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    Avoid Mistakes When Connecting Digitally with Shoppers

    Engaging correctly is a work in progress

    By John Karolefski

    There is a generational gap going on regarding consumers’ use of all things digital, and grocers need to pay attention. According to MarketingSherpa, a marketing research firm, half of smartphone users who are 18- to 35-years-old research products, compared to about a third of those 55 years old and up. We have all read other statistics indicating the gap between generations in their use of digital technology.

    Millennials are the most important grocery shoppers nowadays because they are starting families. Because they are the digital generation, grocers need to engage them digitally in the pre-shop, shop and post-shop modes. The key is determining the best way to do so, while also serving other shopper segments.  

    Many – but not all – grocers are reaching out with the obvious tactics: email blasts, social media, digital circulars, apps, and the like. While these are somewhat effective, I wonder if they are good enough.

    While researching this topic recently, I asked several experts what mistakes do grocers make when reaching out digitally to shoppers. What they told me was surprising, but made sense. Here are several of the mistakes they listed, including some of my own:

    Emphasizing Discounts: Overemphasizing incentives and discounts and underemphasizing the value they provide to customers leads to several problems. It hurts margins, and encourages price-sensitive shoppers to switch stores where they can find lower prices or bigger discounts.

    Maintaining Organizational Silos: Offering a seamless shopping experience is challenging if the company maintains different organizational silos, such as one for digital strategy, another for in-store strategy, and so forth. They need to communicate and coordinate.

    Being Annoying: Receiving too many email blasts tests the patience of shoppers. A recent Forrester study commissioned by SAP Hybris revealed that 40 percent of consumers believe most promotions don’t deliver anything of interest, and 44 percent say they receive too many offers and promotions.   

    Failing at Omnichannel: Grocers not set up properly for omnichannel retailing can’t consolidate shopper data into one customer profile. Because consumers shop online and in-store, their preferences and experiences may vary. Understanding their full behavior is critical to connecting with them. 

    Lacking Personalization: Because generic content is not personalized, it is neither appropriate nor effective enough. For example, pet owners receiving coupons for dog food if they own cats, not dogs.

    Neglecting Social Media: Content on social media sites needs to be updated frequently to remain fresh and maintain the interest of shoppers. Not responding to posts by shoppers is interpreted as ignoring them. 

    Daniel Burstein, director of content for MarketingSherpa, put the topic of digital engagement into the proper context for purveyors of food. “Grocers can use their digital channels to tell the story of the food they are selling and show the store’s value proposition,” he said. “Food was the original community builder. Farming helped us settle into villages, and we have always gathered around meals. By using digital channels to tell a story, grocers can build that community, which will then manifest itself through positive word of mouth on social media, through email, and in real conversations as well. While a digital circular and digital coupons have their place, other industries have learned that these digital storytelling and community-building opportunities are the real power of these relatively new digital channels.”

    By John Karolefski
    • About John Karolefski John Karolefski is a veteran business journalist with 25 years of experience covering CPG, retail and technology. Over the years, he has edited several trade publications and is the co-author of three books: "TARGET 2000: the Rising Tide of TechnoMarketing," "All about Sampling and Demonstrations," and "Consumer-Centric Category Management." He has appeared on CNN, CBS Radio and BBC Radio to discuss marketing issues. He can be reached at [email protected]

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