Unilever Adapts to Fast-Moving Omnichannel Landscape

By Linda Winick


Time-starved consumers are looking for relief from traditional shopping in stores by using ecommerce for some CPG purchases. That puts pressure on manufacturers to match evolving consumer behaviors by pivoting effectively to omnichannel.

For example, Unilever is resourcing teams to adapt and grow in the fast-changing omnichannel landscape. The change also includes effective collaboration with trading partners, presenting an effective digital shelf, and marketing products that provide a convenient solution to everyday tasks.

“There’s so much change happening in this space that we really had to rethink our teams,” said Erin Dress, Walmart Omnichannel Team Lead for Unilever. “The talent that we are hiring has to have a certain capacity for change. Beyond the direct partnership team, we bring in all the cross-functional partners that will drive that relationship and provide the same loyal attention to omnichannel.”

In a presentation at the recent GroceryShop show in Las Vegas, Dress discussed some of the ways that Unilever is making the omnichannel pivot. Dress was introduced by Marc Hubbard, US Country Manager, Advantage USA, who said that trading partners need to work together in today’s highly complex world. “When we collaborate, we get better business results.”

Dress agreed, saying, “It’s all about partnerships. I wouldn’t be here without Walmart, and Walmart wouldn’t be here without brands like Unilever,” said Dress, who has been working with the retailer for about 2 years.

Walmart is the number one most desired shopping destination overall for back-to-school shopping, according to the speakers. More parents visit Walmart’s digital properties during the back-to-school season than Target, Kroger, JC Penney and Dollar General combined.
 
Dress said the omnichannel pivot of working with Walmart goes beyond the direct team to include supply chain, shopper marketing, category management and category advisory. Another key factor is merchandising on the digital shelf.

“Images and videos are becoming increasingly important,” she said. “Ratings and reviews are table stakes. We don’t have to talk about that anymore.”
 
Besides value, shoppers really want convenient products, said Dress, using two examples: “dry shampoo and dry spray for laundry. That’s what Unilever is doing for a consumer benefit.”
 
Day2 is “the world’s first dry-wash spray for clothes,” according Unilever. Designed for “already worn, but not dirty clothes," Day2 aims to leave garments “looking, feeling and smelling just-washed and pressed.” Also, Unilever’s Dove dry shampoo is designed to refresh hair between washes.

Dress explained that rapid changes in society is putting a lot of pressure on consumers. “How do you change your family patterns, how you get to work and how you shop? There’s lot of stress that comes with that. Consumers are time starved. Their most pressing resource is time,” she said, pointing out that 79% of people sleep less than 7 hours a night and the number of hours spent commuting is rising. “A lot of that is dead time away from your families.”

Consumers are becoming impatient because their time is so valuable, according to Dress. “There is a rising expectation of ‘I want it now and I want it my way.’’

Key statistics bear this out:

  • Online searches for same-day shipping doubled in two years 
  • 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if the site takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • By 2020, cashless/contactless digital transactions will increase by 11% globally and +30% in Asia. “The US is a little behind the rest of the world,” she pointed out.

Meanwhile, consumers are looking for faster, easier and better buying options such as automated checkouts, zero-touch consumption with newer options like voice, and frictionless shopping from via mobile anywhere.

The presentation included statistics that pointed out that a shopper’s journey isn’t digital or physical – it’s both:

  • 87% of shoppers start with a digital channel
  • 71% shop online to find the best price regardless of whether the purchase is in-store or online
  • 46% of shoppers say they prefer to buy in a physical location
  • 88% of shoppers want to return a purchase in-store or via a pre-paid shipping method.

DIGITAL SOLUTIONS
                                                                        Mid-October 2019
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