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IRX 2016 Kim Ludlow of mySupermarket on omnichannel merchandising

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Ahead of this year’s Internet Retailing Expo (IRX 2016) we’re running a series of previews focusing on event highlights, from the conferences to interviews with key retail speakers. Today we speak to Kim Ludlow, managing director, UK, of mySupermarket.

Internet Retailing: What do you know about how customers shop through mySupermarket that might be useful in understanding how to merchandise products across channels.

Kim Ludlow, managing director, UK, mySupermarket: We know shoppers typically shop online through our site or use it to make choices about what they want to buy or where they are going to buy it. Typically they’re shopping five retailers across the week. That might sound like a lot, but if you think, I ran out of sugar this morning so I ran down to my local store to pick it up. I’ll find we don’t have enough vegetables later this week at some point, so I’ll have to pick up some more veg. Then for the big shop I’ll make a decision about where to shop using our site.

Through our research, we know that half of the shoppers who are using our site are buying within two days. Within that, 67% of people who research nappies are buying within two days. Our research shows that about 95% of shoppers coming through to our site are researching nappies, but only a small percentage are buying online because the baby needs nappies now so they’ll go and shop in store. Then, 38% of shoppers who are researching frozen peas buy frozen peas within two days. They’re not just buying peas, but building a small basket to make the decision about where to go and buy the ingredients for meals they are going to make this week.

IR: Given that behaviour, how do you then merchandise products online, and across channels?

KL: Our images are best in class. They’re large and very B2C. Then, we were the first in our industry to have predictive search terms, so someone can spell bananas or potatoes badly and we’ll help find them. It’s about how the shopper is trying to find a product.

One thing we do that’s different is that rather than putting the shopper’s favourite items all on one big shelf, we have the most relevant products – those the shopper bought previously – at the top of every shelf that they visit, while giving them the opportunity to view other products. That makes it very relevant and personalised.

When you click on a particular pack shot on a mySupermarket product page, it will show you the price of that product against other retailers, including high street retailers such as Boots and Superdrug. It’s another way we can help shoppers view the value of that product without having to go to each individual retailer and look for each individual product. It’s simple things like that that make it easier. That layer of information isn’t available anywhere else.

We launched a shopping app two years ago. It’s useful because it shows you the prices when you’re in store. We’ve been trained now as consumers, we know that when you go down the dairy aisle there will always be a price promotion – so we might as well scan one product rather than trying to work out with a calculator what’s the best value product.

Because it’s got that layer of data, we can help the shopper view the products that have cross savings in store. But if I’m a mum at home and I’m down to the last three nappies, I can scan the pack and it will show me where I can go and buy that product through the app. There’s a cross over of about 20% of shoppers who use our website and the app. Even though there is a very similar service, the scanning service is unique. Shoppers can use it to build a shopping list during the week and it will show where to get the best products. That’s how I think we do a much better job in terms of showcasing the brands.

From the brand’s point of view they get to test our site to test the different images, and the information on a pack. Birds Eye have lots of delicious ready meals but you wouldn’t necessarily see them or view them as a delicious ready meal when they’re in a box in a freezer, or on the shelf or a website. We can help them showcase the meal on a plate.

The learnings they get from us, brands then apply to the retailer’s site. We test pack designs on shoppers and in real time and get really interesting insights. In some cases it may not make an iota of difference, in a lot of cases it makes a massive difference. Even things like product descriptions, there are helpful suggestions that make a difference to whether shoppers buy it or not.

On a consumer level, the challenge with shoppers is an educational one. We find shoppers come to us, check the prices in their basket and think I’ve been shopping with Tesco, you’ve told me it’s the cheapest, so I’ll now continue shopping there. From an education point of view it’s about informing the shopper that prices change so regularly and if you want to keep getting the best prices you have to keep checking.

IR: What single piece of advice would you have for retailers looking to improve how they do merchandising?

KL: I think it’s understanding where the digital world is going and how important it is to their business. We’ve seen recently a couple of retailers are bringing digital into the mix so that it’s no longer separate but a part of the business. I think that’s good, providing the retailer and everyone in the business understands that digital has to be taken as a growing area within the main business.

IR: Apart from your own presentation, what are you most looking forward to at IRX 2016?

KL: I’d be interested to hear from other categories, from fashion to travel, about what they are seeing. In some cases they’re a little bit more advanced, with learnings that can help supermarkets learn from other categories as well as innovating.

Kim Ludlow is speaking in the Digital Merchandising conference on April 28 at IRX 2016. Her presentation, Omnichannel merchandising for better customer experiences, is at 11.10am.

Find out more about IRX 2016 here. Register to visit the show for free here.

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