Back to Basics—Digitally

Astound’s Quick Start Commerce CG takes CPG into the ecommerce age.

Right now, it’s all about the basics: the necessities that make life possible and the familiar goods that make it pleasurable. But COVID-19 has upended the way we purchase these essential products.  

Consumer packaged goods (CPG)—including brand foods, beverages, clothes, household products, and makeup—typically are purveyed through physical stores and purchased on a regular or impulse basis. But with many storefronts still limited in just how open they can be given current health concerns and related regulations, retailers must leverage D2C opportunities by training consumers to shop in new ways. 

The current bottleneck must be viewed as more than a thorny short-term problem, however. It’s a harbinger, a signal that the global marketplace is moving massively toward ecommerce—a shift that is impacting CPG as much as any other retail sector. Some major brands and producers already are getting the message. Example: PepsiCo has launched two new websites—PantryShop.com and Snacks.com—to sell product directly to consumers jonesing for their beloved Doritos, Cheetos, and Pepsis. Gibu Thomas, a senior vice president and the head of ecommerce for PepsiCo, acknowledges that these D2C websites mark an abrupt shift for the gigantic company, but notes they’re in direct response to customer demand. Thomas also observes the sites are a necessary test bed for PepsiCo, a proving ground for the ecommerce technologies and strategies that have been accelerated exponentially by COVID-19.

Nor is PepsiCo an outlier. Other CPG behemoths are pivoting sharply to D2C. Last year, Nestle launched a website for KitKat bars that lets consumers buy their favorite chocolates directly from the manufacturer. And Heinz has created Heinz to Home, a website that offers customers bundles of canned foods, sauces, and baby products for home delivery.

These companies have sensed a CPG ecommerce wave and are committed to catching it. The data to date indicates it should be an exhilarating ride. According to the research and polling firm Nielsen and Rakuten, year-over-year CPG sales jumped by 56 percent in April. Food was the biggest gainer, surging 69.5 percent, followed by a 57.5 percent gain in household care products. Health and beauty goods grew by 47.7 percent, baby care by 27.2 percent, and pet care by 22.3 percent.

That momentum was maintained—albeit at a somewhat reduced pace—through May, with total online CPG sales growing by 27.2 percent for the one-week period ending May 9 compared to the same week in 2019.  Food online sales for this one-week period leaped by 57 percent over the same week for the previous year; household care items climbed by 25.1 percent; baby care products by 21.8 percent, pet care goods by 25.5 percent, and health and beauty products by 4.4 percent. 

The CPG message, in short: develop sophisticated ecommerce tools now, both for the immediate and difficult present and the post-pandemic long term. Industry giants such as PepsiCo, Nestle, and Heinz have seen the light and are building out the necessary infrastructure. Many other brands and retailers, however, are behind the curve—or marooned so far from the curve it’s not even visible. With the aim of addressing this need, Astound Commerce has developed Quick Start Commerce CG, a D2C solution for CPG producers that will get them out of the gate like Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

“Quick Start reflects our status as a Salesforce Platinum Partner, “ says Vanessa Cartwright, chief client success officer at Astound. “From implementation and configuration of Salesforce Commerce Cloud to launch support, it provides a modern, custom-built Salesforce Commerce Cloud framework for CG brands and a full Salesforce Commerce Cloud feature set including wish lists, product bundling, search suggestions, product sets, Einstein/AI, content scheduling, and 100-plus out-of-the-box promotions.  Quick Start is both an immediate accelerant for D2C sales and a powerful platform for a long-term D2C strategy for the post-COVID world.”

Astound dedicated the full talents of its 200 certified architects and engineers to develop Quick Start, creating a fast launch platform that enables bespoke solutions for brand styling, content, merchandising, search, QA testing, go-live activation, and promotions. Payment and shipping configurations likewise are seamless.

“Further, our expertise with Salesforce Order Management ensures complete and precise oversight of payment capture and refunds, visual order workflows, and B2B commerce,” says Danny Deutz, practice lead for Astound Commerce UK. 

Astound also backs Quick Start with comprehensive service and support. Astound staffers are available to train customer commerce teams and create marketing campaign content. Product and catalog updates are conducted on an ongoing basis, while site search, AI product sorting, and SEO/analytics are optimized. Astound also provides 24/7 monitoring with L1 and L2 support.

“Quick Start brings power and reliability to D2C essential goods ecommerce,” says Terry Hunter, managing director of Astound Commerce UK. “But as its name implies, it’s much more than that. It’s ready to go now.” Even companies lacking any significant ecommerce presence can launch their digital store in as little as two weeks with Quick Start, Hunter notes. And that kind of speed is absolutely critical at this particular moment in retail history. “The retail world will be a very different place after the pandemic,” Hunter continues, “a place where ecommerce unequivocally predominates. How your company fares then depends on whether it survives now.”

Interested in our Quick Start Commerce CG solutions? Schedule a consultation today

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Glen Martin

Glen Martin is a a frequent Astound Insights contributor whose other credits include Forbes, Wired, Outside, and Men's Journal.

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