Interview Series: CPG Retail and eCommerce Trends

Sampler's retail expert , Trey Geiger, sits down to chat about what's trending in retail for CPG brands. Trey, Sampler's Director of Strategic Partnerships, sits down to discuss all things retail and e-commerce, trends, industry insights and media.

Read the full interview below:

How have you seen retailers evolve the buyer experience?

The way shoppers discover products and the way people shop has really changed a lot in the past couple of years. Obviously, COVID was a huge catalyst for change, but I think we were seeing trends happening even preceding COVID in terms of the impact of digital. Obviously, e-commerce specifically has grown a lot. There's been all these stats about how much COVID drove that spike in e-commerce growth, which seems to have permanence, but I think the bigger story really is just that the way people shop even in-store is increasingly impacted by digital. If you go into a brick and mortar grocery store, for example, you're probably already being influenced or you've already been influenced on what you want to buy or what you're looking at based on maybe something that you saw on social or something that you searched for. You're maybe using the retailer's app to build your list in advance, so there's just so many more opportunities to influence the shopper behavior. 10 years ago, it was really happening all within the store environment. Now, it's just a much more complex journey when you're deciding what to buy as a shopper.

How would you say retail media is evolving to encompass more than just the basics?

We're seeing retail media just become more sophisticated. I feel like when retail media started, and still for a lot of retailers who are just getting into their own retail media offering, the most basic, call it the Model T version of retail media, is literally just allowing manufacturers to influence search results. So if I search for snacks, I might see Oreo showing up on the top of that list because Mondelez paid to be there, and I think that's a very, very basic solution, and I think, frankly, it's not really a great experience for shoppers. I know when I look for products, I often will just ignore what I see as the sponsored results because I just want to see what's there organically, what people are reviewing, and so on and so forth.

So I think as retail media becomes more sophisticated, retailers are going to increasingly look for ways they can really engage shoppers and really add value to that shopper experience. People don't like to be marketed to, people don't trust advertising, so finding ways to get brands to engage shoppers in authentic ways that are not necessarily directly on a page, but are in different parts of the buying journey, I think that's definitely where things are going with retail media.

How would you say retailers are leveraging first-party data to improve our ROI of their retail media initiatives?

First-party data is really the gold mine. That's the value of working with retailers. You look at someone like Kroger, the data that they have on terms of their shoppers and what products and brands they're engaging with and the ability to predict what someone might buy in the future based on their previous transaction history is super powerful, but I think ultimately it's all about closed-loop attribution. The holy grail in the advertising world is to be able to show a direct ROI, understand what did this do in terms of impacting the behavior of my buyer, of the shopper, and so being able to serve a piece of media through a retailer or run some sort of a program through a retailer that has that direct data connectivity to understand what happens to that shopper after they were served an ad or engaged in a program, I think that is the ultimate driver of enabling manufacturers and advertisers to spend money intelligently and in ways that will actually show value versus just delivering I'll call them fluffy metrics around impressions or whatever that don't really mean anything. So yeah, I think first-party data is just the root of the value prop for retailers

How relevant are ratings and reviews for products which are often purchased offline?

I think this kind of goes back to what I said earlier about the path to purchase being digitally influenced. Even if a shopper is buying something in-store, they're pulling something off the shelf, they probably were even inadvertently influenced by what they saw online. I mean, you might not be explicitly looking for a rating and review on, I'll use Oreo again as an example, but you still might be, if you're searching for a product on your phone and you're looking for something to put in your kids' lunch as a treat, the ability for a product to show on the first page of Google search results, for example, or if I'm on a retailer app, the ability for a product to show up on the top of the list, is increasingly driven by rating and review activities. So I think ultimately there's a trend we're seeing where people are researching before they go in-store and figuring out what to buy, and obviously ratings and reviews are a very important driver for that behavior.

The other thing is ultimately shoppers don't trust brands. Seeing an ad, you could have an amazing piece of advertising, but people are less likely to trust what brands are saying, they really trust what other consumers are saying, and what better way to quantify that than from a rating and review.


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