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How Campbell Soup Company leverages retail media to influence shoppers and drive performance

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Omnichannel shopping is here to stay. Seamless shoppability—curating the path to purchase from discovery to conversion—across online and in-store is key to meet the needs of shoppers.  

In their session at the Brand Innovators Evolution of Retail & Commerce Summit, Kroger Precision Marketing’s Mark Hils talked with Campbell Soup Company’s Michelle Morale about the recent evolution of shopper behavior. In her role as VP of digital commerce, omni shopper marketing, and sales transformation for Campbell’s Meals & Beverages Division, Morale is navigating the division’s approach to media and retail media networks to drive performance outcomes. Here are a few highlights of the conversation.

Forget shopper journeys—it’s more like a “maze of shopping sprints”

The fast, massive shift to ecommerce and digital shopping has made the traditional shopper journey obsolete.

“There is no journey,” Morale said. “I equate it to more of a sprint because the time between inspiration and purchase is almost immediate. And there's really no starting point. What used to start as an inspirational moment is now a purchase moment. And what used to be a shopping moment, can now be inspirational as people research recipes while shopping.”

Media planning for omnichannel shoppers

Media planning at Campbell is always evolving to meet the consumer wherever they are, Morale said. “Right now, we know that most people shop both in store and online—they do both, it's not disparate. And even if they're shopping in store, they're being influenced digitally and online.”

She pointed to more Campbell’s programs going digital, including retailer programs.

“It's always been critical to create a seamless shopping experience. Whether someone is physically walking down an aisle or shopping with their hands on a computer keyboard, what you serve them has to look and feel familiar and consistent to get the most value out of it.”

What retail media can unlock for brands

Retail media is a hot topic at Campbell. “Our [perspective] is that retail media can be a unique opportunity to reach consumers while meeting your business objectives more effectively than we could have in the past,” Morale said.

The company takes a cross-functional approach to retail media because of the multiple objectives in play, whether it’s targeting new consumers for an innovation or going after a retailer-specific goal around a key season.

“Because retail media can meet those various needs, you have to bring the right people together. We have our integrated marketing team, ecommerce team, customer teams, shopper agencies, and media agencies all in the room, making sure we have a holistic approach to that planning process,” she said.

Driving media performance and prioritizing success metrics

Once assembled, this cross-functional team starts by setting up clear objectives for the retail media campaign.

“It might seem basic, but what I've found is because the lines have blurred, those objectives aren't always clear,” Morale said. “If you're running a search campaign, and you're looking at a ROAS, what are you actually trying to measure at the end of the day?” Clarify the objective, then make sure your eye is always on that prize.

The Campbell’s team judges media performance based on tangible outcomes, such as incremental sales growth, share of digital shelf, or ecommerce share. “Our leaders aren’t concerned with ROAS alone —they’re focused on ROI,” she said. “Judging media against those end business objectives is how we're trying to drive better performance.”

The future of media investments and planning

As ecommerce continues trending upward, brands will have to keep pace with how they invest their advertising dollars.

“For categories like ours, I see media investment flowing closer to the point of purchase and closer to the point of inspiration, which in our categories is the retailer—things like retailer media, retailer search, and digital display,” Morale said.

As for what the future holds for media planning, “that's one that keeps me up at night,” she said. When Morale first started her new role at Campbell last summer, “my mind was blown at just the sheer volume of transactions, the level of customization and personalization, every retailer and their various algorithms, and their different content requirements.” CPGs have so many ways to influence shoppers that it’s impossible to have enough people or hands on keyboards to manage it at all. Instead, media planning in the near future will have to leverage more machine learning and automation to be successful.

What it takes to win ecommerce

Looking ahead, ecommerce will no longer exist as a separate channel, Morale said. Everything's going to be shoppable—always, anywhere. That means more fragmentation, more complexity, more blurring of lines, and it's going to happen sooner than we think.

“What it takes to win is an extremely agile organization, with teams of people who can work in that agile way. You also need to have a willingness to live in the gray area with imperfect information and still make decisions. Then you invest in the skills and capabilities it takes to win in the space, because they are different. And you have to get buy-in from the top to do that.”

This conversation was originally livecast on March 3, 2022, as part of the Brand Innovators Evolution of Retail & Commerce Summit. Highlights are published here with permission from Brand Innovators. 

Watch the full conversation.

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