6 Simple Steps for Connecting with the Connected Shopper

Oct 3, 2018

Once a upon a time not so very long ago, it was common practice for a shopper to sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a pen and paper, and the weekly circular to make a grocery list. That circular—combined with the occasional television commercial—told them everything they needed to know about what to buy and where to buy it.

My how things have changed. While print advertising clearly still influences shoppers (see IGA CEO John Ross’ blog on Media 101 for media planning insights), the modern shopper journey more often than not begins with digital.

Today, the vast majority of modern shoppers own smartphones (89 percent), personal computers (79 percent), and tablets (63 percent) that provide immediate access to information—information that these shoppers use daily to become more knowledgeable about the brands and retailers they choose, says Devora Rogers, VP account management at Murphy Research.

“It’s true that most purchases are still made in-store, but that doesn’t mean shoppers aren’t doing their homework,” says Rogers. “Shoppers’ desire to be smarter about the choices they make has never been greater. We’re finding over half of all consumers conduct research online before their visit, and 55 percent use their phones to research products as they shop.”

Moreover, the shoppers who engage in this research also tend to be higher-income and higher-spending customers who value unique and personalized shopping experiences—traits that make them a particularly valuable target market for a hyper-local grocer who is already delivering a more intimate and personable relationship with shoppers, Rogers says.

So how do you draw connected shoppers from the online world into your store? The key, Rogers says, is using your online presence to demonstrate your local point of difference, build your online reputation, and inspire lasting loyalty.

Get started with these 6 simple steps for connecting with the connected shopper.

1. Pay attention to Yelp and other review sites.

When is the last time you checked out the comments about your business on Yelp? Engaging with shoppers on Yelp and other business review sites may seem like an unnecessary burden for a busy independent retailer, but in truth, it’s a perk you should appreciate. As a small business owner, you can engage with shoppers in way that is more authentic—and more productive—than the chains ever could.

If you haven’t already, be sure to “claim your business” and set up a business user account. Then, set aside time each week to read reviews and respond to shoppers. Thank those who give you good reviews, but also try to look at less-than-stellar feedback as an opportunity to showcase your customer service chops and solve problems within your business. Your shoppers will appreciate your accessibility and your attention to creating an online relationship that mirrors the personalized one you have in-store. “If you can be there to listen, engage, and solve problems for your shoppers, you’ll have a customer for life,” Rogers says.

2. Post high-quality images.

Photos on your website, social media pages, and review sites help customers form opinions about your store before they even step foot in your physical location. Good pictures can help you demonstrate value and inform shoppers about your unique offerings, while poorly shot or badly lit photos can deter them from visiting in the first place. For proof of the value of good photos, just look at the experience of Airbnb. They discovered that accurate, high-quality images helped drive bookings so much, they began offering photography services to homeowners within the Airbnb network.

If you’re not particularly skilled behind the lens, Rogers suggests hiring a local photographer to take high-quality shots of the departments, store features, and offerings that promote your local connection and make you stand out from the competition. For a minimal investment, you will receive a variety of images that you can drip out your website and on social media for months to come.

3. Create in-store “Insta-bait.”

Digital engagement isn’t a one-way street. Building a true digital relationship means pushing out content shoppers want, but also finding ways to get them to connect back to you. Insta-bait, or “baiting” your shoppers to take and post fun pictures from your store, is a great way to start that two-way dialogue.

Insta-bait can work a lot of different ways. Just provide a space that is fun and visually appealing—anything from a mural with landmarks from your community or a chalkboard wall where people can fill in a meaningful sentence, to a “product station” that encourages shoppers to show their love for their favorite foods. Then encourage shoppers to take photos of themselves and tag your store when they share their photos on their social media pages (a la Instagram). Looking for a lot of activity in a short amount of time? Consider a weekly prize for the photo with the most “likes.” Your shoppers enjoy the experience and you earn organic mentions that help you reach more people—win-win!

4. Bring in-store experiences to life online.

In a world filled with homogeneous shopping, you have the perfect opportunity to stand out with experiences and offerings unique to your store by bringing your in-store experiences to life on your social media pages and your website.

From posting photos from a local wine tasting or community charity cookout to sharing stories about a farm family that supplies your produce or the team member who makes your famed cornbread, unique experiences reinforce your brand value and demonstrate what’s special about your store.

5. Create online-only experiences that engage shoppers.

Once you feel comfortable promoting your in-store experiences online, why not take it a step further by creating engaging online-only experiences on your social platforms? For example, try setting up a poll on your social media pages so your connected shoppers can cast a vote for their favorite new, local, or store-made product. You will receive valuable feedback on shoppers’ preferences, and your shoppers will enjoy voting for their favorite brand and learning about new products recommended by their neighbors.

Want to take it up a notch? Consider hosting a tournament-style poll like the Final Four promotion sponsored by Baker’s IGA in Newcomerstown, Ohio. They created a bracket featuring specialty items made in their deli and encouraged shoppers to vote on their favorites. The event garnered hundreds of comments, many that included touching stories about the central role of these products in family gatherings. Not only did this promotion help solidify the bond between store and customers in a unique way, it also provided organic testimonials about the value of the store’s products to the community.

Whichever way you choose to hold your online-only event, don’t forget to share the fun with in-store signage that promotes the contest, and later shares the winners.

6. Take advantage of your brand power.

With the launch of IGA’s new consumer-facing website in August and IGA’s first-ever National Digital Ad this Sunday, www.IGA.com has a wealth of content to help you build your online audience. Stay tuned to The IGA Minute next week for more on the tools and resources that will help you promote the National Digital Ad in your marketplace, and click here for more information on what you need to do to be ready for the Oct.7th launch.

IGA retailers: Need help managing your social media? Learn how IGA has leveraged our size and scale to secure a NEW national contract that makes AR Marketing’s world-class social media support more affordable than ever before

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