Kimberly-Clark Solves the Mystery
Of Click-and-Collecting its Products
By Dale Buss
Kimberly-Clark was keeping up with other CPG companies in accommodating online purchases that more American shoppers are picking up at curbside of major retailers. But the Irving, Texas-based paper-products giant wasn’t getting the kind of sales results it was hoping for. Something was getting in the way of selling tampons and Kleenex to click-and-collect shoppers that wasn’t similarly inhibiting companies selling foods and beverages.
So the company decided to investigate and experiment and found that a major retailer’s web site was putting some unintended obstacles in its path, and that consumers also were erecting their own psychological barriers purchasing Depends adult-incontinence products, Kotex feminine-care products, and other Kimberly-Clark brands via the click-and-collect method.
A shopper-marketing campaign that Kimberly-Clark launched in response in the second half of 2019 found the company’s brands getting a double-digit sales lift – while sales, marketing and merchandising executives learned some valuable lessons about how to proceed in a future that will be increasingly dependent on e-commerce for all CPG companies.
“There are still areas where we can drive awareness and where we’ll continue to work with the retailer to drive click-and-collect, because we know this is a key strategy, and it’s a key area where we want to partner,” Laura Plaukovich, senior manager of shopper insights for Kimberly-Clark, told CPGmatters. “We’ve been excited by what we’ve accomplished so far and we feel there is much more opportunity to capitalize and partner on.”
Kimberly-Clark’s plunge into its click-and-collect research stemmed from the company’s deepening research over the last couple of years into how shoppers reckon with all the outlets in their new omnichannel world.
“The path to purchase is infinitely more complicated today than it was in the 1950s or 1960s,” Plaukovich said. “We have been really trying to understand that omnichannel path to purchase and the tradeoffs that shoppers make. Shoppers don’t just shop e-commerce or in the store. And retailers have recognized that it’s not just either-or.”
When the company noticed it was getting disappointing conversion rates for its adult-incontinence and feminine-care categories, Kimberly-Clark sought help from Reach3, a Chicago-based marketing-research firm. And right away, some conventional wisdom came up for debate.
“Some categories you’d think would be tailor-made” for click-and-collect, Jon Dore, founding partner and senior vice president of Reach3, told CPGmatters. “If you’re buying feminine care or adult incontinence, you don’t have to be seen in the aisle with those products or have some teenage guy checking out your purchases. So, it was confusing to Kimberly-Clark that these categories weren’t actually the leading edge in the click-and-collect channel.”
Instead, Reach3 and Kimberly-Clark discovered, those categories were trailing conversion rates for most food and beverage categories. Reach3 employed some innovative research methodology to get to the bottom of what shopper attitudes and behaviors were feeding this outcome. Methods included conducting surveys on mobile phones, using videos and other smartphone features, and even setting up a shared screen with survey subjects while they were shopping those categories online.
“We talked to a mix of folks, some of whom were only shopping the [chain’s] bricks-and-mortar stores and weren’t even using online grocery pickup, and some who were using it,” Dore said. Among the valuable information was answers to questions about what reservations and concerns shoppers had about using the click-and-collect method, and what factors might be inhibiting those who did shop via click-and-collect.
Kimberly-Clark and Reach3 learned some major invaluable things that ultimately helped turn around click-and-collect for these categories.
First, many shoppers misperceived click-and-collect as being only for foods and beverages and didn’t think about it as a method for purchasing non-perishable products. “That was a key finding that was surprising to us,” Dore said.
Second, a significant number of shoppers turned the issue of privacy perceptions on its head when it came to click-and-collect. As Plaukovich put it, “Obviously these are very sensitive categories where people don’t enjoy shopping at times —and don’t always want to talk about it.”
While some buyers of feminine-care and adult-incontinence products were wary of buying these things in stores, many also didn’t like the idea of “someone dropping off a bag in your car after picking these items for you,” Dore said. After all, the curbside-delivery job is “a perfect job for a high-school student” – exactly the demographic whose knowledge of such purchases would be most discomfiting to these consumers.
And, third, there was the “substitutability” issue. One of the wrinkles still to be worked out in click-and-collect is what happens when a customer orders an item online and the retailer’s web site says it’s in stock at the store – but, in reality, it’s out of stock there. Early rules in this outlet give product pickers in the store some latitude to select different brands of the same product or otherwise use the discretion to pick a similar item. Then, when they drop off the shopper’s products at curbside, the picker reads a list of items for which substitutes were selected, and the shopper decides whether to accept them.
“Some people have an immense fear that tampons, for example, would be a substitutable item,” Dore explained. “So, someone picking the products would be making a very personal decision for that shopper. And then you’d have to have a conversation with someone about a personal-care item when you’d rather just pick up your bag and leave.”
Yet it turned out that the biggest of these challenges actually lay more in the electronic obstacles to click-and-collect purchases of tampons and adult diapers than in psychological barriers. Significantly, on this retailer’s web site and in other communications, the marketing of click-and-collect was very food-focused. “People were telling us that they just never thought about” non-food purchases via that channel, Plaukovich explained. “They just picked up that stuff when they were in the store and never thought about using [click-and-collect] for non-food items.”
On the retailer’s e-commerce site, photos only of food products, such as a milk carton and an apple, were leading shoppers into the click-and-collect function. Under the specials and deals tab, similarly, all of the promotions were for food and beverage products. “There was no way, from seeing the main pages, that you’d realize there was more available than foods and beverages,” Dore said.
At the same time, Plaukovich explained, on the site, “feminine products such as menstrual needs weren’t located where shoppers expected them to be located. They were finding these products under ‘OTC health and wellness,’ while they were expecting them to be under personal care.”
As a result of all this research and such findings, Kimberly-Clark worked with the retailer to make usability changes on the e-commerce site, including calling out “feminine care” under the “personal care” designation.
Also, Kimberly-Clark launched the big shopper-marketing campaign. “We really looked to drive awareness of the adult-incontinence category, and we got a double-digit sales lift,” Plaukovich said. The campaign included banner ads on the retailer’s web site and elsewhere for both Poise and Depend products, highlighting that they were available via click-and-collect and including a specific button that shoppers could select to add these items to their click-and-collect order.
It turned out that “the whole thing about shoppers not wanting someone else to ‘pick’ their order wasn’t as big a deal as we’d thought,” Plaukovich said.
In the wake of the research and Kimberly-Clark’s response, both the company “benefits, and the category benefits,” Dore said. “This helps build retailer relationships. We’re bringing insights that benefit a brand, but also that benefit everyone.”