With a robust background in the CPG industry and eCommerce platforms, Jessica is poised for success with her new role in our Accelerate Centre of Excellence.
Jessica Armstrong is the Vice President of eCommerce & Digital Experience at Maple Leaf Foods. In 2019, Jessica joined Maple Leaf as vice president of eCommerce, and in 2023, she experienced a pivotal shift in her role.
With nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Jessica is a seasoned Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) executive and has a specialized background in digital, eCommerce, and omni-channel spaces. At Maple Leaf Foods, she leads the development and execution of our eCommerce strategy, including omni-commerce sales, digital shelf and merchandising, and search optimization. Jessica’s ultimate mission is to deliver a seamless integrated shopping experience for digital consumers — wherever they choose to shop.
What brought you to Maple Leaf Foods and what has made you stay?
I had previously worked in two large multi-national companies in the CPG industry and while I learned so much and had access to incredible global resources, I always felt so far away from the real decision making, with their global headquarters being in the US and UK. The Canadian market was never a priority on the global scale, and I was finding myself craving to make a bigger and more meaningful impact.
I’d been operating in the eCommerce business for about seven years when I was approached by Maple Leaf with what felt like my dream job. I loved the job opportunity and the brands, so the last thing to figure out was, ‘do I love the people?’ I was astonished at the calibre of people I met with throughout the interview process and have continued to be in awe of the people I find myself engaging with on a day-to-day basis. What’s kept me here are the people, progress we continue to make, endless growth opportunities, and the feeling that we’re all making a meaningful impact on the future of this organization and the planet too through our sustainability commitments.
As we enter our next growth focused chapter, what part will your role play in our new Accelerate Center of Excellence?
I pride myself as being a change agent as much as an eCommerce or digital executive within the CPG space. So, as we embark on this journey, I plan to encourage shifts in mindset. Accepting the way we’ve always done things isn’t necessarily the way to do things moving forward.
I feel we need to move from digital as complementary to digital as fundamental. While we’re fortunate enough to have strong brands with deep rooted retail relationships, I hope to push us to think like a digitally native start-up. We’re going to need to pick up our pace to keep up and then pick it up again to get ahead. Digital is the firsthand shake with a brand 85% of the time and consumers’ expectations are increasing at an exponential rate. They want a personalized experience, and they want it yesterday!
To show up and deliver on our consumers’ needs at the moments that matter, we’ll need to be operating with a digital first strategy if we hope to present digital experiences that keep our consumers with us throughout the entire path to purchase. Remembering that smartphones are digital appendages to our consumers and how we think more strategically about this opportunity for sharing and learning will be a major unlock. Leaning even more into technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to process and analyze data that help us understand when and how to deliver these experiences with pace will be paramount.
If we fast forward three years, what do you hope you will have accomplished in that time through your role and Accelerate’s collaborative environment?
I hope it will be obvious how fast we’re turning data to insights to experiences. I hope we’ll have enjoyed sustained growth with a noticeably increased consumer love and loyalty that we know will enable growth for the following three years to come.
I also hope we know our consumers’ protein needs better than they know themselves. What protein they need or what protein they crave, when to offer one over the other or in conjunction, where they’ll most likely want to purchase it, and so forth. This is all data we can ultimately expect from our retailers’ digital platforms and so it’s about how we capitalize on it to fuel our growth. I hope we’ll have built a healthy content pipeline so we’re in a position to deliver customized and personalized experiences. Personalization will drive purchases.
Ultimately, I hope we’re showing up for every single ‘phygital’ moment that matters to our consumers. For context, the word, ‘phygital’ essentially brings ‘physical’ and ‘digital’ together. While we build out our digital experience, we need to think about how we leverage digital in the physical store as well. Bringing brand, data, innovation, and digital together is going to help us get there and I hope we’ll look back and say, “that was a lot of fun and we learned so much along the way!”
In your new role, you are tasked with leading the development and execution of our eCommerce platforms strategy including omni-commerce sales, digital shelf and merchandising, and search optimization. What does your role involve and how is it different than the role you’ve been in for the past several years?
We’ve spent the past four years making sure our eCommerce muscle is strong and flexing better than competitive brands. This has meant focusing on search optimizing efforts in making sure we show up on our retailer eCommerce websites and get added to basket, in perpetuity.
This has largely been focusing on the lower end of the digital marketing funnel. The newer area of responsibility is around the Digital Experience (DX) and thinking more strategically about how we deliver exceptionally seamless experiences for our consumers throughout the entire funnel. We’ll make sure we’re driving awareness and maintaining consideration through all the right digital channels, and then increase our conversion tactics, leveraging more of our owned assets and partnering with new capabilities to drive the sale digitally.
We’ll also leverage past purchase data to personalize future product recommendations. And we’ll endeavour to keep the consumer meaningfully engaged digitally throughout the entire path to purchase, which also includes increasing our focus around loyalty and advocacy post-purchase, which is an effort we’ve recently kicked off with Ratings & Reviews.
You talked about consumers want more of an experience. What’s an example of how you give a consumer an experience digitally?
Nowadays, there are more opportunities for us to do it digitally — there are more and more moments that matter. So, the best-in-class experience is going to be leveraging what we already know about them. Understanding their behaviours, what they’re looking for at the time, maybe even more than they know what they’re asking or looking for. It’ll be leveraging all the kinds of first-, second-, or third-party data sources to understand the consumer.
When consumers are looking for something specific, we can present customized content in the way that they want it on the platform they desire. We can also tie in the opportunity to drive a purchase, while not necessarily forcing them online if they’re already in store.
There’s also this concept called ‘omnicommerce’ and the idea behind this is quite honestly bringing ecommerce and digital experience together. It’s about creating simple personalized shopping experiences that aren’t solely initiated on the retailer ecommerce site. In terms of omnicommerce I’ll be encouraging my team to think of opportunities to entice purchase and drive conversion outside the retail environment enabled via mobile, shoppable media, social commerce, QR codes, things like that. I’m very excited about this next chapter for us.