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With the first federal interest-rate hike recently enacted in nearly a decade, oil prices near historic lows and continued profit-margin pressures looming large, 2016 is primed to present another wild ride for food retailers and marketers.
To help make sense of some of the most important consumer and industry twists and turns poised to play out in the months ahead, I turned to Karen Fichuk, president, North America for Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen, for a glimpse of what’s swirling in her sagacious crystal ball.
“What’s really caught my eye of late is the convergence of content and commerce. Content providers are dabbling as commerce suppliers,” says Fichuk, pointing to Pinterest and Facebook, which are now explicitly selling to consumers. “Retailers are creating their own content as well” – as well they should, she affirms, noting as stellar examples Walgreens’ wellness newsletter, and online videos from The Kroger Co.’s super-productive Harris Teeter division that help folks better grasp topics like everyday cooking and product labels.
“In 2016, we’re going to see more and more of this line-blurring,” affirms Fichuk, “and there certainly is an opportunity for food retailers to extend the in-store experience online as well,” which begs a yin/yang question from me about what she foresees as the greatest yet-to-be-seized opportunities and potentially most taxing hurdles for retailers as the year unfolds.
“I think one of the biggest opportunities … is certainly around connected commerce,” she replies. “Other industries are significantly further ahead,” as a result of indigenous barriers to consumers’ adoption of online grocery shopping. But let there be no doubt, maintains Fichuk: “As Millennials enter new life stages and continue to become heads of households, connected commerce will take off in this space as well.”
Accordingly, the onus will be squarely on traditional retailers “to find new ways to adapt and own it.”