Twitter, Facebook and other social mediums are becoming valuable tools to connect shoppers to store brands
Wegmans used it to inform shoppers that it removed high fructose corn syrup from its store-brand yogurt. Hy-vee used it to send a midday message about a dinner deal. And Price Chopper used it to let people know they could win free groceries for a year.
These are just some examples of how retailers are leveraging social media to boost private-label awareness and sales.
“Social media is an integral part of our media mix, and plays significantly into our marketing plans for our corporate brands,” said Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub.
So much so that every launch and category marketing plan at the Schenectady, N.Y., chain leverages social media as a way to reach consumers. Email, Facebook, Twitter and the official Price Chopper blog are among the platforms it uses.
Its newest strategy includes giving Facebook fans exclusive coupons for its Price Chopper- and Central Market Classics-brand products.
Likewise, it's in the midst of a 12-week promotion (ending April 17) that encourages consumers to stock up on its store brands. Every time a shopper purchases 10 corporate-brand products with their loyalty card, they are automatically entered for a chance to win $5,200, enough to pay for groceries for one year. There is one winner every two weeks for a total of six winners.
“If you love our brands already, you know how easy it is to purchase 10 of these items on any shopping trip,” Price Chopper promotional materials read. “In case you have not tried our brands yet, this gives you the perfect opportunity to try them out and qualify to win.”
The retailer is promoting the contest on Facebook, Twitter and its blog, along with traditional communications and in-store ads.
What's more, Price Chopper is experimenting with blogger engagement. It recently held an event for “mommy” bloggers at one of its stores. The event included a demonstration of Cook's Ham recipes that incorporated its Central Market Classics private-label products. The bloggers were given a gift bag filled with its store brands.
The primary benefit of using social media is that Price Chopper can encourage dialogue about its store brands, noted Golub.
“It becomes a conversation with a community of fans,” she said. “We answer questions, take suggestions and offer ideas to our fans about our corporate brands.”
Social media is especially useful for launching new products, line extensions and seasonal varieties, according to Golub. Price Chopper had a strong Facebook response to its limited-edition Central Market Classics holiday ice cream flavors: Pumpkin Pie, Gingerbread Cookies and Cream, and Peppermint Stick. Facebook fans received an exclusive coupon for $1 off the purchase of the ice cream.
Such engagement can be particularly helpful to supermarkets. That's because women with children at home — supermarkets' target market — are more likely to use Facebook (60%), MySpace (42%) and Twitter (17%) than average adults (50%, 34% and 15%, respectively), according to a Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey conducted by BIGresearch.
A big reason moms use social media is to get coupons or deals, and keep in touch with loved ones, according to the study.
Social media also helps supermarkets take their valuable loyalty programs to the next level, said Mike Gatti, RAMA executive director.
“Social media is broadening the way we connect with each other and to brands,” Gatti told SN.
Along with Facebook and Twitter, plenty of other forms of social media are at retailers' disposal. For instance, there's Foursquare, a mobile phone application that lets users “check in” to let friends know where they are. The application involves a game in which users rack up points based on how many new places they visit, how many stops they've made in one night and who else has been there. Players are designated as a “mayor” of a retail store or another spot if they visit there often.
And there are websites like zeer.com, a food information resource that includes ingredient and nutrition information on over 30,000 food items, as well as online communities geared to those with specific nutrition needs, like gluten-free foods.
Unlike other forms of marketing, like newspaper ads, social media lets supermarkets reach out to people who want to hear from them, said Gatti.
“People who use social media are paying attention,” he said.
Social media improves customer service because it enables retailers to quickly address shopper questions and concerns.
For instance, one Dorothy Lane Market customer recently tweeted about how she didn't like the Chilean sea bass she purchased. Once Nick Nawroth, Dorothy Lane's graphic designer and social media manager, read the tweet, he contacted the woman and the two began a private dialogue. Nawroth asked her which store she shopped in, and saw to it that she received a replacement fish that was to her liking.
“It was a great way to help our customer out of a situation,” he said. “If it weren't for Twitter, that specific customer may not have spoken up.”
The Dayton, Ohio, retailer posts updates on its Facebook page about four times a day and tweets about eight.
It uses both vehicles to promote new items, like its exclusive artisan breads, along with in-store events, including its popular wine and beer tastings.
After marketing its annual food and wine show via Facebook and Twitter this year, the event sold out three weeks in advance — a first.
“The exposure has been good for us,” he said.
Social media is so effective that it's changing the way Dorothy Lane markets its events. For a recent beer tasting, instead of putting up posters in-store, as it usually does, it relied completely on social media.
“It's a good form of publicity,” said Nawroth.
Retailers are using social media to reach shoppers at critical times of the day. For instance, at 2 p.m. on a recent weekday, Hy-Vee Food Stores, West Des Moines, Iowa, posted a coupon on Facebook for its store-brand prepared pizza.
“Can't decide what to have for dinner? Stop by Hy-Vee for Two 16” Single Topping Pizzas for $11.98,” the Facebook post read.
Among other examples of retailers active in the social media world:
At Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., a blog posted during Lent included a recipe for honey mustard glazed halibut made with its Waterfront Bistro private-label frozen seafood.
ShopRite, part of the Wakefern Food Corp., offers an iPhone application that allows shoppers to browse the ShopRite weekly sales circular and add items directly to their grocery-shopping list using their Apple iPhone. The application can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store. ShopRite also offers a widget that lets consumers browse updated sale item information on their blogs, iGoogle and Facebook pages.
Last month, Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., tweeted about its “NASCAR Hall of Fame Ultimate Fan Experience.” Those who purchase any Food Lion store-brand product, along with a Coca-Cola and Mars chocolate item, were automatically entered in the sweepstakes. Prizes included a trip to the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony, tickets to the NASCAR spring all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and $1,000 cash.
While these and other supermarkets have taken the social media lead, others need to get more involved, said Bruce Dybvad, chief executive officer, Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio, a retail brand consulting firm.
“Social media isn't being used as powerfully in grocery as it is in other industries, like the consumer packaged good market,” he said. “It needs to be more ingrained in the brand strategy.”