually have the ability, based on insights they can gather from their online visitors, to alter their couponing strategy according to what those shoppers want,” he says. “There could be a frequency play to get shoppers into the stores more often, or a play to get people to buy a more premium product in the category. It could also involve getting someone to try a product in a related category that they may not specifically be looking at on your site.”
The Accenture/comScore/dunnhumby study was conducted under the sponsorship of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute and presented at their joint board meeting in Orlando in late January 2012.