ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — Supermarkets should prepare for the Internet overtaking the circular as the dominant delivery vehicle for communication with their shoppers, according to a panel of speakers at a webinar hosted by the Food Institute here last week.
This change will deliver big benefits for retailers who can embrace Web marketing and its ability to provide shoppers with deep content, better service and personalized offers, the speakers said.
The event was hosted by Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill. Bishop noted that 72% of shoppers today hit five or more stores for their food shopping — sparked in part by increased value consciousness. He also said shoppers are seeking help from retailers, particularly in the area of meal planning.
These trends dovetail with the recent movement among retailers to build their efforts around their shoppers' needs — particularly, defined groups of consumers who comprise a store's “best shoppers,” Bishop said.
“There's no question that retailers have elevated the importance of what they've learned their customers want — ahead of, perhaps, what their suppliers want, or other influences on them. And I think this has worked well for the retailers,” Bishop said.
Together, these trends set a compelling stage upon which to engage in Web marketing, Bishop explained, citing figures from Grocery Shopping Network indicating that shoppers who regularly use a retailer's website “show a whole different level of engagement” with the retail brand. “It shows the power of the website to increase the loyalty — the percentage of household spending that customers are making with a retailer.”
Nick Arlt, director of public relations and Internet services for Festival Foods, Onalaska, Wis., said Festival's website has become a superior way to provide customer service and brand-building that has multiple advantages over traditional forms of media.
“You have a lot of control over your message [on the Web],” he said. “In other mediums you are subject to their time, their space and their rules. On the Internet you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, and for a relatively limited cost vs. other media.”
Arlt said Festival continues to use traditional media to advertise its brand and communicate with shoppers, but noted that struggles in the newspaper industry along with a trend toward shoppers consuming information online have prompted Festival to use traditional media to promote its offerings on the Web.
“Our company has become focused over the last year on the question, ‘At what point is the newspaper going to become secondary to the website,’ whether that's in two years, five years or 10 years,” Arlt said. “And what we decided was that we needed to start adding to the website, and use the existing the media — radio, TV, etc. to help build our website. So if those other mediums ever go away we'll still have a strong brand.”
Andrew Robinson, founder and chief executive officer of Grocery Store Network, Minneapolis, said that Web marketing provides retailers with an opportunity to improve service and value for shoppers by making their trips faster and their decisions easier.
Retailers should not think of their website as a content hub, but rather as an application allowing users to complete a task, suggested David Carlick, director of Grocery Shopping Network. Gauging the success of a site is about committing to meet the expectations of those shoppers.
“More users, coming back more often, to build larger shopping lists. That's success,” he said.