Never has social media been more important for human connection than during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people spending more time on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube (hello, hair cutting tutorials!), and TikTok to connect to each other and find the information they need.
According to Eric Anderson of Red Oval partner AR Marketing---who manages a few hundred independent grocery stores' online presence, including many IGA stores through the IGA Social program---we are in an unprecedented 'time of share.' Social media engagement is up over 86 percent on the pages AR manages, with those retailers seeing an increase of more than 141 percent for net page likes.
And given social media's role in grocery marketing began to shift from a hard push on promotion to building connections with shoppers as supply became unpredictable, independent grocery retailers are particularly well suited for success.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Anderson says the most successful approach to social media follows the 3 E's: Engage, Entertain, and Educate.
- Engage means sharing stories that resonate with your followers, providing a personal touch and connection that many are lacking right now.
- Entertain means alleviating an otherwise stressful situation with fun posts. "There is reason that TikTok has exploded during C-19," Anderson says. Videos of team members having fun go a long way during normal times, and even further now.
- Educate means giving shoppers the information they need to navigate multiple meals at home each day, with people cooking at home more than ever. "It's recipe sharing time. It's time to share cooking techniques. It's time to be the source for all things food and food supply (availability, safety, changes)," says Anderson.
While this lighter approach to social media may seem contrary to every retailer's ultimate goal—increasing sales—it will pay off in loyalty that lasts far beyond the pandemic. "There's no doubt that shoppers will need sales and promotion going forward, and it is critical that we begin to incorporate that back into the social media mix," IGA CEO John Ross says. "But it's also clear that the retailers who are using this time to build a connection with shoppers are going to be remembered." In other words, the relationships you build now will continue to pay out later.
From providing valuable information to help shoppers plan their shopping trips and demonstrating the dedication of your employees to having fun showing off your team's sense of humor and creativity, check out these social media tactics to build lasting loyalty, attract new shoppers, and increase sales.
1. Provide inspiration to keep the home cooking going
When the stay-at-home orders started, many people were all excited to cook more, feeling like our inner chefs had been waiting to burst out all along. Then after what felt like 100 loaves of banana bread, constantly feeding our new sourdough starters, and the carbohydrate overload of too much homemade bread and pizza, that excitement turned to dread—just as restaurants began to reopen across the country. Inspire shoppers to keep the home cooking "cooking" with tasty new recipes and easy meal solutions.
IGA.com is sharing lots of great recipes for shoppers, including those featuring shelf-stable pantry items, meatless proteins, and easy meal-builders. Take a look at some of these great options and share them with your followers.
Granite Falls IGA in Granite Falls, Washington recently shared this post directing shoppers to IGA’s Shopper Solutions page with recipes.
Two of AR Marketing's clients—Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods in Havre, Montana and Mt. Plymouth IGA in Sorrento, Florida—are making a s splash on social media by sharing recipes. Gary & Leo's recently shared a tuna salad recipe with their followers in a post focused on the ease and economic benefits of cooking with canned meats, while Mt. Plymouth IGA shared a recipe for mac and cheese pizza bites. Shoppers love these ideas!
Grant’s Supermarket, with nine stores in West Virginia and seven in Virginia, even has a Facebook group dedicated to recipe sharing. Grant’s Shoppers Recipe Club has nearly 6,000 members.
Meal solutions, whether they are full to-go meals prepared in-store or displays with everything you need to make a dish for a family of four, are wildly successful in-store, so make sure your social media followers know what your store is doing to help inspire their cooking and make dinner easier.
Harvest Market in Fort Bragg, California puts their meal solutions front and center in-store and on social media by sharing these deli options like chicken tacos, chicken taco salad, and chicken bacon jalapeño ranch pizzas on their Facebook page.
Bob's Windham IGA in Willimantic, Connecticut has packaged mouth-watering meals from their deli and is sharing photos and details on their Facebook page.
For busy families needing to save time and money, slow cooker meal solutions are a life-saver. In the below post, see how Pat's IGA in Wolcott, Connecticut packages a full slow cooker meal for shoppers, and also asks followers to join the conversation by sharing their favorite recipes in the comments.
2. Be a town crier for your community
Social media operates best when it’s a two-way street, with people sharing and interacting, not just broadcasting their message. Independent grocery retailers are community leaders with a long history of helping and giving back, so let that spirit shine through in some of your posts.
For example, McKim’s IGA in Mount Vernon, Indiana recently shared news of a local blood drive organized by the Red Cross. By sharing this post, the store used their influence on social media and in their community to do good beyond promoting what the store is doing to help others.
Brackett’s Market in Bath, Maine celebrated the reopening of two neighboring stores with social posts, communicating their support with excitement to their followers.
3. Celebrate your hard-working employees
Everyone loves a good success story, especially those that tug our heartstrings.
Share genuine, descriptive posts about your amazing employees to publicly recognize them and show followers how much you care. Doing so first and foremost gives hard working team members a much needed boost, but also helps followers feel good about where they're spending their hard-earned dollars. Look at the below example from Kishman's IGA in Minerva, Ohio, where they featured outstanding employees in a Facebook post in early March.
Geissler’s Supermarket, with seven locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, celebrated their 2020 graduates with this touching video set to a medley of songs that reflect on time and memories (even more sentimental is that the medley was performed by the local high school choir, of which some of the Geissler's graduates were part). The video complements a surprise commencement ceremony they hosted at the store for their graduates on Sunday, May 17 (read all about it in next week's The IGA Minute and watch the video debut on Friday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Geissler's Facebook page).
4. Promote local
IGA stores are seeing a big uptick in new customers who abandoned the sprawling, big box stores the next town over in favor of a safer-feeling shopping experience at their local independent retailer. Reward those new shoppers and earn their loyalty by promoting your local products, from farm-fresh produce and dairy to local meats cut in house by a skilled butcher.
Metcalfe's Market in Madison, Wisconsin has a great example of promoting their local offerings in the below post, featuring local beer, cheese, and a distributor.
5. Alleviate shopper concerns
While the above tips promote your brand and engage customers, social media also allows you to directly communicate with shoppers and address their concerns en masse. Share what you’re doing to keep the store safe for shoppers and employees. And be sure to use photos and videos. Seeing your friendly staff member waving in a mask while sanitizing carts can go a long way to make shoppers feel better.
Here's a great example from Metcalfe's Market, showing a video of a team member sanitizing carts before the store opens.
You can also keep shoppers informed and help them plan their shopping trip with updates on product availability and pricing. For example, IGA created signage to post in-store and on social media to help shoppers understand meat supply issues. Click the images below to download and use to communicate with shoppers.
Keep in mind it's also important to share the good news, like when long-awaited out-of-stock products are back in the store. When Harvest Market got a big shipment of toilet paper in, they made sure to share and used a six foot ladder to provide perspective on just how much toilet paper they had.
6. Start bringing back the promotions
With over 35 percent of Americans currently out of work and product supply beginning to stabilize, now's the time to start bringing back the promotions value-seeking shoppers need. Stay tuned to IGA.com for social media resources to help you leverage deals for Gain, Coca-Cola's new sparkling water beverage AHA!, IGA Exclusive brand products, and more when IGA's National Digital Ad returns at the end of the month.
Just be sure to keep the heartwarming stories, meal solution ideas, and COVID-related information coming. "We're in this for the long haul, and people will continue to look to your social media platforms for the information they need," Anderson says.
Each of these tips have been used successfully by various IGA and other independent retailers, further demonstrating each store's commitment to the community, their employees, and their shoppers. By highlighting their importance through social media, the retailers build loyalty with shoppers and relationships with their fellow local businesses, which can boost sales both during and after the pandemic.
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