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02/02/2021

3 Tips for Grocery Marketers During COVID-19

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, grocers are relying on contactless technologies to enable everything from online shopping, to click-and-collect and delivery, and even self-checkout via mobile apps.

While these technologies have created a safer shopping experience, the pandemic is exposing another area of opportunity for grocers: investing in advanced behavioral analytics and marketing technology tools. Lack of attention to these important tools can hurt a business's long-term growth and operations.

Throughout the pandemic, shoppers have seen firsthand how a lack of investment in this area prevents a more seamless and personalized shopping experience. Let’s explore three ways in which this lack of investment has hindered grocery shoppers this year, as well as tips marketers can use to create a better shopping experience and build brand loyalty.

Go Beyond Mobile App Downloads

Since March, tens of millions of shoppers downloaded grocery mobile apps, generating over 100% growth for big-name brands in grocery delivery like Walmart, Instacart and Shipt. However, downloading an app is only one step in the customer’s journey. Given the heightened focus on mobile apps, grocers should offer incentives for not just downloading, but regularly using their apps, through loyalty points and other special offers.

This year, many grocers with existing mobile apps failed to sync them with real-time inventory levels. This is one of many factors that led to empty shelves, lost profits, and decreasing brand loyalty. Let’s face it: If your local grocer is out of hand sanitizer, you’ll buy it elsewhere.

But imagine your local grocer’s mobile app used geofencing to communicate in-stock items. As you walk by the store, you receive a push notification that hand sanitizer is back in stock. Knowing this, you place a curbside pickup order, most likely add a few more items from your list, and leave the store a happy customer.

Mine for Invaluable Shopper Data

Grocers weren't prepared for a pandemic in the sense that they have never been a leader in collecting email data or leveraging SMS technology. Historically, they relied on the "if they need it, they will come" approach, and led promotions through weekly print advertising. As a result, grocers were not set up with strong martech to help them stay connected to customers and drive sales in a time of disruption.

Through a greater focus on collecting and leveraging customer data, grocers can better understand when their customers shop and what they like to buy. Armed with this knowledge, grocers can create personalized promotions that increase basket size. Imagine, for example, you bought all the ingredients for a special holiday dinner with your family, but you didn’t purchase a turkey.

Recognizing this, grocery marketers could use their mobile apps to offer you loyalty points to incentivize you to buy the turkey, as well.

Boost Profits in a Low-Margin Business

Grocers that do have customer databases from their loyalty programs often fail to store that data in a proper, clean format. This is because many shoppers rely on cashier "ghost accounts" to earn deals and discounts at checkout. Thus, grocers are unable to personalize any real-time communications to loyal customers about their purchase preferences or make recommendations about an alternative product if the shopper's favorite item is out of stock. 

Personalized promotions can be especially effective vehicles for selling more perishables. Perishables and dairy are more widely used during the pandemic, and personalized content can help ensure continued sales.

For example, grocers can find their kale-loving customers and target them with marketing content featuring recipe inspiration that will ensure they stock up and keep coming back for more as well as suggestions for alternate items if kale is out of stock.

Grocery employees have gone above and beyond this year to keep stores safe. With contactless measures in place, grocers can now focus on investment in other areas. Through strategic investments designed to create a more personalized shopping experience, grocers can lay the foundation for increased profits and brand loyalty in the years to come.

Melissa Tatoris is the chief innovation catalyst at Acoustic, a provider of marketing technology services.  

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