Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Can’t We Be Friends?

By / March 2017


The (Wide) Social Media Gap between Shoppers and Supermarkets

The Retail Feedback Group (RFG), a leader in providing actionable stakeholder feedback, recently released the U.S. Supermarket Shopper Digital Update, which includes insights from 1,200 shoppers nationwide. This new report, an offshoot from RFG’s industry-leading annual report of supermarket shopper satisfaction, the U.S. Supermarket Experience Study, focuses specifically on the digital aspects of shopper engagement with supermarkets. Social media, one of the areas covered in the report, will be our focus today.

Closing Social Media Gap Remains An Opportunity for Supermarkets

Just 25 percent of supermarket shoppers in our study indicate they are friends with or connected to their local supermarket, despite the fact that 87 percent regularly use one or more social media sites.

Social media sites used most heavily by supermarket shoppers include Facebook (89 percent), YouTube (53 percent) Twitter (30 percent), Pinterest (29 percent) and Instagram (28 percent).  It is important to stress, however, that members of various generations use social media differently.  For example, Millennials use YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat more heavily than other generations.

Closing the social media gap presents real opportunity, as many shoppers will change their behavior based on recommendations from their social network.

Our research Illustrates, based on recommendations from their social network, supermarket shoppers are very willing to engage in the following actions. As the results show, the social network matters and can impact sales and shopping behavior!

So What Social Media Platforms Are Supermarkets Using?

In the study Advertising & Promotional Practices Among U.S. Grocery Retailers 2017, released by Aptaris and dunnhumby, the various platforms used by retailers were reviewed.  Not surprisingly, Facebook, followed by Twitter and Instagram were the top three platforms used across all retailers.  Among larger retailers, other channels more prominently enter the mix as well, including YouTube and Pinterest.


Social Media Platforms and Generational Gaps

While one gap is the high level disconnect that exists between supermarket retailers and their shoppers, another divide is the disparity between what social media platforms retailers are using and where shoppers spend their time.  In comparing our findings on shopper platform choice against retailer use of various social media channels, there are some compelling findings.  For instance, overall, only about a third of retailers are using YouTube.  But 53 percent of consumers are using this platform.  So there is a 20-point difference between retailers offering and shoppers using YouTube, highest among Millennials with a 29-point difference.  Video is an opportunity area! Although a smaller base, there is also a gap between shopper use of Snapchat and retailers communicating on it, especially as it relates to Millennials and Gen X.

So What is a Retailer To Do?

Consider these five key tips to maximize your use of social media!

Understand what social media channels resonate with your customer base.  As mentioned above, the social media channels you use as a retailer need to connect with where your shoppers are spending their time on social media.  Facebook is an obvious place to start as all generations are using that platform.  But remember, video is growing so YouTube might also be worth exploring.  Plus, if you have lots of younger shoppers, you may also want to take a look at Snapchat and Instagram.

Determine if you are going to run your social media in-house or outsource.  According to Advertising & Promotional Practices Among U.S. Grocery Retailers 2017, nearly 80 percent of retailers manage social media using in-house staff while nearly 30 percent outsource (more than one choice could be selected).  Larger retailers might do an increased mix of each.  And what about using an intern?  Only a small percentage (8.9 percent) do so.  I don’t advise using an intern – do you really want to trust your brand identity to an intern that may only be with your organization a short period of time and/or not really be invested in your long-term success?

Develop a calendar or schedule of posting.  Just like you plan ads and promotions, social media works best when you plan out your messaging. Consider frequency of posting – slightly more than half of retailers (51 percent) post a few times a week according to Advertising & Promotional Practices Among U.S. Grocery Retailers 2017. 

Experiment with social media – see what works for your shoppers and makes them want to connect with you. Consider tying content in to store events, sales, and staff features. Make it interesting! And remember, it is SOCIAL media so create connections and respond to posts. If you are not interacting with shoppers, many will stop paying attention.

Determine how you are going to measure success.  There are many ways to measure success and you need to determine what is right for your organization.  The most common ways retailers measure success, according to Advertising & Promotional Practices Among U.S. Grocery Retailers 2017, are likes and shares, as well as click through rates.

In the end, retailers can help close the social media gap with shoppers by engaging in relevant channels, communicating regularly, offering compelling content and measuring impact.

Contributed by Brian Numainville, PRC – Principal, Retail Feedback Group. 

Brian joined Retail Feedback Group (RFG) in 2012 after more than 18 years with Nash Finch Company where he led market research, public relations and its charitable foundation. In his role at RFG, Brian partners with food retailers and wholesalers across the U.S. on a wide range of research and feedback initiatives to help them foster a listening culture. He is the co-author of Feedback Rules!, as well as a frequent speaker and commentator online, and at events for organizations such as the National Grocers Association (NGA), the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), and the Minnesota Grocers Association (MGA). Brian also spent many years as chair of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Consumer Market Research Committee and as a member of the Program Leadership Board at the University of Minnesota Food Industry Center.


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