FMCG suppliers should be looking more closely at the potential offered by ecommerce to inform their R&D and innovation plans.

That’s the message from category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne, which argues that there are numerous ways in which eCommerce can be leveraged in product innovation and to strengthen R&D pipelines.

Nick Kirby, Bridgethorne’s Shopper, eCommerce and Analytics Director, cites ratings and reviews left by shoppers on retailer websites as a valuable source of real consumer and shopper feedback. This can provide guidance as to whether existing products in a manufacturer’s portfolio, as well as new product launches, are truly meeting the needs and expectations of shoppers and consumers. Support this with analysis of conversations taking place in locations such as recipe forums to identify the challenges faced by home cooks, how food fits into their lifestyles and what food trends are on their radar, there is a rich source of information at any manufacturer’s disposal

“A key consequence of shoppers and consumers sharing more information and views about products and trends is that the lifecycles of some products could become shorter,” explains Kirby. “This will mean that food innovation pipelines will need to become faster and more agile to respond to quicker to an immediate shopper and consumer need.”

He adds that while eCommerce should be an important consideration in innovation, it cannot be done in isolation.

“There is no such thing as just an online shopper, or just a supermarket store shopper, so suppliers will need to think harder about how their products work across channels, whilst at the same time being able to offer tailored execution to specific retailers to suit their particular target customer groups.”

“For suppliers this could mean that such things as pack designs will need to work on the digital shelf as well as they do in a supermarket in order to drive efficiency and effectiveness and being more targeted with their product distribution based upon shopper missions in a given channel.”

The risk with eCommerce, Kirby continues, is that suppliers leap straight into creating bespoke online products, such as online-only large pack sizes because shoppers buying online have the propensity to buy in bulk.

“The reality is that this approach can add too much complexity into both the manufacturer’s and retailer’s supply chains, reducing efficiency and increasing costs,” he continues.

“Key to executing this successfully will be developing pipelines based on improved insight around the omnichannel shopper, working more collaboratively with key retailer partners earlier in the innovation process to get early buy-in to the final execution and coming up with creative online shopper marketing solutions to drive shopper engagement and sales online.”

Driven by insight, Bridgethorne offers expertise in multi-channel and pure eCommerce retailing. It delivers frameworks and implementation plans to ensure brands and ranges win in the eCommerce space. Bridgethorne works with suppliers on implementation, creating strategic channel plans and developing capability.