Through visual social media — web and mobile platforms that emphasize photos and videos — retailers are connecting with customers in new ways.
Some of this outreach centers on produce and growers.
“A farmer in a video on a grocery store’s website is an incredibly powerful technique, and in 30 seconds can say so much more than any flier can tell someone, and create that human connection,” said Carisa Miklusak, chief executive officer of tMedia Strategies, a media consultancy.
Virtual farm tours give customers a glimpse of who grows their food and where that food comes from.
In one video on PCC Natural Market’s website, farmer Apple Otte recounts how she and her husband started their organic orchard at River Valley Organics in Tonasket, Wash. The video explains that the orchard grows a variety of cherries, pears and apples, and has supplied PCC with its produce since 2000.
This video is one part of PCC’s “Meet Our Producers” campaign that spans online platforms — from profiles and photos posted on PCC’s website to videos uploaded on YouTube to photos shared on Facebook and Pinterest. (The social media platform Pinterest works as a virtual pin board where consumers can share photos of things they like.)
Read more: Pinterest a Hit for Foodies, Recipe Seekers
The trend toward visualization allows retailers to raise brand awareness through social sharing, and communicate with consumers on an emotional level.
With visual content, “the whole idea is to get people in the mood to go shopping. You’re not necessarily selling online, but you’re putting these thoughts into people’s heads,” said Jessica Levin, president and chief connector of Seven Degrees Communications.
“If you’re out there, taking pictures of beautiful food and posting them, it definitely has an impact.”
This summer, United Supermarkets caught customers’ attention with photo and video content for Hatch chile peppers, a variety with a short window of availability in August.
The digital team pinned photos on a Pinterest with links to United’s Hatch chile recipes on Tumblr — a blog platform that enables users to easily share posts.
“Leading up to [the events], we had a lot of our followers asking us, ‘When will you have Hatch chiles?’ When we finally started posting a lot of material about that, they were very excited,” said Kelly Podzemny, social media coordinator for United Supermarkets.
Also, during United’s Hatch Chile Festival roasting events, the team posted live updates, photos and videos on the retailer’s West Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth Facebook pages. One video showed the peppers tumbling in a rolling cylindrical roaster at United’s Amigos store in Amarillo, Texas.
Read more: Summer Produce Goes Social
United offered similar promotions for fall produce. For instance, Podzemny put together a Pinterest board showing photos of pumpkins and gourds available at United Supermarket banners. He also created a Facebook album and Pinterest board composed of autumn apple varieties, with captions describing the taste and use of the different apples.
“That was a very popular item for us on Facebook,” he said, “and we would like people to get that again with other produce items.”
United was recently honored for its online efforts and a recently launched iPhone app with the Shopper Technology Institute’s Leader Award for Excellence in Digital Marketing.
“Our imagery with produce, and with all of our foods, really comes into play with showing our guests what we have to offer in the stores, enticing them to come in and really explore what we do,” said Jennifer Nanz, United’s digital marketing manager.
Whole Foods Market is another retailer that makes ample use of visual media platforms like Pinterest, but with a different approach than other chains. Many of the chain’s Pinterest subject boards contain produce-based recipes and prep tips, and Whole Foods pins recipes from across the web, not just its own content. Meant to build connections around shared interests, Whole Foods’ 45 boards have garnered 69,872 followers.
Pinterest “allows us to curate images from across the web that really speak to who we are as a company, images that reflect our core values and essentially communicate the essence of who we are,” Michael Bepko, Whole Foods’ global online community manager, told Mashable.com.
Supermarket Phil Lempert explains Pinterest, a platform where visual inspiration leads to purchases and offers tips for retailers.
"Pinterest is quickly becoming a major player in the social media world, and may be one of most interest for retailers as the data is showing that 'pinners' are also buyers," Lempert says in this video report.
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