With its unique perspective on food as part of an overall lifestyle – “life through the lens of food,” – it makes sense that the team at Bon Appétit is always on the lookout for innovative ways to cater to its customers’ needs and evolving expectations. Epicurious, its sister site, is no stranger to digital innovation—with its popular app and ever-expanding range of interactive tools and video content. Together, these brands make-up Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group, which was formed a year ago to offer advertisers both brand equity and scale.
The group’s latest move supports both of these objectives. Visitors to the Bon Appétit and Epicurious sites who find a recipe they’d like to prepare can now hit a “buy ingredients button” that integrates with popular grocery delivery services to simplify their shopping. Condé Nast partnered with Popcart—which works with a number of grocery delivery services such as FreshDirect, Peapod, and Roche Brothers—to automatically generate shopping lists based on a recipe’s ingredient list, and then have them delivered directly to your door.
According to Eric Johnson, Associate Publisher, Bon Appétit & Epicurious, The Food Innovation Group, this solution was an obvious fit for fans of Bon Appétit and Epicurious, who are busy parents and professionals with an increasing expectation for one-click solutions that deliver what they need with a minimum investment of valuable time. “The brands that are gaining the biggest traction in the market are solving for consumer problems,” says Johnson.
This extension of its digital offering was a “no-brainer” from a conceptual standpoint according to Johnson who says that the editorial and business sides of the team all saw the appeal right away. The trick, however, was in finding the best partner that could enable the broadest cross-section of its audience to leverage the shopping tool. At launch, Popcart service is concentrated on the East Coast, Illinois and Wisconsin. However the company is shooting for nationwide reach as more retailers offer delivery services. And, given that the online grocery business is predicted to reach $18 billion in revenue in the next few years, Johnson says that Condé Nast wanted have an early foothold in this market.
While increasing its utility to end users is a focus of the Food Innovation Group, Johnson says this offering also allows the division to create new opportunities for advertisers. In addition to providing highly-relevant advertising placement, the new “buy ingredients” feature offers two marketing opportunities: When a reader adds recipe ingredients to their cart, “First in Cart” partners are made the default brand for a given ingredient. For example, if a recipe calls for mayonnaise, Hellman’s (a launch partner) would be the default choice, though consumers have the ability to edit their cart to eliminate or substitute any ingredients. The second marketing opportunity is “May We Suggest,” which recommends items that would complement a given recipe, such as launch partner Stacy’s Pita Chips to accompany a spicy hummus recipe.
Other than the process of finding the right solution for fulfillment, Johnson says that implementing the “buy ingredients” button was fairly straightforward only taking the tech team about 4-6 weeks to implement on both sites. However the process also involved some editorial mapping to suggest substitutions for products that participating retailers might not stock.
Editorial participation and buy-in will be essential as Johnson emphasizes the need to maintain consumer trust—and reliance on—these Condé Nast food brands. Johnson says that with the positive influence of executive director Eric Gillin, who he describes as the perfect blend of content and technological expertise, the teams at Bon Appétit and Epicurious have been inspired to increase their focus on innovation that serves consumers throughout the entire purchase funnel from exploration and inspiration and how-to all the way to the shopping cart. Next up: pre-built complete holiday meal planning tools, which can scale to number of guests and include the shopping functionality.
And Johnson is looking forward to the continued collaborations from Condé Nast’s Food Innovation Group. “We’re always looking for ways we can engage consumers. Providing a service, solving for a challenge—these things only help reinforce us as a brand you are going to seek out because we are a trusted resource.”