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12/14/2021

Q&A: FitForCommerce on how well retailers are touting private brands online

Kathy Kimple talks with Store Brands ahead of her keynote that will include mystery shopped data and insights on store brands and e-commerce.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Leveraging home pages to drive awareness of private brand products, using filter tools, producing vibrant imagery — just how well are retailers doing these types of tactics online to promote private brands?

Kathy Kimple, chief retail officer at FitForCommerce, a digital consultancy that played a key role in FMI - The Food Industry Association’s recent study on private brands and e-commerce, has some of these answers. Kimple will present alongside Doug Baker, VP, industry relations at FMI, at the Store Brands Industry Forum Jan. 19.

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Kathy Kimple

Kimple will share data that shows where retailers are falling behind on promoting private brands online and also highlight key strategies for retailers to take advantage of when touting private brands online. FitForCommerce mystery shopped retailer sites to gauge the effectiveness of finding private brands online.

Store Brands spoke with Kimple ahead of her keynote with Baker at the Store Brands Industry Forum on Nonfood Innovation. Registration is open and free for retailers.

Store Brands: Tell us about FitForCommerce and your role at the company. 
Kathy Kimple: FitForCommerce is a specialty digital consultancy that helps e-commerce, omnichannel and B2B businesses make smarter investment decisions on strategy, technology, marketing, merchandising, operations, financials, organizational design and more. Our consultants are former retail or brand practitioners that leverage their experience to provide strategic and hands-on guidance. We have done work for several food retailers on a wide range of projects from user experience optimization to loyalty programs and same-day delivery strategies. 

In my role as the chief retail officer, I manage our retail consulting practice and work on projects that span everything from digital strategy and selection projects to organization design and operations. 

SB: How did FitForCommerce work with FMI on the Power of Brands study? 
KK: In 2019, FitForCommerce partnered with FMI for the Grocery Omnichannel Index, the industry’s first benchmarking study designed to examine how food retailers meet expectations for seamless and convenient grocery shopping experiences. The Power of Brands study was the perfect follow-up to the Grocery Omnichannel Index.

For the Power of Brands study, FitForCommerce mystery shopped 25 food retailer e-commerce sites to provide insights on how the industry is currently showcasing private brands online and to recommend strategies for improvement. The study uncovers many areas of how food retailers can elevate private brands in e-commerce, highlighting opportunities for improvement across the digital experience — on the home page, navigation menus, category pages, recipes and digital circulars, and more.

SB: What was one thing that surprised you in the work you did about retailers and promoting private brands online?
I was surprised by the amount of opportunity for retailers to increase the visibility of private brands on their sites. For example, few include a dedicated space on the homepage to feature private brands. We also found that many do not optimize search and navigation to highlight and make it easier for shoppers to discover private brands. 

SB: In your opinion, where do retailers need to improve most when it comes to private label and e-commerce?
KK: Retailers need to make sure that they include, and prioritize, private brands in their overall e-commerce strategy. It has to start with clear communication from senior leaders that private brands must be aligned with digital and store efforts. Retailers should dedicate budget and resources to improve private brand positioning across marketing, merchandising, user experience and more.

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Kimple and Baker are set to kickoff the Store Brands Industry Forum on Nonfood Innovation, which will be followed by four panels on categories seeing growth amid pandemic conditions. The panels will touch on e-commerce within these categories as well.

Panels will include leaders within these respective categories at prominent retailers and more. The four panels being covered are: 

  • Pet Products — Pet adoption jumped over the pandemic, bringing more shoppers to the table. How are retailers getting own brands out front? The category is also seeing innovation such as Petco’s industry first boutique.
  • Pandemic Products — The forum will have a session sharing insights around pandemic products, such as paper products, hand sanitizer, masks and heavy duty cleaning products.
  • Personal Care and Wellness — Consumers are more attuned to how they’re taking care of their bodies, in light of the pandemic, and there are innovative products to do it.
  • House and Home — Again, consumers have been spending more time at home, finding a reason to spruce up the place and keep it sanitized.

For more on the forum on nonfoods, visit here as well as the virtual forums being planned throughout 2022.