Grocery is a hot topic on social media these days, with an estimated 10 million-plus industry-related digital conversations taking place each year. Grocery-related conversations on Yelp, for instance, grew by 25 percent in just one year’s time.
And these conversations aren’t mere mentions. They are “rich, robust and informative” conversations, according to Black Pearl Intelligence, which looks at the “digital and social stratosphere” to find threats, perceptions and opportunities related to brands.
Black Pearl conducted a study in May on behalf of BeaconUnited, a national grocery broker, and ArchPoint Consulting to find out the extent of grocery conversation on the digital channels.
Despite the growing mentions of grocery in the digital space, the grocery industry still has a lot to learn about, and from, social media, such as learning to use online shopper insights for competitive advantage.
“Brokers, grocers and manufacturers who proactively engage and influence consumers online gain a tremendous competitive edge,” said Jesse Edelman, CMO at BeaconUnited. “Many in the industry struggle with how to make the most of this potent resource.”
For the study, Black Pearl Intelligence used its proprietary scientific methodology to capture and analyze more than 1 million online grocery-related conversations. Its “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.
“Shoppers communicate even when they are in stores,” Bradley Nix, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Black Pearl Intelligence, said. “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.”
Some grocers scoring social media points
A few grocery brands have moved strategically into the social media space to create meaningful connections and begin building relationships with their customers, Black Pearl found. “These early adopters are making the most of the wealth of insight and intelligence that can be garnered through this medium. The vast majority of grocery brands, however, are not even in the game or are deploying weak or superficial social media strategies that have little to no impact.”
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—the category leader is Whole Foods, with a Klout score of 86. That is just about even with golfer Tiger Woods (88) and is within striking distance of pop stars Justin Bieber (97) and Katy Perry (93). Publix has a Klout score of 53, and Kroger’s is 49. Meijer, H-E-B and many others have Klout scores of 0.
Social media is a great way to reveal unmet needs and identify performance gaps, which are revealed through store complaints, upswings in demand and hot items/impact of promotions, according to the study.
Online insights also allow immediate response to consumer conversations, which could help avoid costly complaints, or even turn them into business intelligence. One 140-character tweet or Facebook post can reach hundreds if not thousands of shoppers. Local social media conversations have the potential to go viral. Retailers and manufacturers should take them seriously and respond quickly.
“Responding proactively to customer social media comments is not an option anymore for the grocery industry. It’s an imperative,” Edelman said.
Social media changing retail landscape
Black Pearl pointed out some emerging uses of technology that will begin to shape how people shop.
Peapod.com, for instance, is launching digital grocery shopping displays at 15 commuter rail stations in the Boston area. Consumers can snap a photo of the products they need, and the groceries will be sitting on their doorstep that evening.
Product promotions can go viral in social media quickly “and help push established and new products through the channel incredibly fast,” the firm said. “If one person with 594 followers tweets a hot BOGO promotion, it can reach tens of thousand of customers in a matter of minutes via retweets.”
Grocers also can pick up on product trends by monitoring social media. In New York State, for example, there was an unusual uptick in mentions of black sesame soymilk that appeared during Black Pearl’s analysis. U-Mart, a neighborhood supermarket chain in New York, wisely picked up on this anomaly and met the demand. “The payoff came when the customers rewarded U-Mart by sharing their latest treasures found on shopping trips,” according to Black Pearl.
On a more local level, insights are invaluable for day-to-day marketing and promotions. If customers are complaining about the way baggers are bagging groceries or how the cashiers are slow, the grocer can address the issue. “It’s important to remember that the last impression likely defines whether a customer comes back to patronize your store,” the firm noted.