In their session at SFA’s 2019 Business Summit, titled, “Identifying and Activating Shopper Moments that Matter,” Katie Butman and Jeff Daniel will use their experience at creative agency, Upshot, to teach attendees about insight-driven shopper media. As the VP of Account Management and VP of Media and Analytics, respectively, they bring years of expertise and a wealth of knowledge to the stage.

Specialty Food News spoke with them about the past and future of retail and what to look forward to at the Summit, taking place in Chicago on April 7-9, 2019.

What are you most looking forward to at the 2019 Specialty Food Business Summit?

Butman: I’m excited to meet the people behind new and emerging brands, hear about what challenges they face, what keeps them up at night, and where they see their brand going in the future. I’m looking forward to sharing our experience to help them grow.

Daniel: I’m excited to learn about what types of specialty foods are trending, meet the teams that are the backbones of these brands, and give them some tips to make them future ready.

What trends are on your radar for 2019?

Daniel: One of the biggest treads on our radar is the case against waste. It seems like every week another company is coming out saying how they’re going to rethink their packaging and reduce and/or eliminate materials that are not environmentally friendly. Consumers are demanding it from the brands they choose to buy. This is definitely an advantage for smaller/specialty brands that can start out green and work it into their mission or tackle the problem (if one exists) before their company gets too big and production barrier come into play.

Butman: No/Lo is another trend we’re keeping an eye on. No, it’s not an up-and-coming neighborhood or band. It’s no alcohol or low alcohol. Basically, the clean eating trend is crossing over and consumer are seeking out alternatives—mocktails and low-booze drinks. Light and low-calorie beers are doing well in the beer industry and we’re seeing craft brewers test consumers’ palates with adult beverages that aren’t intended to get them buzzed.

What changes have you seen take place in the last 10 years in the retail category?

Daniel: The most obvious change in the retail category over the past decade is the rise in e-commerce and emerging apps/platforms. Brands are meeting consumer and shopper expectations—giving them what they want when they want it—with fast delivery, buy online pick up in-store, being able to check individual store inventory, and all the on-demand apps where you can get practically anything in just a few clicks.

Butman: The store environment has also become more sophisticated, driven by consumer demands and hyper competitiveness. We’re seeing retailers experiment with localization, elevated service offerings, forged creative partnerships, and blurred online and offline experiences to deliver friction-free shopping ease. We’re also seeing food in more places than ever before at places like Old Navy and Home Depot. Even Dollar General and Family Dollar are adding more food to accommodate shopper’s needs. Everything is leveling up to try to stay ahead of the intensified competition and give shoppers a unique experience.

How are brands navigating the gap between the physical and the digital? How are they working to close that gap?

Butman: There’s a slew of direct-to-consumer brands that have navigated the gap between physical and digital. Many of the well-known brands like Warby Parker, Allbirds, Casper, and Modcloth started as digital brands that found a place at retail, either with their own stores or with retail partners (e.g., Casper at West Elm). These brands, and others succeeding in the DTC space have built an authentic relationship with their consumer built beyond the product with a solid (and social) mission and affordable price.

Daniel: Brands are finding creative ways to get their product in people’s hands and give them an opportunity to try their brand outside a physical space. They’re tapping a plethora of creative sampling techniques from influencers to partnerships. Even Amazon is getting in on the sampling game using their algorithm to send Amazon Prime customers products they think they’ll like.

What advice would you give to companies just starting out?

Butman: Build a solid brand foundation. Know who you are, who your target is, what you believe in and your purpose, then pick the right retailers and channels to sell in and messages to reach your consumers. Focus on creating simple, mindful, and beautifully designed products and experiences that are inclusive and accessible.

And stand for something. Tackle social and environmental issues with products, services, and messaging that go beyond mere PR gestures and instead apply creativity and passion to improving consumers’ lives and creating meaningful change in how we live together on this planet.

Daniel: Use the power of your consumer. Welcome and apply the power of today’s consumers to directly shape brands with products and services developed via the conversations and feedback made possible on social platforms.

Be smart about your marketing. Respect the modern desire to lessen demands on our cognitive capacity via a willingness to declutter the messaging landscape and instead focus on marketing that’s not just unobtrusive but also welcomed.

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