Unilever sees value in ecommerce

24 October 2011

LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG manufacturer, believes consumers buying its goods on the internet are both more loyal and more valuable to its brands.

Speaking at the IGD Online Grocery Retailing conference, Andy Houghton, Unilever's ecommerce director, estimated that people acquiring goods on the web are "up to 15% more brand loyal".

He also suggested that customers making purchases via the internet recorded a higher average rate of expenditure than their counterparts in bricks and mortar outlets, Just Drinks reported.

"In the context of the really deep promotional activity that's going on at the moment, brands act as a totem of value to the online shopper," he said. "We think they spend almost a couple of quid more on the equivalent shopping trip online versus in store."

While many people look to the web as a means of saving money, Houghton argued that the presence of well-known and trusted products was just as important as offering low prices.

"Shoppers are looking for brands. Brands act as a point of recognition. It's not just about price. In straitened times, shoppers are looking for value. This is not necessarily about promotions but about products that meet their needs on the first time at a fair price," he said.

More broadly, he asserted that brand owners have an opportunity to experiment with digital media that is simply not available for them through more traditional channels.

"A lot of rules for in-store marketing are written. For suppliers, there is a lot of room online for creativity and collaboration with retailers to try different things and work with new technology," said Houghton.

"We enjoyed that element of being slightly away from the traditional, process-driven, execution side of things."

For example, a tie-up between Flora Cuisine, Unilever's cooking margarine, and Tesco Real Food, a website run by the supermarket group, included video content and a trail offer for the product.

Looking ahead, Unilever is hoping that the way goods are presented by online retailers will improve. The opportunity to buy products from "almost anywhere" on the web is equally appealing.

"I see this as the future whereby all of our brand engagement starts to link up with retailers ... so that the shopper then puts our products into their basket wherever they engage with our brands," Houghton said.

"Irrespective of where you engage with our content, we want you to be able to buy something from it."

Data sourced from Just Drinks; additional content by Warc staff