Kellogg’s ecommerce director on why his role soon won’t be needed

Kellogg’s has spent the past eight years building out an ecommerce function as it looks to capture a significant part of the fast-growing sector and be ready for the advent of ‘ecommerce convenience’.

Kellogg’s is increasing its focus on driving ecommerce sales, particularly in the snacking and convenience space, but its ecommerce director believes the need for people purely focused on driving digital sales will soon be redundant as it becomes part of a general marketer’s role.

Speaking to Marketing Week Kellogg’s global ecommerce customer development director, Richard Gibbons, says the company has spent the past eight years dedicating resource to driving online sales. That has driven strong sales growth, with Kellogg’s CEO recently claiming ecommerce sales are growing by some 70% in the US.

Gibbons has been part of that journey almost since the start, joining Kellogg’s as an online analyst in 2010 before rising up the ranks to take on his current role. But while he still sees ecommerce as relatively “new”, he expects that in the future there won’t a need for a seperate ecommerce function.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us. As shoppers migrate to ecommerce channels we want to make sure we are represented and continue being part of their shop,” he explains.

“Over time [ecommerce] will be integrated and I won’t be needed. At the moment ecommerce is new so you need expertise to help the rest of the business understand, but once it’s part of the bigger business it will be part of the marketer’s role, as digital is.”

READ MORE: Coca-Cola – Ecommerce should not be seen as a channel

Kellogg’s isn’t alone in its focus on ecommerce, other brands such as Coca-Cola and Unilever are also focusing on driving online sales as consumers increasingly shop online. According to figures from Centre for Retail Research, in 2016 ecommerce was the fastest growing retail market in Europe with online sales in Western Europe and Poland up 15.6% year on year to €232.60bn in 2016.

Yet, while online penetration was 22% in the non-food sector in March 2018, according to the British Retail Consortium, this figure is only around 7% for food.

As part of Kellogg’s ecommerce strategy, Gibbons and his team work across the business to hone communications. He says: “It’s important we work with everyone but I work very closely with our marketers to make sure we have the right brand message for our ecommerce base so that shoppers are able to navigate the ecommerce platforms and arrive at our brands easily.”

Gibbons believes that online, brands need to play a more educational role. “The principles are the same; it’s about executing our brand priorities and educating the customer on how to consume our products.

“But in store it’s all about display whereas in ecommerce its more about media execution.”

The opportunity of ‘ecommerce convenience’

Gibbons believes that the convenience sector is ripe for digital disruption. “[That is] true convenience with a shopper. Not the version we see now in the market, which is like Amazon Prime Now, £40 minimum basket, delivered in one to two hours. That’s not ecommerce convenience. Ecommerce convenience is small baskets within 30 minutes, paying a £1 or £2 delivery fee,” he said, speaking at the Millennial 20/20 conference.

He cites the example of a US business called GoPuff, which aims to replace convenience stores by offering to deliver hundreds of products including ice cream for just $1.95 (or free if shoppers spend $50), and says he is surprised the model hasn’t been launched in the UK yet.

“I’m waiting for the model to appear in the UK. I’m surprised it’s not here already, given some of the major retailers have such a vast store presence and they’ve not leveraged that footprint to enable true ecommerce convenience,” he explains.

“It’s left the backdoor open for a retailer like The Co-op; they could be launching into the market with something quite interesting. For me, that’s a huge trend that’s going to really shake things up in the ecommerce landscape.”

Good relationships with retailers becomes even more crucial online as companies are desperate to access consumer’s data.  This relationship is something Gibbons works closely on to ensure retailers “let us learn with them and they can take us on that journey”.

Voice technology is constantly being heralded as the future of marketing and Gibbons agrees that it provides an exciting opportunity in terms of data collection.

He says: “If we think about voice, at the moment it’s unknown, we don’t know what data can be collected or even what’s captured. Even though it’s new, it’s crucial we keep on top of this kind of new technology as it develops.”

Gibbons says he could see ecommerce only products in the future. He concludes: “We are learning about the space all the time and we’re happy to try new things, fail fast, iterate and go again.”

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