• Understanding Consumers

Understanding Current Buying Habits in the CPG Sector

Matt Kaplan
Content Strategist
9 min read
Posted on July 16, 2020

The consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, like all verticals, has been significantly impacted by the current reality of shelter in place in the U.S., but not all brands within the CPG sector have responded in the same way. Some have embraced mobile and apps, for example, while others are elected to lay low or partner with existing outlets.  

Among the various options available to CPG companies to meet consumer demand, which ones do consumers themselves want to see? How are Americans finding and buying these kinds of consumer products, and how are they choosing with CPG brands to use? 

To find out, we turned to InMobi Pulse, InMobi’s mobile marketing research solution. We polled 1,900 people from across the U.S. from June 11 to 16 to better understand how brand loyalties may be shifting and what consumer behavior in the consumer goods industry looks like today. 

Industry Trends Around Buying CPG Products Today 

In the survey, we asked Americans what was most important to them when buying packaged goods. For this effort, we specifically asked about groceries along with durable goods like personal care items and household care items. 

Price was the top selection, with over half (51%) saying it is the most important factor. It’s an especially key factor for Americans between 18 and 25 (60% of them said it was the most important factor), those between 26 and 35 (58%) and adults with children in the home (56%). This should probably come as no surprise to most fast moving consumer goods companies, as this has long been a key factor in consumer decision-making. 

We also wanted to see if online ordering and delivery options were popular, as many may be unwilling or unable to go into a store. However, only 16% said a delivery or pickup option was preferred, while just 13% said online ordering through a website or mobile app was important. In comparison, 41% said product availability was important while brand loyalty was key for 37% of Americans. 

But as might be expected, delivery and online ordering were more popular among certain segments of the population. In particular, women were more likely than men to say both online ordering and delivery/pickup were key to their purchasing decisions, while households with kids and consumers under the age of 46 were also more likely than others to prefer these options. 

We also asked about where these purchases were happening, and by and large it’s still happening in stores. In fact, 71% said they prefer to buy these kinds of consumer products in brick and mortar stores like supermarkets and convenience stores. Separately, 61% said in-store pickup was their preferred way of buying packaged goods. 

However, people between the ages of 18 and 25, along with households with kids, were more likely than their peers to say that they prefer to buy packaged goods through a store’s app, while those between 36 and 45 years old were more likely than others to say they prefer using a third-party app like Instacart for these kinds of purchases. And, younger consumers and parents were also more likely than other groups to prefer curbside/outside pickup and delivery. 

How to Use These Findings in CPG Marketing Strategies 

For brands in the CPG sector, there are a few key takeaways from this data. For one, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect all of us, certain key truths about the CPG industry in the U.S. remain intact. Price and brand loyalty are still key above all else. Shelf space is also crucially important as many CPG purchases continue to happen in person in stores. 

Still, despite the continued prevalence of many tried and true purchasing mechanisms and consumer behavior drivers, there are signs that key demographics are beginning to more fully embrace alternative purchasing and pickup options. Younger consumers, along with especially busy folks like parents, are, perhaps unsurprisingly, more likely than their peers to turn to and embrace digital channels like mobile apps while sheltering in place. 

In terms of CPG marketing today, there are a few ways in which these insights can be applied. For one, marketing messaging should continue to highlight low price points and discuss why the brand is especially ideal today. These are critical consideration points for all consumers today, and they will likely continue to be important in the months and years to come. 

Further, marketing messaging should highlight how an item can be best purchased for that particular consumer. While some shoppers will want to know how goods can be bought in person and where they’re available nearby, others will be more receptive to messaging around online purchasing and delivery channels.  

Regardless of the space a brand is in, customization and personalization are crucial today. Every consumer has their own unique set of preferences, buying methods, preferred way of hearing about your product, etc. If marketing does not speak to their current reality, then it will be tuned out. This message is being taken to heart in certain key emerging markets, but it should be followed both in the U.S. and worldwide. 

Benefits of In-App Advertising for CPG Companies 

In addition, just because someone is not interested in using an app to make a purchase does not mean that in-app advertising and marketing should be ruled out – far from it, in fact. Even while Americans are largely sheltering in place, mobile and apps remain as popular as ever.  

According to eMarketer, adults in U.S. spend more time using their mobile devices than they do watching television. And 90% of all time spent using smartphones is devoted to apps.  

On top of this, our own research has found that people are using apps more frequently, including spending more time playing mobile games and watching more streaming video. For CPG brands looking to reach specific audience segments at scale, apps remain an ideal channel

Charting the Evolution of Consumer Behavior 

Of course, it’s important to note how these preferences and trends may change over time. While some parts of the country were continuing to open up by the end of June, others were reinstituting shelter-in-place orders as COVID-19 cases started spiking again. As a result, it’s possible we would see very different results if we ran this same survey weeks later. 

As a result, CPG companies need to be flexible and nimble. With the situation continually evolving for Americans, brands in the CPG sector need to fully understand what’s happening on the ground and pivot as necessary. 

Did any of our data points surprise you at all? How have your marketing strategies and buying habits changed of late? We’d love to hear from you on social media! You can reach out to us on TwitterFacebook and/or LinkedIn

About the Author     

Matthew Kaplan has over a decade of digital marketing experience, working to support the content goals of the world’s biggest B2B and B2C brands. He is a passionate app user and evangelist, working to support diverse marketing campaigns across devices. 

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