July 16, 2020
  |   Ecommerce

Interview with Food & Beverage Industry Expert: Tory Brunker

Food & beverage brands have long relied on grocery stores and retailers to attract customers and sell their products. As shopping behaviors shift to online channels, there’s now an opportunity for these brands to sell their products directly to the consumer. To help food & beverage companies navigate the digital world, we interviewed commerce expert, Tory Brunker, to learn the ins and outs of what it takes for these brands to sell through a digital experience. In addition to being Director of Product Marketing, Commerce at Adobe, Tory sits on the board for The Cook’s Nook, an Austin-based food community.

What are the top challenges food & beverage brands face when creating a direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel?

“From a food & beverage supply chain perspective, there’s a lot to consider. When creating a D2C channel, brands have to think about whether they have the means to fulfill in a D2C manner, including staffing, product, and infrastructure, and do they have packaging that’s D2C friendly. Customers will expect a consistent demand flow, and many brands don’t have the agility to do this on their own.

When the global pandemic began, the majority of companies put product innovation on hold. But now they realize they need to innovate in order to remain relevant. Most are using a third-party for D2C packaging and other aspects of building a D2C channel.”

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What are the key strategies food & beverage brands should consider for a successful digital experience?

“Food & beverage brands have to think about the customer experience. This means making sure brands are providing an efficient path to purchase but also enough detail so the customers can make an informed decision.

The key is balancing speed to market and meeting customer expectations. One way brands can accomplish this is by making strategic assortment decisions and pairing down the offering online, such as a specific product line or bundled options. By narrowing the product offering, brands can easily track customer behavior and use the data to quickly pivot the assortment or customer journey strategy.”

What do consumers expect from the food & beverage digital experience?

“It’s fairly similar to what they expect from other industries. For B2B, these food & beverage brands wouldn’t give grocery stores, hotels, or restaurants food prep guidelines or recipes. But for D2C, you need all of this. To help customers understand what they’re getting, brands need to provide information like the number of servings, shelf life, and nutritional information on the product pages.

There will also be a lot more imagery requirements. Most customers will want to see images of the product in and out of the packaging. If it’s food, they may want to know what the products look like in a recipe.”

How do food & beverage brands retain customers once they’ve made a purchase?

“Many of these brands don’t have marketing efforts in place outside of email marketing and newsletters. They will need to create a retention plan to keep existing customers, starting with a basic approach, and building it over time. This includes loyalty programs and marketing programs to encourage repeat purchases and following up after a customer receives their order.

Brands also need to consider how they’re going to get feedback from the general population that had a good experience, and how they capture trends from the negative feedback so they’re the brand customers come back to.”

What types of personalization efforts should food & beverage brands focus on?

“Basics like the ‘thank you for your order’ emails, recipes, and tips are all important, but food & beverage brands need to be thinking about creating that next great experience. We’re starting to see brands look at expanding into the personalization arena by leveraging customer data. For example, if a customer interacts with a piece of content on the D2C channel, how do they keep the interaction going and grow the conversation?

We’re also seeing a rise in subscription services and repeat delivery inquiries. The Amazon effect is real, and the expectations they set are now expected across all brands. A lot of grocery stores now have online ordering, pickup, delivery, and repeat purchasing. Food & beverage brands must put these types of services in place in order to be successful.”

In your opinion, how will the food & beverage industry be affected post-pandemic?

“We’ll see a lot more investment in digital capabilities, in some cases that will include commerce, in other cases it will focus more on content. Many are recognizing the necessity of having these capabilities and are rushing to get this done. They’ll be thinking about how they’re going to market through commerce and what the customer journey will look like post-purchase. Do I have a content engine, can I have ongoing conversations with my customers through email and online experiences? How do I invest in my digital footprint so the next time this happens, I’m better prepared? These are the types of questions food & beverage brands will be asking themselves going forward.”

Launching a direct-to-consumer (D2C) site in a competitive market requires taking action quickly and choosing the right digital partner. If your brand is ready to “own the future” with a D2C channel, reach out to us today and get started. Blue Acorn iCi has helped a number of brands build and optimize their D2C strategies, including Le Creuset, Tibi, and Delish Essentials. 

Magento Commerce, part of Adobe Experience Cloud, is the leading commerce solution for B2B and B2C merchants and brands and was recently named a leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce. Magento Commerce is supported by a vast global network of partners, such as Blue Acorn iCi. Find more information at Magento.com

The Cook’s Nook is a culinary incubator to the Austin Texas-area artisans, mobile food vendors, CPG, food R&D, meal services, and caterers who are in the early stages of their culinary business. They offer business development and networking tools to make their members’ businesses successful. Learn more.

Shannon Abel
After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn iCi’s Media Marketing Specialist, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. She also produces and hosts Blue Acorn iCi's podcast, The Funnel. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.
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