Produce that Produces: The Effect of Digital Marketing on Grocery

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There’s not much difference from one orange to another. Nevertheless, today’s consumers are inundated with options when shopping for ingredients for their next meal. It’s no longer enough for a grocery store to simply exist; to be successful, they need to convince potential customers that their produce is in some way superior to the selection offered across the street.

As competition has evolved, so have the tools necessary to keep customers coming through the door. Dancing, sign-waving employees in banana costumes have been replaced by well-placed social media ads. Magazine clippings have evolved into promotional website coupon codes. Word-of-mouth advertising now takes the form of massive listings of online reviews. In retail, the line between the physical and the digital has been blurred, bent, and erased.

With the exception of delivery services like AmazonFresh and meal kit operations like Blue Apron, grocery remains firmly rooted in the brick-and-mortar world. Over long distances, it’s much easier to ship pants than perishables. This means that most of us, especially those that live outside urban centers, will be leaving our homes to fill our pantries. Thus, rather than simply advertising to get customers to click a ‘buy’ button, these businesses have the difficult task of using the Internet to send people to a real-world location. If your grocery store isn’t making the cut, digital marketing could propel you from small potatoes to big cheese.


The Physical Effects of Digital Marketing

We’ve reached a point where the average person is likely to involve digital technology of some kind in their shopping experience. Digitalcommerce360 reports on a study by Deloitte Consulting LLP that breaks down the footprint of digital marketing on grocery retail. The study shows that 51% of grocery sales in 2016 were influenced digitally, up 18% from the previous year. It’s a broad statistic, but it does tell us that by utilizing digital marketing, you’ll be having a positive effect on at least half of your potential customers. Just as the number of Internet users and mobile shoppers has skyrocketed worldwide over the past couple of decades, so too has their effect on the economy, including boosted sales, more online reviews, and instilling a general sense of trust.


digital influence by retail category

Increased Sales

The most concrete and tangible benefit to good digital marketing is, of course, increased revenue. The Deloitte study states that customers that research products online prior to heading to the store end up making purchases 9% more frequently than those that don’t. Customer use of digital resources also increases their total spending 19% of the time.

Despite clear advantages, Deloitte U.S. Consumer Products Corporate Strategy and Growth Leader Rich Nanda states that “many consumer products companies and their retail partners have yet to take full advantage of the opportunity, potentially leaving money on the table.” This goes double for grocery, which has “just hit the tipping point for digital influence.”

For an example of this kind of success, we need look no further than Kroger, the largest traditional American supermarket chain. They’ve been all-in on digital marketing for years, and it’s a major contributor to their rise to the top. In 2010, they began utilizing digital coupons, which have now been downloaded and used hundreds of millions of times. In 2015, they introduced their Clicklist online ordering to 1,200 stores, a strategy that remains popular to this day.

This presents a real opportunity for those looking to get ahead of the curve. While many grocers struggle to integrate digital into their business models, forward-thinking owners can invest now and secure a substantial chunk of the evolving consumer base before this becomes the norm.


Increased Online Reviews

Internet reviews have become an enormous part of how consumers shop, and the effect can’t be understated. The Deloitte study found that 29% of customers try products specifically based on a review they read. From all-encompassing websites like Yelp to individual product reviews on retail pages, it’s often what makes or breaks a given purchase. Having large numbers of authentic reviews can lend a crucial element of credibility to a business — a rule that applies not just to grocery, but to almost anyone that sells a product online. When having just five reviews increases a product’s likelihood of being purchased by 270%, a focus needs to be placed on accumulating them. In almost every case, when a four-star and a two-star grocer appear together on a search page, the four-star will be making the sale.


Fostered Trust

By reaching out to customers digitally through multiple avenues, one can create a sense of trust before a purchase is even made. It makes the customer feel that you’re personally vested in what they think of your business, and that you’re making the effort to accommodate their interests. It enables people to share your brand if they like it, and offer potentially useful feedback if they don’t. The perceived transparency of displaying what you offer on the Internet rather than languishing in obscurity breeds familiarity. By the time they walk through your door, they should already have a clear idea of what the experience will be.

From social media campaigns to mobile apps, from ‘pick up in store’ programs to retailers’ websites themselves, these are only a few of the methods you can use to reach your target audience.


Ways To Wield Digital Marketing For Your Store

Here are a few ways that to make digital marketing work for you.

1. Revamp Your Website

The first place to look when constructing a digital marketing campaign is your own website. Often, when customers begin to take an interest in a business, the first place they’ll go for more information is that company’s webpage. Even if your store doesn’t sell groceries online, it’s important that your website is efficient and attractive to avoid the loss of potential shoppers before they even look at your stock.

By making it easy to see what you’re offering, customers can quickly determine if you have what they’re looking for. Going beyond that to incorporate things like social media integration and even recipes will keep them engaged and make them more likely to make the journey to your location.


2. Create a Mobile App

Having a quality website usually won’t be enough to get a substantial leg up on the competition. In a world that is gravitating away from the desktop and toward the smartphone, you need an app that is fully integrated with the shopping experience.

DigitalCommerce360 cites another survey from PowerReviews that found that 59% of grocery shoppers use a mobile device to help them make a purchasing decision. They’re using their phones in-store for shopping lists, reviews, competitor pricing, and more. Many grocery retailers are now optimizing their apps to work with customers as they browse.

For example, Fred Meyer’s app shows users where to find individual items on the shelf as they’re added to the shopping list. It provides coupons and reward card services all in one place, and also allows customers to place orders for pickup. By turning the necessary tedium of grocery shopping into a quick and painless process, they’re drawing in multitudes of customers that would rather spend their day elsewhere.


3. Pick Up In Store

Many of these apps can also be used to set up an in-store pickup — all shoppers have to do is place the order, then use the app to signal when they arrive. This is a growing trend throughout the entire world of retail, becoming standard for large corporations like Walmart. It’s easy to see where the appeal comes from: it minimizes effort for the customer, and is a fairly simple service for the retailer to provide. As Millennials demand fast and efficient service, removing their entire shopping trip from the equation is a potent way to secure their business. Even if you don’t have an app, offering in-store pickup through your website can be a boon to today’s busy shopper, much like Kroger’s Clicklist service.


4. Have a Presence on Social Media

There may be no faster or more far-reaching method for reaching potential customers than social media. It’s become a normal part of life. Most of us check our newsfeeds multiple times each day. Advertisers capitalize by sponsoring posts that appear in the margins of your feed. It can be lucrative, and eMarketer confirms that a majority of social media users find advertising on those platforms more effective than other avenues like print ads and Internet searches.

It might be wise to tread with caution, however, as more intrusive social media advertising can be perceived as pushy or even creepy, Facebook has recently discovered.


5. Improve Your Local Search Engine Optimization

A crucial and oft-overlooked advertising tool for grocers is local SEO. In many cases, people looking to make a food run will simply search “grocery stores near me.” They’re then met with recommendations for the nearest stores that fit the bill. If you show up on the list, you’re going to get at least some of those customers.

For businesses trying to turn digital marketing into physical sales, healthy local SEO is absolutely indispensable. By including the name of your city in your website like “Seattle’s Budget Grocer” and attempting to appear in local publications, you increase the chance that you’ll appear in the coveted Google shortlist of nearby businesses.

For grocers, the shift to digital is only now gaining a foothold. Those businesses that strike while the iron is hot will likely secure a place in the market for years to come. By nurturing a base of quality reviews, putting real effort into social media campaigns, and making sure that you’re a top search result in your area, you can ensure that when the digital age lays waste to those that don’t adapt, your business is nonperishable.


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