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    Social Media Insights for Grocery Retailers — and Shoppers

    A consumer-centric approach can have a positive effect on behavior, sales

    By Dr. Lance B. Eliot, Interactions

    Everyone knows social media is huge. Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population now has at least one social media profile — almost as many people as those who have a home computer.

    Not surprisingly, retailers and brands are joining the conversation, interacting with consumers, personalizing their marketing messages and nurturing relationships through a variety of platforms. But does social media actually have an impact on shopper behavior? Does it really drive sales? Those have been the big questions keeping many grocery retailers from diving in with both feet and creating full-scale social media teams. To help answer those questions, Interactions Marketing's latest "Retail Perceptions" report, "Social Media: Invest to Impress?"surveyed shoppers about their social media use and purchase behavior, and the results clearly show that retailers’ social media efforts can have a significant influence on where shoppers spend their money.

    According to the report, more than 75 percent of shoppers who use social media agree that retailers should no longer look at a social media presence as just a nice thing to have — it's expected. Shoppers are particularly interested in connecting with grocery retailers, even more so than others, with 50 percent of social media users saying they follow their favorite grocery stores online, versus only 40 percent for department stores and 33 percent for specialty retailers.

    Among the report's further insights:

    Driving Discovery: If a shopper isn't a loyal customer yet, being on social media can help lead them to you. Forty-two percent of consumers prefer to shop retailers that have a social media presence. In addition, 58 percent of shoppers have discovered new retailers through social media, and more than half of them have visited three or more of those new retailers in person.

    Keep Them Coming: Once you've started engaging with shoppers on social media platforms, regular posts, tweets, pins and more can help keep them coming in the door. Sixty-six percent say they’ve visited a retailer’s store in person as a result of a social media post. As for what they want to see from grocery retailers, top of mind for nearly 75 percent of shoppers are promotions and discounts, followed closely by learning about new products. Another 59 percent want to learn about in-store events, and 56 percent want recipes. All of these things do the one thing grocery retailers want most: pull shoppers into your stores and keep them coming back.

    A Piece of the Omni-channel Pie: When integrated with in-store merchandising and promotions, social media can also help strengthen retailers' omni-channel strategies. For example, grocery retailers can create in-store displays or host in-store events to highlight top-pinned recipes on Pinterest, or capture connected-shoppers' attention with "Found on Instagram!" shelf tags calling out new products. Integrated campaigns like these acknowledge that shoppers are using their smartphones in-store and proactively support them, allowing retailers to inform, entertain and engage shoppers on yet another level. This leads to heightened loyalty, increased revenue and above all, happy shoppers who are excited to share their positive experiences with others.

    Managing Perceptions: It's true that while shoppers use social media to share their positive experiences, some also share negative ones. But bad reviews don't necessarily scare shoppers away. Fewer than a third of shoppers say they’ve stopped visiting a retailer because of the opinions of others online. The upside is that having a public forum for opinions — good and bad — also gives retailers the opportunity to address them directly.

    What we're seeing is that an engaging, responsive and consumer-centric social media presence has the potential to significantly influence grocery shopping behavior and sales. Despite the costs of developing such a program and the potential for negative input, a greater danger may lie in not making the effort at all, and simply leaving up to chance what the three out of every four consumers who will search for you on social media find.

    To learn more about the insights and opportunities revealed in the latest "Retail Perceptions" report, visit www.interactionsmarketing.com/retailperceptions to download a complete copy.

    By Dr. Lance B. Eliot, Interactions
    • About Dr. Lance B. Eliot Dr. Lance B. Eliot is the VP, information technology for Interactions, a San Diego-based global leader in retail solutions and experiential marketing. For more information, visit www.interactionsmarketing.com.

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