For Food and Beverage brands, virtual shelf space is becoming as important as the physical kind. Online grocery sales will grow seven times faster than traditional retail by 2018, and one in four U.S. adults has ordered specialty food and beverage items online.
However, e-grocers provide more limited merchandising and advertising opportunities for brands than general e-commerce platforms. This is even true for e-tail giants Walmart Grocery and AmazonFresh, which have the potential to share their parents’ features, according to L2’s Insight Report: Beverages E-Tailers.
Among top e-grocers, AmazonFresh provides the most advanced user experience and merchandising options, which should come as no surprise given Amazon.com’s dominance in e-commerce. In addition to product ratings and reviews, each listing includes investment opportunities for brands such as multiple images and product features and descriptions.
However, the category navigation can be disadvantageous for certain subcategories – for example, soda is listed with tea and lemonade – and product listings can show up in multiple categories. To ensure discoverability, brands like VitaminWater have taken advantage of paid placements to feature products at the top of category results.
Parent sites do not always influence their e-grocer subsidiaries. Walmart Grocery has a far less sophisticated interface than Walmart.com, with limited navigation and advertising opportunities. Sorting is not specified, but is roughly alphabetical, with no option to sort by “best seller” as on Walmart.com or AmazonFresh. Consequently, brands cannot do much to boost their category listing visibility on the platform.
However, this basic format benefits brands with names that appear early in the alphabet. In the soda category, brands from Dr Pepper Snapple Group (e.g. 7UP, Canada Dry) and The Coca Cola Company occupy two-thirds of first-page listings, compared to less than 20% on Walmart.com. To remedy this situation, the unlucky brands starting with letters in the bottom half of the alphabet might consider working with e-grocers to drive platform improvements and optimize merchandising options.