I don’t know about you, but in my household, chocolate quickly rivaled TP, coffee and pet food on the scarce-essentials, “get-whenever-you-see-em” list when we started sheltering in place.
Ferrero, which also includes Kinder, Nutella and Tic Tac brands, makes the sort of comfort foods that were in high demand. As Rachel Tetreault, vice president of ecommerce, North America & US Strategic Channel, tells us in Brand Insider this week, the company’s e-ommerce partners like Amazon, Target and Walmart became critical for maintaining sales as strung-out chocoholics (yes, sweetheart, I am looking at you) scrambled for their comfort fix.
Within these e-retail ecosystems, it all comes down to one sugar-coated search keyword -- and whose brand drizzles to the top.
MediaPost: First of all, what is the ecommerce program across your brands? What are the aspirations for ecommerce?
Tetreault: Within Ferrero, it's a larger scope than just thinking Amazon. As we are partnering with our key retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, they, too, are playing in the ecommerce space.
As far as the high-level strategy goes, we want to make sure we're focused on getting our fundamentals up and running across all of the platforms of our retailer partners [by] ensuring that we have the right content, from basic images of the product to inspiring [consumers] to use our product through videos and other rich media, all the way to making sure that they purchase the product.
Those are just the elements that our team, at least from the ecommerce side, is doing to make sure we convert those consumers who are seeking our products online.
MP: So, ecommerce for you is basically working with your third-party partners as opposed to trying to cultivate a direct consumer channel?
Tetreault: Exactly. We leverage our retailer partners to get to our consumers.
MP: How important is Amazon as a channel for you as opposed to, say, the other ecommerce channels?
Tetreault: If you're not playing at Amazon, you're not playing ecommerce at all. Amazon is a very important customer for Ferrero -- and, of course, an important component of the ecommerce business. This is where the majority of consumers start their product search. Having a strong presence on this platform is going to allow vendors or manufacturers who want Ferrero to acquire and convert new consumers.
For example, let's use Ferrero Rocher. We want to make sure that if someone is looking to send their loved one a box of chocolates, especially now during the pandemic where folks are staying at home, they can go on Amazon, type in Ferrero Rocher, purchase a product and have it shipped to their home.
MP: One of the things that is always happening on Amazon, but maybe even more now that everybody's supply chains are in flux, is accidental brand discovery. In many ways, brand loyalties have been thrown up in the air by this crisis.
What have been some of your most successful strategies in making sure your brand is not only the one that they see, but the one they are favoring within the Amazon environment?
Tetreault: It all comes down to search. You go to Amazon.com, you see the search bar and type in a keyword. In this case, chocolate, or even the brand name like Ferrero Rocher.
Our focus is to make sure that we are part of the selection. We're popping up on top of that search page, typically, in the top six results. We spend an enormous amount of time to make sure that's perfected and optimized because we have that one shot to convert that shopper.
MP: The big change over the last two and a half months has been the pandemic and how that changed everybody's shopping behaviors, everybody's searching behaviors, everybody's supply chains. Tell us broadly how your brands encountered this crisis, what initial impact you felt and the ways in which you reorganized things.
Tetreault: There hasn't really been much of a change in terms of the ecommerce business. There are already investments in place and a strong focus in driving our business online.
There really isn't much of a change from our objectives, only now it has been accelerated to put more emphasis on driving the business across our pure-play retailers, such as Amazon -- and, of course, strengthening even more our partnership with our omnichannel retailers like a Walmart, Target, Costco, Kroger, and others.
MP: One of the things I've been hearing again and again is that these ecommerce environments were changing. What are the key things within the ecommerce environments that you worked with at Amazon and these other retailers as well?
Tetreault: I go back to the original strategy and the playbook that we have put in place even pre-pandemic. Now it's just a time of accelerating those plans relative to our supply chain because the name of the game is speed to market. As consumers, we are trained to want two-hour or less delivery, maybe even two days if it's Prime like Amazon.
We're even seeing platforms like goPuff, where they're providing 30 minutes or less delivery times.
From a strategic perspective, it's important for Ferrero to continue to strive to meet those requirements of our retailer partners to deliver our products almost close to just-in-time to be able to support the needs of our consumers.
MP: What are the key drivers in moving people toward the right ecommerce venue for them? Or do you rely mainly on marketing within those individual ecosystems? Are you doing anything external to drive interest in terms of overall media and other types of marketing that push people to the right e-commerce venues?
Tetreault: As far as ecommerce goes, we are responsible for executing the campaigns or the brand campaigns on the platforms relative to search, so there's really no impact on how we approach our search strategy today. But the focus continues to be, how do we convert shoppers on platforms like Walmart and Amazon and Target and shorten that path to purchase so that we can get closer to the conversion as quick as possible.
MP: For some of your brands like Nutella, you've also been using a lot of interesting and emerging channels like a recent smart-speaker campaign that we reported on for National Pancake Day.
What can you tell us about the ways in which those sorts of channels are performing, and how you think about them in relationship to the traditional ecommerce channel?
Tetreault: We treat these as another touch point for us to have engagement with our loyal shoppers and even newly acquired consumers. As far as e-ommerce goes, our focus on voice activation is to convert so if someone is engaging with Alexa, my objective is to connect that to the purchase cycle.
MP: Tell us how the latest Nutella campaign worked in particular.
Tetreault: If you say, "Alexa, Open the Creations," Alexa will engage that consumer during the path to purchase and then serve up Nutella as an option to add it to cart. The consumer has to decide whether to finish the purchase or leave it in the basket.
MP: How does the consumer know to use that voice activation to command Nutella Creations?
Tetreault: We have the tagline, "Nutella Open Creations" on our campaign, our banner.
MP: What is the strategy for consumer retention for longer-term conversion and brand loyalty?
Tetreault: One of the things that we try to do is participate in loyalty programs within our retailer partners. One example is, Amazon has a subscribe-and-save format where we want to make sure our items that are eligible for when those types of programs are activated.
If someone wants to have Nutella shipped to their home every month, they can certainly set that up through Amazon subscribe-and-save services. That's another way for us to drive loyalty. Target has a similar platform as well.
MP: About the loyalty programs that the ecommerce companies' platforms have put into place, have you actually seen an acceleration of that during this crisis?
Tetreault: I haven't seen the data on the subscription. But what I can tell you is that there is an uptick in the omnichannel curbside pickup and delivery. This acceleration is important because it's going to allow us to reach those loyal shoppers and make sure that we are converting them as much as possible and that we're getting on that grocery list.
MP: You're starting to see this new dynamic of curbside delivery. Does that change the way you think about your marketing mix, your messaging?
Tetreault: Our strategies remain the same. The one thing that we are continuing to focus on is making sure that we are showing up during search because search is directly linked to the conversion and to being added to that grocery list that I mentioned. When we focus on search, what happens is that you get selected.
Once that happens and you convert that shopper, the next time that [the shopper goes] back to that same application or platform, they automatically [see their] past purchase history and, therefore, you are likely to get selected again for the next purchase. So our goal is, first and foremost, to show up very strongly within the search component of ecommerce or on that specific retailer platform.