How to Bridge the Gap Between Consumer Behaviour and Brand Readiness with Sarah Hofstetter

LS International

Sarah Hofstetter is currently the President of Profitero, a leading eCommerce software provider helping thousands of brands improve their eCommerce ROI. She is also a member of the board of directors for Campbell Soup Company.

Because of her work, Sarah has been recognized by Ad Age’s “40 Under 40” and Adweek 50 but she also has taken the stage at Cannes Lions Creativity Festival and Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit.

In this video, we will discuss with her Brand readiness: how brands can make themselves future-proof in an ever-changing digital world.

Topic Covered in this Podcast:

  • How can companies assess the readiness of their brands? Which key indicators or aspects should they be paying attention to?
  • Which are the main mistakes companies make which prevent their brand from being “ready” for new consumer behavior?
  • Which would be the main verticals within marketing in terms of consumer behavior that brands should start to get ready for?
  • How can brands and teams keep up with the latest trends and updates? Are there any platforms you would recommend to keep an eye on?


– So welcome, Sarah.

– Thank you. It’s so good to be here, thank you.

– Yes, thank you so much for being here as well. Excellent, because I’m very excited to get your input. We’re here to take a deep dive into key expertise to breach the gap between consumer behavior and brand readiness. And I know that you’ve been helping multiple companies throughout your career, leverage their digital presence and overall get ready and manage change in general.

So I wanted to get your input because what I’ve heard and by speaking with our clients and our candidates is that one of the biggest mistakes that an organization can make is to drive and dive into branding, without having the necessary foundation in place.

So I wanted to get your input. How can companies assess the readiness of their brands? Is there any key indicators or aspects that they should be paying attention to?


– I think it starts with having a decent degree of self-awareness, as to not just where the brands are in terms of the brands themselves and whether or not they can translate well into other forms of technology,
but also the people, the people and the culture behind the organization. And if they’re in a testing mindset, if they’re in an embracing mindset and so much of this really ties back to being honest with yourself and the people you work with, to know whether or not the company is ready to try new things and also be willing to fail fast and learn from that.


– Okay, ’cause when you’re in that company have you had any experience, how do you test that? Is there any red flags or the contrary, good signs that that is a team that’s ready for change, that’s ready for innovation or a brand that’s ready for that?

– I think a lot of it really has to start from the top down. Who is the senior sponsor for this pivot, this change, this investment, whatever it is, is this coming because there’s somebody who just wants to make their mark and is doing it for the sake of, making a name for him or herself, or are you doing this because there is real sponsorship at the top to say this is an important move for our company to make and therefore we want to ensure that the company and the people embrace that kind of a growth mindset.

Without that top sponsorship it makes it very hard to understand if it’s going to have the kind of support that’s needed. And also without that top sponsorship you’re not gonna really know if there’s a high degree of self-awareness, as to whether or not the company’s ready.


– Okay. Okay, ’cause would you say that that’s kind of maybe one of the main mistakes that companies make that prevent them from being ready? Is that not having that senior stakeholder buy-in of those ideas and really driving something that the leadership is not committed to? Would you say that that’s the biggest mistake or what would you point out?

– I think that that is probably the biggest mistake and then a very, very close second would be assuming that the maturity and readiness is consistent across the organization. And so there could be this executive buy-in at a certain level or senior sponsor buy-in at a certain level, which is great, but you can’t assume that the whole company is both ready for change and so you have to kinda know where you
are on that maturity curve for adopting newer technologies or newer approaches. And, I saw this in search engine marketing 15 years ago, I saw it in social media 10 years ago. I’m seeing it in E-commerce now where you’ve got people that start out as evangelists on behalf of that technology.

So you might, back in the day, like a decade ago, you had like a chief digital officer and they would just be cheerleading and saying this is the year of digital. And they would say that for like 10 years straight.  And, but when you move from the evangelist phase into that educate phase, then you have to start explaining the how and start thinking through, well how does this new technology, marketing solution, whatever it is, how does that work with the rest of the organization? How should I be thinking about search?

I must have said, I dunno, 5,000 times, 15 years ago, I must have said search Google is the new TV guide. Because TV guide is how you used to find out what was on TV and now you just Google it. Or Google is the new shelf. If you want to see, what products are available if you want to see what things are at shelf, Google it. And of course now it’s really not just Google, it’s all search. And I think if this year has taught us anything, particularly in E-commerce, the search bar is the new end cap.

– Educating what that means, helps you move along. But until you move further along on that maturity curve or if you skip steps on that maturity curve, you could really end up,
going too fast and crashing and hurting the ability to move along.

– Okay, just for those companies that are within that maturity curve that maybe are a bit more advanced which would be in your opinion, the trends or the main verticals within marketing in terms of consumer behavior that brands should get ready for? Is it obviously influencer marketing is having a hot spot at the moment, it was SEO a while ago, but obviously now with messaging apps or voice assistants, where would you say that we’re going in terms of consumer behavior and what should we get ready for?

– It’s a great question. And I wish I can just say, hey, everybody keep your eyes on Tik Tok because it’s not that simple. And one of the reasons it’s not that simple is simply because it depends on what you’re selling. It depends on geographically where you are and it depends on your audience.

But even let’s think about what you’re selling. So anything that’s related to things that you do when you’re driving, right? Like getting gas, coffee, anything related to things that you’re driving, voice activated anything is important. Why?

‘Cause you have to keep your eyes on the road.  So if you want, if you’re selling something that will, come up along the way, you wanna make sure that you are there at that point of discovery or at that point of demand. But if you sell groceries, that really doesn’t matter. Right? But if you, so if you’re selling gas or coffee or something quick or, fast food, then voice activated is really important. If you sell groceries though, being mindful of which retailers are growing in terms of E-commerce, being mindful of those kinds of shifts, might make you say, you know what, I really want to put more of my dollars into E-commerce or, or omnichannel. So, and then you’ve got like geography. So you mentioned messaging, so messaging and E-commerce are really highly intertwined in more advanced and mature markets like China, for example.

– Yeah.

– It’s so, you’re not toggling from app to app while you’re messaging, you’re buying and vice versa. It’s very intertwined. Whereas let’s say in the States, it’s completely different. And then there’s your audience. Nobody would have said a year ago, or maybe a little over a year ago, that senior citizens would be one of the fastest adopters of E-commerce for groceries. But because of COVID now that’s the primary way that they shop because they were the most immunocompromised and therefore it becomes, came so much more mission critical for them to learn a new technology.  So you kind of have to know your audience, the geography and what you’re selling and that kinda helps guide you into those environments.

– Okay, so I guess that being self-aware of both kind of your products, where you’re at, what’s your consumer, the more self-aware that you are, probably the easier it is
for you to respond, right? And to move out with the agility and quicker to a changing environment.

– Absolutely, I mean that’s just having the mindset around learning. And the one thing I always try to do myself as well as encourage others to do whether they’re people who work for me or people who work with me or clients of mine, is you have to walk a mile a kilometer, or whatever in your customer’s shoes.

If you don’t understand, if you don’t empathize, then you’re just not getting it. And that’s just the reality of it all. And that’s why some of the most successful companies have leaders that have actually started at the ground up in their organization because they’ve seen it all.

– And so there’s an empathy that comes from that.


– Yeah and I mean, as you were saying, right 2020 was a very, extremely weird year. This 2021 seems to be in the same path. So in an ever-changing field, such as digital and we had somebody in the previous podcast that mentioned that one key expertise that he had to keep in mind as an E-commerce or digital expert was to be aware that you don’t know E-commerce. Because the moment that you settle and that you say, oh I’m an expert on E-commerce is the moment that you’re missing information and you you’re missing the latest trends because it changes so fast.

So, what would you say on that? Is there a way that brands and teams can keep up with the latest trends and updates in terms of the digital space? What would you recommend in that sense?

– One of my teachers in high school said to me, “Standing still is going backwards”.

– And it just stuck with me. I’m sure she’s not the only person who had ever said that in the world, but it’s a mindset that I’ve had since I guess I’m 16 years old. And that means that you have to be insatiably curious. So there’s no silver bullet of saying, oh yeah, if all you do is read this one influencer on Twitter you’re gonna know everything that’s happening. You’re not.

You just kinda have to be very curious and people talk about networking as if it’s a purely social experience. And there’s certain things about networking that are, but becoming part of a group of others that are in a similar space to you, so that you don’t have to feel like all the learning is on yourself and if you’re willing to be a little vulnerable and create networks of other people that are going through similar experiences to you, you have a chance to both be a giver and a taker, as it relates to that, because there’s always gonna be something that you can lend to the conversation. I do believe networking, especially in today’s day and age is super important if even though it comes in different forms now than it might have before.


– And, I do think just having an insatiable curiosity and people that you can talk to and bounce ideas off of.  ‘Cause I mean, I think that networking used to be like we go to an event, we meet all of this bunch of people in like three days and then that’s our networking for the year. But I feel like that is not anymore the case. Now networking, is even like sending a LinkedIn message or commenting on a post on social media banner or something like that, just to, as you were saying, right? Keep in touch with the people that know more than you or that know different things than you to keep you fulfilled, to keep you curious, and keep you ever learning on this platform.

So yeah Sarah, thank you so much. I think that’s extremely relevant to the current situation, current context. So thank you so much for your insights on the topic.  I really appreciate your time.

– Yeah no, a pleasure.

And thank you as well to our listeners. See you in the next edition of the podcast.