Brian Hoffstedder is the Director of Marketing & Insights at The Clorox Company. He’s an innovative marketer who takes a human-centric approach to building businesses. He’s also worked with other companies including Walmart, Target, Kroger, Sam’s Club & Whole Foods, so he has quite a bit of experience working with some of the nation’s leading retail companies.
Biggest Retail Trends
Alexa Ross: What are some of the most important trends you see in retail right now that will change the experience for consumers?
Brian Hoffstedder: I think it’s more important than ever to focus on the shoppers and their true behaviors. In doing so, I see 4 key shopper trends:
- Greater Convenience – Mobile Payments + Immediate Delivery put more power than ever in shoppers’ hands.
- Personalization – Making ideas and offerings relevant at the individual level, not the household level.
- Shopper “Tech” – Retailers experimenting with Virtual Assortment, Merch, Shelving & Pricing in Augmented Reality.
- Experience Focus – Unique and immersive experiences that capture shoppers’ attention.
Purchase and Product Innovation
“Purchase innovation is looking at how buying behavior is shifting and then designing innovative solutions for the most meaningful change vectors.”
AR: On your LinkedIn profile, you say “I believe the next wave of growth will come from purchase innovation, not product innovation.” Can you explain what you mean by this?
BH: First and foremost, I don’t think it’s an “either/or” type of thing. I think it is both. You need product innovation to make sure categories stay relevant, but I don’t believe the product innovation alone is going to be enough to drive sustained growth over time. Studying and learning about how people actually purchase goods and services is an undervalued pool of information. Purchase innovation is looking at how buying behavior is shifting and then designing innovative solutions for the most meaningful change vectors. It may or may not require product innovation to be successful. In a world where more and more purchase is shifting online, maybe a direct to consumer model is better for your business. This is where behavioral economics plays a key role in unlocking growth – where are the change vectors related to purchase and payment and what opportunities – both commercial & product – lie just beneath the surface?
AR: E-commerce has seen tremendous growth in recent years. How is this impacting traditional retail businesses? Do you see this as a threat or perhaps a challenge to incorporate digital strategies into your own business model?
BH: I think the biggest challenge retailers face is how quickly they can convert existing physical store space to space allocated for “Click & Collect.” The challenge that Clorox and companies like us face is helping the retailer community really understand what those shifts in space should look like, always in service of shoppers, to ensure that categories/aisles/departments continue to stay healthy, as retailers work to build out their E-commerce capabilities.
The Importance of Personalization
“The most valuable commodity any of us have is time – once it’s gone, you can never get it back.”
AR: Both online and offline marketing is becoming more personalized. How can retailers provide personalized experiences for customers to set them apart from the competition?
BH: The most valuable commodity any of us have is time – once it’s gone, you can never get it back. Retailers will do well to keep personalization efforts focused on helping people get more out of their day/week/month/etc. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to recommend product solutions based on some behavioral metric, can be a huge time saver for people and ultimately a huge trip & loyalty driver for retailers.
AR: How do you see analytics and big data impacting the success of retail businesses in the next few years? How can they make the best use of data to drive growth and improve customer service?
BH: Merchant organizations are much “skinnier” than they were even 3 years ago, meaning fewer merchants are asked to manage more categories simultaneously than ever before. This leads to an emerging need for more departmental and total store platforms -> way more emphasis on departments than individual categories. Winning shopper loyalty will require innovative and disruptive ideas and an iterative learning approach. Shopper Value comes at the intersection of Convenience and Personalization. Retailers who figure out how to anticipate the needs of shoppers without being invasive, and who can offer solutions for those needs on shoppers’ terms will be the ones who win out. This is where analytics and BIG Data plays an important role.
AR: Who are some of your heroes or biggest influences in the business world?
BH: I’ve always admired Jeff Bezos, Dave Dillon, Arthur Blank & Sam Walton for their 1) true sense of purpose 2) Intense focus on the customer 3) high operating discipline. Clorox has exceptional leaders that I am incredibly fortunate to work with every day – Benno Dorer – CEO, Matt Laszlo – CCO, Eric Reynolds – CMO just to name a few – who inspire bold thinking and action to shape not just Clorox future, but the future of CPG and retail.
“At Clorox, we believe corporate responsibility isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good business.”
AR: The Clorox Company places quite a bit of emphasis on corporate and environmental responsibility. Do you see this as a general trend for businesses in the future? How can businesses best show their commitment to greater responsibility?
BH: At Clorox, we believe corporate responsibility isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good business. We’ve shown our commitment to that by integrating corporate responsibility into our overall corporate strategy. We have public, environmental and social goals, and hold ourselves accountable to make progress. It’s a part of our focus on what we call Good Growth – growth that’s profitable, sustainable and responsible.
AR: Your company has a diverse portfolio of brands that appeal to different types of consumers. For example, you have Clorox, which most people think of when they hear the company name but you also have Burt’s Bees, Brita water filters and many other diverse brands. How do you balance segmentation for each brand and growing the main company brand?
BH: First and foremost, I think each brand has to be laser-focused on doing the right things to make everyday life better every day for consumers. That is the foundation. Each brand must be excellent in its approach to serving consumer needs and making life better. If each brand can do that, Clorox as a whole should be in a position to be successful.
AR: If you could have dinner with any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
BH: Moments of discovery can be so incredibly exciting. I think dinner with Sir Isaac Newton to discuss the moment he discovered gravity and the feelings and emotions that flowed from that moment would be fascinating. Just discussing that moment of discovery, arguably the most important physical discovery of all time, and learning about that would be so inspiring.