CHICAGO — Brands may be missing out on millions of attribute-based online shopping trips, a new report from Label Insight Inc. revealed. The company studied 77 food categories from nearly 800 brands and found more than 80% of food products do not claim one or more of their three most-searched attributes, and more than half fail to claim any.

Ketogenic, the fifth most-searched attribute across all categories, was unclaimed 98% of the time. Vegan and sugar-free attributes were unclaimed more than three quarters of the time. Seven-in-ten of the most-searched juice attributes were unclaimed, along with 99% of top attributes in the cheese category.

“It shows a disconnect between what’s on the package, what brands are talking about and thinking consumers want versus what consumers are actually doing with their fingers,” said Dagan Xavier, co-founder and vice president of data at Label Insight.

The number of consumer searches going unfilled has grown as online grocery shopping surges during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite products existing that meet the need-states of those searches.

“There is a massive tsunami of online shopping and e-commerce,” Mr. Xavier said. “But the way we search for products also is different. It’s not about nutrients anymore, it’s about attributes. We’re not just looking for our favorite brands.

The industry is just beginning to catch up, he added.

“Coming up with a clean, dynamic product detail page that has the nutrients from ingredients exactly as they appear on the package is still a challenge for the industry,” he said. “If you want to add on consumer intent and optimizing your content for the right shopper at the right time, that’s some advanced data brands may need help with.”

Label Insight calculated the dollar amount of missed revenue for top CPG brands and found PepsiCo, Inc. could reclaim nearly $15 million, with more than 475 million unclaimed searches each year.

The Kraft Heinz Co.’s annual missed revenue from unclaimed search volume was $9.7 million. General Mills, Inc. stands to reclaim up to $8 million, while Campbell Soup Co. and Conagra Brands, Inc. missed more than $4 million in annual revenue opportunities.

Label Insight product terms graphic

Brands can adapt to how the modern consumer searches for products online by shifting their strategies for search, taxonomy and product detail page content.

Having a thorough understanding of the customer is essential.

“There’s a high decay rate with e-commerce in that consumers are constantly changing,” Mr. Xavier said. “If you're thinking this is a once and done, I’m going to change my product detail pages and that’s it, you’re wrong.”

The relative rank of the most searched attributes on a product changes about every month and a half, Label Insight found. Customers may search “keto” or “no sugar” in high numbers one month but search “low carb” or “sugar free” the next.

Search terms also vary by platform, with customers looking for cold coffee most frequently searching the term “cold brew” on Amazon but preferring “iced coffee” on Walmart’s website.

“This has to be revisited on a monthly cadence,” Mr. Xavier said.

Brands may optimize SKUs for search by knowing which key attributes apply to which products and including those attributes in the retailer set-up process for each SKU. Product titles and descriptions should prioritize relevant attributes, with those that include an attribute in the first 40 characters receiving twice as many clicks, according to Label Insight. 

If a product falls into a gray area — where it could be considered compliant with the FDA definition for a particular term but may be a stretch — brands should use data on how many searches are being performed in any given platform to determine whether the reward of optimizing for the attribute outweighs the risk.

“We want to avoid the point where titles being fully loaded with attributes oversaturates the experience,” Mr. Xavier said. “I think there needs to be an appreciation that there is a high data decay rate and that consumers change depending on the channel. Brands need to be open to using data to match what the consumer is asking for.”