How PepsiCo Leverages Relationships to Drive Consumers
Modern consumers are more connected than ever before, with quick access to millions of products, brands and choices, whether online or browsing store shelves. With all these options, and new competitors entering the marketplace every day, what drives consumer loyalty?
According to Steven Williams, CEO of PepsiCo Foods North America, it’s relationships.
Williams joined CPG Speaks to highlight how PepsiCo’s brands are thinking beyond the product, striving to build real connections with consumers and keep a finger on the pulse of what’s most important to them — both now and in the future.
Building an Environment for Tomorrow’s Consumers
When Williams joined PepsiCo 23 years ago, he was given an opportunity to help shape the future of the company and chose to lean into the early beginnings of its consumer-centric culture, sensing the impact it could have down the road.
“At the time, I remember thinking how the vision we had started to build was helping shape how we were thinking about creating an even more consumer-centric culture across the company,” he said. “We needed to also do some things differently, and pivot to think about how we build a faster company, a stronger company and a better company.”
These goals included not only a stronger focus on consumer wants, but also how PepsiCo could attract the right talent, find diverse perspectives, build a more sustainable business and give back to the community — values that naturally aligned with the expectations of today’s consumers, way ahead of its time.
“We broadened our approach to how we thought about our core values, with the consumer still at the center of it.”
“If you ask me what changed, I’d say we broadened our approach to how we thought about our core values, with the consumer still at the center of it,” he said. “That deep understanding and focus on what’s important to consumers is what got us into 94% of U.S. households and if we don’t continue to do that, we’ll go backwards.”
Using E-Commerce to Drive Individuality
Compared to even a year ago, the way consumers research and shop for food products has completely changed, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Consumer Brands’ research, 42% of Americans say they have used some type of online ordering for grocery products since the pandemic began and 91% of those consumers say they will continue to use online ordering at least occasionally after the pandemic ends. This quick push to online spurred PepsiCo to launch their own platform, snacks.com, opening a new direct-to-consumer door for the company.
“We had a lot of debates about direct-to-consumer, but through the process of COVID, we knew we had to make sure our products were broadly available.”
“We had a lot of debates about direct-to-consumer, but through the process of COVID, we knew we had to make sure our products were broadly available,” Williams said. “We want to use this a lever to connect with and learn from consumers. Snacks.com gives us the opportunity to do unique things, not to drive them to our platform but to engage with them in ways we can’t elsewhere.”
As the new website continues to grow, PepsiCo is testing more cutting-edge ideas that give consumers the power to make purchases that work best for them and their families, making food shopping more individualized and fun.
Cultivating Meaningful Relationships
For an industry so attuned with consumers’ wants, there is still room for improvement, and Williams believes this improvement will come as the industry gets to know consumers better, beyond just what sells.
“Collectively, we have to listen more,” he said. “Our executive team spends time looking at all the consumer data that comes in, whether it’s from the hotline or people emailing us, to see what consumers are telling us.”
“We’re committed to making sure we’re delivering on consumers’ wants and needs, and to do that, you really have to know them deeper than superficially.”
Williams also emphasized how these deeper, more meaningful relationships are they key to sustained growth. Especially as consumers are presented with more choices, PepsiCo is focused on the intangibles that drive people, like personal connections.
“We’re committed to making sure we’re delivering on consumers’ wants and needs, and to do that, you really have to know them deeper than superficially,” he finished. “We’ve been on that journey, so this isn’t new for us, but it’s certainly intensified and I think it’s the way to win the future.”
Visit our website to learn more about CPG Speaks and to register for an upcoming session. CPG Speaks is complimentary for attendees, thanks to PwC and individual session sponsors.
Published on November 24, 2020
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