Finding better ways to market and sell fresh produce online

Finding better ways to market and sell fresh produce online

Gill McShane
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Grocery e-tailer and price comparison website mySupermarket believes it can help UK retailers and their suppliers to optimise the online performance of the fruit and vegetable category and ultimately sell more. Produce Business UK speaks with managing director Kim Ludlow to tell you how

Having started out a decade ago as an online tool to provide shoppers with transparency of grocery retail pricing and availability, over the last five years mySupermarket has evolved to answer client needs on how to best position products online to improve product visibility, increase purchase behaviour and drive category sales.

“Now clients can use mySupermarket as an ‘online laboratory’ to do a number of different tests and learnings on how to present different products in different ways,” comments Ludlow, explaining that mySupermarket is able to understand ‘true shopper behaviour’ after developing the “biggest shopper panel” across Europe – some 200,000 active shoppers.

“Consumers don’t do bulk shops online; they typically buy what they would buy in store,” Ludlow continues. “So, it’s category representative of sales in store. But I think there’s a place on mySupermarket to do a bit more ‘test and learn’ in terms of how retailers can help online shoppers to add a few more items to their basket to grow that category.”

When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, Ludlow says one of the main frustrations for retailers and their suppliers – and one of the obstacles that stops shoppers from buying more produce online – is that shoppers like to go in store to see and feel the fruit or veg they are buying.

“The fruit and vegetable category holds significant value to shoppers, and they want to make sure they’re not getting old produce with a short shelf-life,” she points out. “Through mySupermarket that’s the type of reassurance we can offer. We can help suppliers and retailers of fruits and vegetables in how to present their products in the best light.”

How mySupermarket can help

mySupermarket works closely with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands and suppliers to help them to increase sales performance by fixing the basics, understanding their online shoppers, testing and optimising their marketing, influencing shoppers and re-messaging.

By operating as a ‘test and learn lab’, the company can provide services, such as true A/B testing and taxonomy testing, which goes beyond just assessing the type of images used to represent a product, and, instead, looks more broadly at how brands or products are presented as a whole.

The company has also recently launched an online audit service called mySupermarket Insights, which tracks the performance of products and categories across all of the UK major retailers by providing real-time visibility of the supply chain right through to availability, marketing and pricing. 

Insights - dashboard

Ludlow claims the company’s Insights tool is the best place for clients to start understanding how they can best position their products online. “We are doing a lot of work with suppliers – although currently not any fruit and vegetable suppliers – on how they can better represent their products; how they can grow their sales etc.,” she explains.

“It would be brilliant if we could work with a cooperative or a group of suppliers within the fruit and vegetable industry,” Ludlow continues. “We realise that not every supplier in the fruit and vegetable sector has the same budget. So, working collectively would be something that we could support.

“With our test and learn solution suppliers can then go to the retailers with concrete information. The retailers are already very receptive to mySupermarket too – before they make changes to their online shopping websites, we often do testing for them.”  

Better ways to present produce online

As a starting point for fresh produce suppliers and retailers, Ludlow says there are a number of areas within online retailing that could be improved or changed to help drive shopper purchasing decisions. Here are Ludlow’s top suggestions:

Product descriptions

“Through better [product listing] descriptions you could improve category performance online. Product descriptions can be hit and miss across the retailers, and what fruit and vegetable suppliers might want the retailers to put in the description could be limited by text and what they can and can’t say.

“As a category there’s a lot that can be done to improve this. It’s not being done too badly but it does need to change in terms of representing fruit and veg as well as the quality of the products that are being sold.”

Imaging

“We can look at the pack shot images from the perspective of whether they are the right images to use [to drive shopper purchases]. Of course, the fruit and vegetable category is a difficult one in this respect because if there aren’t any labels, then a banana is a banana, for example.

“But by using our technology, such as A/B testing, you could find out whether different images or messages on images would work better. For example, you could trial demonstrating via an image a ripen-at-home banana, rather than just a plain image of a banana. This could help the shopper to understand that he/she will receive green bananas, not brown ones.”

Classification

“If you look across the online retailers their products are all listed across our site in different departments and ‘aisles’. For instance, fruit and veg is presented largely as ‘packets’, whether that’s fruit, root veg or exotics, but they are all given different classifications.

“So, how can we represent fresh produce in a better light online? How can we replicate the shopper experience in store, rather than having to compartmentalise products online? I’m not saying every retailer should be uniform but there should be a quicker way for the shopper to be able to find what they want.

“Shopping online for ‘favourites’ is also very high. But that might mean shoppers are buying the same old fruit and veg every time. If you can allow them to have that browsing behaviour in a much easier fashion, it would benefit the entire category.”

Suggestion marketing

“An online shopper is more inclined to be suggestion led, i.e. for a family meal, a special tea time, or dinner with friends. There’s a trend towards people shopping online for specific occasions too, such as BBQs or parties. You could build areas within the site that are more informative for these shoppers. You can change their shopping behaviour into a lifestyle way of doing things.

“Another example of this is the work we do with change4life. They have a lot of integration within mySupermarket; e.g. we are embedding sugar swaps, represented by sugar cubes, for certain products. There is nothing to say we couldn’t apply that [methodology] to ‘five a day’ products – we could do that on behalf of the food and grocery industry.

“Rather than just accepting there are certain ways in which a shopper shops, there could be other solutions for which mySupermarket can work with retailers and their suppliers to drive healthy eating choices [and thereby fruit and vegetable sales].

“For example, my son recently came back from school with a sticker chart. He gets a sticker for every day he eats some fruit. That’s being driven by Tesco as a way to educate children to think more carefully about eating fruit and eating healthily.

“There is no reason why that type of approach couldn’t be introduced on an online shopping platform to inspire shoppers, or to create areas that parents can use, e.g. ideas for lunch boxes. It’s all about how creative you want to be, and the beauty of digital is there are no limitations!”

Cross-marketing

“mySupermarket can also help the fruit and vegetable industry to understand which categories of food people buy more often when they’re adding bananas, or peaches, or grapes to their basket. We have a better visibility of behaviour, which can help to know how shoppers could link to other products in a different category that have a high relevance in terms of over-indexing.”

Reviews

“New ways for retailers to sell products online are emerging too, such as by building reviews into your site, which some retailers are already doing. Positive reviews might encourage a shopper to spend a few more pounds – it does make a difference. People are happy to research to get more information on products, although this is seen less in fruit and vegetables.”

Quality service

“I personally shop with tesco.com and I receive fruit and vegetables in paper bags. It gives me the feeling of having just shopped in an old-fashioned grocery store. That to me makes me feel like I’m getting something that’s perhaps fresher than if it was delivered in a carrier bag.

“There’s emotional connection with what you buy, and in the fruit and veg category you’re buying something that’s premium quality and considered. Someone who has looked after your fruit and veg because they put it in a special bag and delivered it in a special way goes a long way to helping the category.

“Making sure the quality of service – certainly in fruit and vegetables – is represented not just online but also in the delivery process so it gets to shoppers in the right condition, needs a bit more work.” 

mySupermarket top offers

Getting started with mySupermarket

From an insight point of view, Ludlow claims there is “nothing” that mySupermarket can’t provide retailers and their suppliers at the end of the day. Depending on the client, she says it’s all about finding the right place to start working.

“Retailers and/or suppliers just need to give us a call so we can work through the scope of what you want to do,” she encourages. “Then we would run the tests before rolling out an initiative. And we could have whatever function you choose as exclusive to you or your working group.”

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