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    Social Media Influence in Grocery is Growing: Study

    Now grocers have to harness social media data for competitive advantage

    As the 2012 holiday feast shopping rush is heading to the starting gates, social media’s influence is finally being felt - and measured - in the grocery store market, according to a new study developed by BeaconUnited, a national grocery broker, and ArchPoint Consulting, powered by business intelligence firm Black Pearl Intelligence.

    “Brokers, grocers and manufacturers who proactively engage and influence consumers online gain a tremendous competitive edge,” Jesse Edelman, chief marketing officer, BeaconUnited, said. “Many in the industry struggle with how to make the most of this potent resource.”

    Social media conversations are exploding in the grocery space, the study found. In just one year, grocery conversations on the online community-review site Yelp increased 25 percent. Additionally, Black Pearl Intelligence research indicates consumers are now having 10 million-plus grocery-related conversations annually, placing grocery chatter in the big leagues of travel and finance.

    The study, “Grocery Study: Social Media as a Competitive Advantage,” identifies digital data opportunities to drive sales for retailers or manufacturers and reveal real-time emerging trends on a national, regional and local level — or geo-focusing. The study reveals how vocal customers are in sharing what they love, hate and have gotten at a bargain at grocery stores. Trends can be identified and influenced at the national, regional and even local level.

    “Shoppers communicate even when they are in stores,” said Bradley Nix, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Black Pearl Intelligence. “Taken to its ultimate level, individual supermarkets can use these insights to stay in tune with macro-trends as well as micro-trends within the community to address customer needs and head off the competition.”

    The study identified a few grocery chains that are already social media conversation influencers. Others have a ways to go. Using the social media Klout score, a measurement of influence on a zero to 100-point scale based on ability to drive action in social networks. Category leader Whole Foods, with a Klout score of 86, is just about even with golfing superstar Tiger Woods (at 88) and is within striking distance of top-tier pop stars Justin Bieber (97) and Katy Perry (93). Kroger has a score of 49. Publix has a Klout score of 53. However, some leading regional grocery chains, like Meijer and H-E-B and many others, have Klout scores of 0.

    The study identifies opportunities for the grocery category to use digital data with customized dashboards and to model and geo-focus on emerging trends at either the national, regional and local level.

    Some key findings of the study are:

    • When shifts occur in the market, Black Pearl Intelligence dashboards make it possible to spot emerging trends early. Shopper data, traditionally gathered, lags 8-12 weeks.
    • Local social media conversations have the potential to go viral. Retailers and manufacturers should take them seriously and respond quickly.
    • Social media is a great way to reveal unmet needs and identify performance gaps — i.e., store complaints, upswings in demand and hot items/impact of promotions.

    The full study can be downloaded from the BeaconUnited website.

    BeaconUnited is a venture of eight U.S. food brokers, combining the reach and resourcefulness of a national firm with the personal touch and market knowhow of regional experts. With a focus on performance, BeaconUnited utilizes the targeted expertise of industry veterans to deliver a rich customer-level experience. Plus, with customer access to the best-in-class marketing and analytical data, BeaconUnited is able to strategically manage the natural synergy between manufacturer and retailer. Visit www.beacon-united.com for more information.

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