Driscoll's Frances Dillard Points to Brand Differentiation in Omnichannel Uprise
SALINAS, CA - The time to have a recognized brand with trusted quality is now. This is the main takeaway Frances Dillard, Vice President of Brand and Product Marketing for Driscoll’s, leaves me with as we dive into the complexity omnichannel purchasing has posed since the playing field of how consumers buy has leveled more than ever before.
“Understanding the consumer’s path-to-purchase and overlaying your brand differentiation is a very exciting opportunity for today’s marketer,” Fran smiles. “I believe Driscoll’s was one of the first produce brands to quickly pivot to further invest in emerging and existing online programs when COVID-19 hit. We piloted programs with Instacart, Shipt, and a mobile loyalty platform called Ibotta while further investing in our existing online programs. Our strongest sales continue in the traditional brick-and-mortar, but the combo of click-and-collect, direct, or third-party delivery is here to stay.”
Fran hooks me with Driscoll’s approach to both retailers and third-parties in purchase and delivery. The produce department is a star of the brick-and-mortar structure, a model we could and should see online. But only through conversations and partnership can this be realized.
“It became so critical to have a consistent brand promise in produce. Once you do, people are willing to trust ordering your fresh product from Instacart and other online partners. They've had a good experience and they're going to go look for your name,” Fran explains to me. “The good news for Driscoll’s partners is we believe we have a winning combo that is giving us a competitive edge in this space. We have a trusted brand consumers seek out and are willing to pay a premium for, digital-savvy marketers who are fearless in adopting new technology, and the ability to partner with our strongest retailers for the approach that works best for their shoppers.”
COVID-19 didn’t change consumer behavior, Fran points out, but accelerated the pace of adoption for ordering produce online.
“Omnichannel has become the new buzzword and, in many cases, it is inconsistently applied. Yes, it’s about being available on a multichannel approach for a seamless experience, but if your brand promise or differentiation is not at the center of the experience, it’s a fatal flaw,” she tells me.
As Driscoll’s hit fast-forward on its own plans to keep up, Fran shares how the possibilities of how to shop have made the landscape very complicated for marketers. In-store or online? And is it fulfilled in-store, via click-and-collect curbside, or pure e-commerce delivery? If the last, is that then direct from the retailer or a third party?
Fresh produce, unlike most categories, is a personal choice that is difficult to entrust with the boots on the ground. Because of that last point especially, we discuss how one factor that has not changed is how critical it is to maintain direct relationships with buyers and customers.
“They are important partners in shopper marketing. Produce has demonstrated the high-basket value for brick-and-mortar. We can do the same for online partnering with our customers. There is a lot of upside for them as well,” Fran tells me.
In fact, Instacart published a report in April that cites produce as the fifth-highest selling category on its platform and the fastest-growing among the top ten categories.
“As you can see, strawberries and blueberries were top of the list of fruits performing in sales. Leverage your retailers as key partners in this journey: This is a shopper marketing experience—your key customers also want to evolve and win,” Fran assures. “This period is almost reminiscent of the rise of social media. No one could have predicted how the internet, Facebook, or Instagram would change how we market to consumers, but early movers and adopters will be the leaders. Be disruptive and jump in for future success.”
And a big part of that, she drives home, is being recognizable.
“Drive your brand differentiation on any touchpoint,” Fran advises. “Our brand promise of Only the Finest Berries™, and our commitment to flavor remains the same whether in-store or online, and shoppers know it.”
While dramatically different for each retailer, a key rule can be found in the virtual shopping space: Consumers continue to shop with their eyes, and opportunities to harness that power abound.