Ke Ran is Shopper Insight Lead at Campbell Soup Company. She provides thought leadership to many brands within Campbell’s large portfolio such as Pepperidge Farms, C-Fresh, and Plum. She plans e-commerce strategy and designs strategies to optimize shoppers’ experience. She also has experience with other Fortune 500 companies including Duracell and Procter & Gamble.
The Importance of Studying Customer Behavior
“95% of consumer/shopper behavior towards products are done subconsciously”
Alexa Ross: You’ve worked for several large companies across multiple industries. Many of your jobs were related to studying customer behavior. What are some of the most important considerations businesses need to consider when researching customer behavior?
Ke Ran: This is a good question. Consumer behavior is very critical to the business as it is a more fair way to evaluate consumers’ reaction to the products/services. Since 95% of consumers/shopper behavior towards products are done subconsciously. When probed directly or fill in surveys, people tend to either overthink or make up answers to seem smart. However, it could totally be based on a different motivation, or pure habits of doing something. Observing consumer behavior will provide a more objective view of these.
The Differences Between Traditional and Digital Marketing
“Manufacturers need to define very clear pricing strategies to make sure it offers competitive pricing but also protects the bottom line.”
AR: E-commerce is playing a larger and larger role in the economy. What are some of the differences that you have to consider when planning e-commerce and online marketing strategies as compared to more traditional marketing such as in retail stores?
KR: The end goal is the same, i.e. provide consumers with a better, cheaper and easier solution to meet their top needs. However, eCom is differentiated with traditional channels in a few distinctive ways, First, assortment. eCom could almost accommodate infinitive numbers of products on its web, i.e. virtual shelf. It is a perfect channel to buy “long-tail” products. However, manufacturers need to provide sufficient information to aiding the online decision process. Second, pricing. Ecom pricing system is way more complicated and can change instantaneously. Manufacturers need to define very clear pricing strategies to make sure it offers competitive pricing but also protects the bottom line. Third, impulse purchase. Ecom is more a planned purchase process. 80% of consumers would shop online with clear destination products in mind. Manufacturers should find a way to reintroduce impulse purchase online. Last but not least, product experience. It is a key challenge especially for online grocery categories as consumers are used to the look-touch-feel experience while shopping offline. Manufacturers should provide solutions to overcome that barrier.
AR: Campbell is a global company that includes many familiar brands within its portfolio. People who buy Campbell’s Soup may not be the same customers who like Kettle Chips or Pepperidge Farm cookies, for example. Do you need to develop different strategies and approaches with customers of different brands to consider their particular preferences?
KR: We need to have category-specific consumer understanding first. We also look at the total center of store categories and develop holistic brands to leverage the company scale.
Web Design and UX
“Consumers are definitely expecting smooth web navigation experiences.”
AR: Part of your job involves web page design and navigation. Are customers getting more demanding when it comes to UX: things like page-loading speed, the appearance of landing pages, and ease of navigation? Do you find that these factors are important when it comes to improving results?
KR: Consumers are definitely expecting smooth web navigation experiences. However, they might blame their network instead of the platforms first. Of course, they will become unsatisfied when they face the loading issue repetitively for a given website. Loading page and ease of navigation will directly impact the shopping experiences and consumers will hold the web platform accountable for that.
AR: Your LinkedIn profile mentions real-time Lidl shopper tracking. Is this an app you use to track shopper behavior? Are apps and other technology making it easier to understand customers and anticipate their needs?
KR: The Lidl study was not done through an app. However, I have used many different applications to track consumers’ behaviors and feedback in store. It definitely makes research more real-time and cheaper.
AR: How can brands today build and maintain customer loyalty? What are some of your favorite techniques for getting customers to consistently shop with your brands?
KR: I am a strong believer of brand superiority, including functional and emotional benefits. These are always the most important factors to maintain high brand loyalty, especially for CPG brands.
Discovering Unobvious Insights
“You need to look for the reasons behind the scene.”
AR: You list one of your strengths as “discovering unobvious insights and turning them into big ideas.” How do you locate insights that may not be obvious to others?
KR: You need to look for the reasons behind the scene. For example, when working on batteries, consumers claimed that they are brand loyal. However, every time you went to a consumer’s house, and opened their draw or the back cap of their devices, you will find mixed brands of batteries. Consumers didn’t even know when and where they made that purchase. This unveils an insight that battery purchase is less involved than consumers thought it could be and in-store encounters could play a much bigger role. This led to a multi-location strategy at the store, i.e. to secure secondary locations besides the main battery shelf to increase brand awareness (or serve as a brand reminder) and closure.
“Omnichannel” or “New retail”, i.e. more integrated online-offline experience will be the future.”
AR: Do you have any predictions about how e-commerce and retail business will look 5 years from now? Which emerging technologies or trends is causing the biggest changes and disruption?
KR: Omnichannel or “New retail”, i.e. more integrated online-offline experience will be the future. China has been leading the development in this area driven by its strong and cheap “last one-mile” delivery system. Once the technology, e.g. drone delivery, helps solve this issue, it will take off much faster in the United States.
AR: If you could have dinner with anyone in history (it can be someone from any field or profession) and ask them anything you wanted, who would you choose and why?
KR: I would have dinner with Stephen Hawking. He believed that Artificial Intelligence would make humans obsolete so I would like to know his survival plan if that actually happened.