Study of the dig­i­tal re­tail land­scape

Most gro­cers are in­vest­ing in so­cial me­dia — so why aren’t more shop­pers fol­low­ing?

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Contents - By Randy Hof­bauer

For years now, so­cial me­dia has been a big deal for food re­tail­ers: Al­most all are on so­cial net­works, while three­quar­ters are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant or mod­er­ate in­vest­ments in so­cial-me­di­are­lated out­reach, ac­cord­ing to re­search from Tampa, Fla.-based mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tions man­age­ment com­pany Ap­taris and Cincin­nati-based an­a­lyt­ics firm Dunnhumby.

But while nine in 10 gro­cery shop­pers reg­u­larly fol­low one or more so­cial me­dia sites, only one in four of that group is con­nected to her pri­mary gro­cer, ac­cord­ing to “U.S. Su­per­mar­ket Shop­per Up­date,” a re­cent re­port from the Re­tail Feed­back Group (RFG), based in Lake Suc­cess, N.Y.

Why the dis­con­nect? Some gro­cers sim­ply might not be on so­cial me­dia. How­ever, it could be more likely that many are on so­cial me­dia but ter­ri­ble at of­fer­ing com­pelling rea­sons to con­nect.

There­fore, gro­cers need to work harder to draw th­ese peo­ple’s in­ter­est.

“If the con­tent is not rel­e­vant and up­dated reg­u­larly, shop­pers will quickly lose in­ter­est,” says Brian Nu­mainville, RFG prin­ci­pal. “Con­sider that con­tent should in­clude items that are help­ful, fun and draw the shop­per into a re­la­tion­ship with the re­tailer.”

Right Chan­nel, Right Way

First and fore­most, so­cial me­dia is so­cial — it’s not to be used just as a bill­board, ac­cord­ing to Mar­garita Fitz­patrick, Dunnhumby’s head of cus­tomer en­gage­ment, North Amer­ica. Gro­cers have to be in­ter­ac­tive and en­gage users, and make sure that they re­flect the essence of their brand in the process.

How­ever, there’s no “sil­ver bul­let” strat­egy when it comes to suc­ceed­ing with a spe­cific plat­form, as dif­fer­ent ex­changes have chan­nels more suited to them. Take Youtube, for in­stance.

“Chan­nels like Youtube … are great av­enues to show videos, which can in­clude in­for­ma­tional top­ics, events or con­tests,” Nu­mainville notes.

But while RFG’S re­search shows 53 per­cent of con­sumers us­ing Youtube, only 33 per­cent of re­tail­ers are us­ing the chan­nel, ac­cord­ing to an Ap­taris study. This re­veals not only a gap that needs to be ad­dressed across vir­tu­ally all age groups, but also a clear op­por­tu­nity for gro­cers to con­nect with peo­ple in a spe­cific man­ner on the so­cial me­dia chan­nel.

Coborn’s, a Min­nesota gro­cery chain based in St. Cloud, in­cor­po­rates videos through its Youtube chan­nel, for in­stance, whether they fea­ture recipes demon­strated by em­ploy­ees, or dis­cuss the com­mu­nity – they’re com­pelling me­dia from a lo­cal gro­cer to lo­cal peo­ple.

Of course, not ev­ery­thing might draw strong in­ter­est on so­cial me­dia. A good way to know whether some­thing will gain trac­tion and gen­er­ate ex­cite­ment is if it first has a real buzz out­side of the cy­ber realm. Rep­u­ta­tions are built out­side so­cial me­dia, and then ex­panded within it, ar­gues Paul Len­cioni, pres­i­dent of Blue Goose Mar­ket, an in­de­pen­dent gro­cer in St. Charles, Ill.

In an area where im­me­di­ate re­sponse is ex­pected, we want to make sure to bal­ance light­ning speed with ac­cu­racy and thought­ful­ness. — Ly­dia Mcnabb Nugget Mar­kets

Speedy De­liv­ery

For plat­forms lend­ing them­selves more to twoway di­a­logue – such as Face­book and Twit­ter – many gro­cers don’t un­der­stand the im­por­tance of re­spond­ing quickly. Ly­dia Mcnabb, so­cial me­dia co­or­di­na­tor with Wood­land, Calif.-based gro­cer Nugget Mar­kets, notes that she’s al­ways find­ing room for im­prove­ment in terms of re­spond­ing to shop­pers in a timely man­ner.

“In an area where im­me­di­ate re­sponse is ex­pected, we want to make sure to bal­ance light­ning speed with ac­cu­racy and thought­ful­ness,” she says. “If our guests share a com­ment or ques­tion with us, we want to make sure we’re giv­ing them a re­sponse that is rel­e­vant and help­ful, as well as prompt.”

U.K. gro­cer Sains­bury’s is a prime ex­am­ple of speed when it comes to con­vers­ing via so­cial

me­dia, us­ing its plat­forms to re­spond in real time to cus­tomers, even when they’re in the store.

“If a cus­tomer … needs to find a cer­tain item and they aren’t able to find it, they can go through the so­cial me­dia plat­form and en­gage with a real per­son in real time, if you will, to help them an­swer that ques­tion,” Dunnhumby’s Fitz­patrick says.

But whether in real time or tak­ing a lit­tle longer, gro­cers need to re­mem­ber that shop­pers use so­cial me­dia to con­nect with in­di­vid­u­als. That be­ing the case, a gro­cery business must find a way to present it­self as an in­di­vid­ual would.

“Any­thing that’s in­sti­tu­tional will bring a lack of au­then­tic­ity, and will turn off a lot of folks on so­cial me­dia be­cause they’re look­ing for au­then­tic­ity and en­gage­ment,” cau­tions Fitz­patrick.

In re­turn, gro­cers need to let their fans re­spond in their own in­di­vid­ual ways. In­sta­gram is a great way to do this, and one gro­cer tak­ing ad­van­tage in this space is AJ’S Fine Foods, a ban­ner of Chan­dler, Ariz.-based Bashas’. To kick off sum­mer, the gro­cer – which op­er­ates in a re­gion known for its scorch­ing-hot sum­mers – in­vites fans to cool off with its sig­na­ture iced teas and re­wards them for do­ing so: By post­ing a selfie taken while en­joy­ing the iced tea and post­ing it to In­sta­gram along with the #ajsicedtea hash­tag, fans en­ter to win two iced teas ev­ery day for the rest of sum­mer.

Good With the Bad

Au­then­tic­ity and en­gage­ment go be­yond the good times, how­ever. No mat­ter how beloved a gro­cer is, in the end, ev­ery business at some point has its de­trac­tors on so­cial me­dia. Proper com­mu­ni­ca­tion – though dif­fi­cult – can still bring th­ese folks closer, or at least keep them from turn­ing fans into foes.

“Noth­ing says ‘I care’ bet­ter than a quick re­sponse to a frus­trated com­ment left on so­cial me­dia,” Nu­mainville as­sures. “Plus ev­ery­one else who sees that post will also see that the re­tailer is re­spond­ing.” Rea­sor’s, based in Tahle­quah, Okla., is one gro­cer that re­sponds promptly to com­ments on Face­book, ap­pear­ing both sin­cere and at­ten­tive.

Sains­bury’s sets a good ex­am­ple here, too: In­stead of leav­ing so­cial me­dia to the PR depart­ment – as re­tail­ers of­ten do – it boasts a “very highly trained, cre­ative set of folks” to “en­gen­der and cre­ate twoway com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” ex­plains Fitz­patrick. While PR ex­perts might han­dle neg­a­tive com­ments the same way they han­dle neg­a­tive press – off the wire – Sains­bury’s has em­braced trans­parency and re­sponded to neg­a­tive com­ments where they’re placed, right in the open.

“It wasn’t some­thing you would take off­line and call a dif­fer­ent num­ber to get a res­o­lu­tion,” she says. “Part of the trend for so­cial me­dia within that cus­tomer ser­vice base is to re­solve … within the chan­nel the cus­tomer ex­pressed it in, both re­mov­ing the bar­ri­ers to en­gag­ing, but also be­ing very trans­par­ent about the ex­change in public.”

Al­ways re­mem­ber, though: Be quick, but not ag­gres­sive. Speed and open­ness are the most chal­leng­ing parts of so­cial me­dia, as crit­i­cism moves quickly.

“You have to han­dle it in the mo­ment, and you can­not get de­fen­sive,” ad­vises Blue Goose’s Len­cioni. “Op­por­tu­nity comes and goes in an in­stant, too – you have to be on time in so­cial me­dia. Be hon­est, open and avail­able.”

Noth­ing says ‘I care’ bet­ter than a quick re­sponse to a frus­trated com­ment left on so­cial me­dia. — Brian Nu­mainville Re­tail Feed­back Group

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