Report: Digitally ‘Connected Consumers’ Hold Major Buying Power

Digitally connected consumers hold more of the food and beverage industry’s buying power than ever before — literally.

According to a report compiled by food and beverage packaging leader Tetra Pak, more than half of all in-store purchases today are influenced by digital channels, many of which are being accessed via smartphones. Digital accounts for 65 percent of media time for the average global consumer, and 72 percent for the most active users.

Among smartphone users, nine out of 10 said they’ve used their phone in stores, including grocery, with eight out of 10 saying this use has influenced an eventual purchase. While some of these users are looking to search engines or directly on brands’ websites, many are looking to social media and key influencers for reviews and insights into what food and beverages to buy. For food and beverage companies specifically, this means by targeting one subset of hyper-focused consumers, they can potentially reach an exponentially greater audience in a more authentic way.

For a CPG brand looking to connect via social media, a one-way conversation of promotional posts is not enough for today’s consumers who want a relationship that goes both ways. About 95 percent of plugged-in consumers write reviews about brands and really want a way to share their opinions about products. And the most active “super leaders” (roughly seven percent of the online population) regularly create content that can influence both in-store and online purchases, the report finds.

Just under 80 percent of global super leaders think interacting with food and beverage brands on social media not only “significantly improves” their opinions of brands, but also greatly improves their likelihood of making a purchase from them. These users then share their findings to thousands of social media followers who, thanks to smart phones, tablets, watches and other devices in the like, are always plugged in and online.

A majority of interactions between U.S.-based food and beverage brands and these “super leaders,” or about 78 percent, are happening through Facebook. Across all platforms, of the time they spend online, super leaders are reading reviews and ratings to seek out new food and beverage products (62 percent), juice and beverage reviews (59 percent), and dairy alternatives (50 percent).

Tetra Pak suggests that food companies can use these findings to create strategies to effectively connect with brand influencers, whether by creating a story about the brand or by practicing consistent and authentic communication. Brands like protein ice cream maker Proyo and nut butter maker Wild Friends have previously announced efforts to ramp up digital marketing strategies by utilizing influencers to gain brand recognition among consumers. The feedback not only helps with distribution strategies, but also future product innovations because the brand is able to see how consumers are eating their food.

The digital-focused consumer is not only changing marketing efforts, but also expanding the world of personalized packaging. Custom digital printing is helping companies to reduce manufacturing lead time and eliminate startup costs, as well as provide a platform for QR codes. This scanning capability in-store via a smartphone allows brands to connect consumers to a digital platform where they can learn more about the company and its products. The report states.packaging technology incorporating augmented reality and virtual reality is evolving into a worldwide trend. Tetra Pak did note that the company is looking to capitalize on this growth by expanding its digital packaging offerings, but did not immediately return NOSH’s request for comment.