Now the Fun Begins: an Update on IGA's Core Initiatives

Aug 15, 2018

It is hard to imagine that we are more than half way through 2018. So much is moving so fast in so many areas at IGA, so today with the inaugural edition of IGA’s weekly newsletter, I thought I would share a mid-year update to keep everyone up to date on our progress.


Just a few short months ago I revealed a series of new initiatives for our brand at the IGA Global Rally. Shortly after, we did a whirlwind tour to speak with as many retailers and wholesaler partners as possible. By March we were doing consumer focus groups and primary research, and by April I went into my first true board meeting to present the short and mid-range business plans for IGA.

I was so pleased to get Board buy in for the major initiatives. Not just acceptance but full support from each of our Licensed Distribution Center (LDC) and retail board members on some big core programs,  including:

  • A totally revamped communications platform
  • Up-branding of IGA around our new “Fresh equals Local” strategy
  • A complete revamp of IGA Exclusive Brands both in strategy and design
  • A new national digital ad platform
  • Accelerated and lower cost programs to scale IGA online and in social media connections
  • New visual merchandising to support all the initiatives

Taken individually, any of these initiatives would be a large undertaking. Collectively they represent the largest simultaneous program development project the brand has pursued in many years. But with the board and LDC support so strong—and the broad base of retailers so enthusiastic about these changes—your IGA team is motivated, excited, and determined to bring these new programs to bear. Here is a quick update on each of the key initiatives, beginning with our first big change—the new communications platform you’re seeing now.

IGA Communications

This week marks the unveiling of new tools for IGA communications, including The IGA Minute weekly email newsletter, the new national IGA website, and our new library and schedule of online webinars and town halls.

Starting with the newsletter, we have gone from daily to weekly to save you time, yes, but also so we could deliver a better, more focused, and more useful message. Think of The IGA Minute as a modern, digital version of the beloved Grocergram, the print magazine that served as IGA’s primary form of communication for more than 80 years. This new weekly e-newsletter will feature custom-created content on the topics you have told us you want, delivered in the way you want it. You can expect firsthand blogs from the desk of our team members and industry insiders; instructive articles; retailer profiles; messages and offers from IGA partners; and most importantly, weekly best practices with deep dive interviews with IGA retailers who are driving innovation in their stores. And with a new IGA studio in Chicago, you’ll see more and more of this content delivered in the form of podcasts and professionally developed videos. 

But The IGA Minute is only part of the story. We have also totally overhauled IGA’s websites using a new platform that makes content creation and sharing way easier than before. Right now the new provides more for shoppers in the form of IGA-exclusive recipes, meal planning tips and other shopper solutions, and soon we can add to that IGA coupons, deals, and promotions—all shared in a weekly email to your shoppers direct from IGA. But of course, every shopper will end up zip code targeted to your local IGA store.

At the same time, will serve as a recruitment site for perspective IGA members, and most importantly, a corporate site that provides program updates, tools and resources; archived content from The IGA Minute; and weekly news-you-need posts—all delivered in an easier to navigate format with restriction and passwords only needed on the information that should be restricted.

Local Equals Fresh Branding

The word “local” has evolved in the consumer’s perception of retailers. Instead of local meaning just a “locally owned business,” now the word is likely to be understood as a grocer who sells products that come from family and regional farms, and whose products are healthier than those at a larger national chain.

To capitalize on this changing consumer sentiment, we are launching a new multi-pronged up-branding centered around IGA’s new “Local equals Fresh” promise: “wherever possible, IGA buys from local and regional family farms. Local retailers, working with local farmers, because local equals fresh.”

We did consumer research on this brand position in the spring and got some of the strongest scores I have ever seen for brand affinity, credibility, and likelihood to shop. Subsequent research on how the branding works in store and on the label are underway now, and assuming no surprises in the research, we will put these programs into play for the back half of the year in form of online and digital media, in a new video campaign, IGA Exclusive Brand product packaging, and in a new visual merchandising campaign with instore signage.

IGA Exclusive Brands

The revamp of the IGA Exclusive Brand product line is in full gear. We have a new agency working with us to extend the “Local equals Fresh” strategy to our line, and the first new products will roll out to stores late August / early September—several months ahead of schedule!

But as with everything we are doing, we will constantly test our efforts with shoppers because, at the end of the day, shopper engagement and loyalty isn’t driven by what we like—it’s driven by what the shoppers like.

So, the final round of testing takes place in August, and with those results we will revamp every product in the line. This includes new labeling, customized photography, and POP, too. By this time next year, we will launch a full marketing campaign with our core IGA Exclusive Brand SKUs, using digital ads and direct marketing to promote products like never before.

IGA National Digital Ad

When I came onboard at IGA, one of my first and most important goals was to create a national digital ad that would combine national offers IGA solicits from our manufacturer partners with local ad content from our retailers.

At the IGA Global Rally we showed a mockup of the national digital ad, designed for PC and mobile viewing, which enables shoppers to find and discover weekly savings in a clear and interactive way. It also allows interactive rich media—like recipes, product demonstrations, wellness content and more—to be placed right within the ad.

Our plan was then and is still now to make this a turnkey program for the retailer, with no incremental costs and no extra effort on the store’s part to participate. We launched a prototype in an IGA store one month ahead of our July deadline, and so far, the store’s ad is running without a hitch.

I have, however, decided to delay the rollout to the rest of the stores in our Alliance. Instead of launching this across all 1,000+ IGA’s immediately, we are going to stage rollout by IGA ad group. To get the digital ad going, the retailer doesn’t have to do anything new, but the ad groups do have to take on some new tasks, and we have found that getting them up to speed and comfortable with the new ad is a critical step.

It was my call to make, and the decision was simple:  we can’t rush this. More digital distribution, new formats, and increased connectivity are all cool. But if we disappoint our shoppers because we run the wrong price or the wrong item, none of the other slick new functionality matters.

This doesn’t mean an IGA store can’t get benefit in 2018, however. We will be putting the full digital ad up for all markets, filled with national offers, manufacturer messages and digital content by end of this quarter. And the really great news is that our brand partners are excited about this new national program. We have singed on dozens of new Red Oval partners and are building an 18-month promotional calendar so we can have new national offers for all stores, over and above any programs you’re running locally through your LDC, or through your ad group. Look for a communication on when your ad group and your store will go live with your local ad offers via email in the next few weeks.

IGA Digital Marketing Platform

Of course, a digital ad without digital media won't drive sales. A truly effective and turnkey digital solution means the ad has to be incorporated into a broader platform with additional digital elements to help you connect with your shoppers and draw them in the store. And that’s where the IGA Digital Marketing Platform comes into play.

This month we introduce a new suite of consumer-facing digital tools that give IGA the same digital footprint and draw-power as any national chain, while driving conversion to your stores locally.

The digital marketing platform has everything you need in one place, from the all-important national digital ad and shareable consumer-facing content on the new; to a new social media program that leverages our collective 1,000 store weight to bring down the cost of your social media by over 75%; to a new lower cost, more powerful plan for digital savings that provides automated billing for scan-based promotions and rebates, digital coupons with weekly email capabilities, and a new on-receipt program.

Visual Merchandising

The brand comes alive in our stores more than any other media, so we have been working on a full revamp of the IGA branding and promotional materials position to promote our new initiatives, from our “Local equals Fresh” brand position and new Exclusive Brand look, to our national digital ad offerings.  Preliminary designs are being tested in an IGA store this month. Based on response, we will tweak and adjust and then post a full new branding kit for our stores.

For existing IGA stores, these new materials are designed to work in conjunction with the colors and signage you already have. For new IGA stores, or older stores going through a refit, the new package is designed to modernize and standardize the brand.

I think you will love the new materials—which become available in August and will roll out through the balance of the year—but no IGA owner is required to use them. Each IGA owner can and should bring their own name and personality to bear. And if we have done the job right, these new materials will aide you in branding and personalized instore strategy rather than compete with it.

OK, so a long update, but so much to talk about—and we’ve barely touched the surface on the details. 

This has been a whirlwind first eight months on the job, but I am so pleased with the progress we are making. And now, starting with this new e-newsletter and website launch, it only gets more fun from here. Expect exciting new stuff rolling out almost every 60 days!

Keep feeding me your thoughts and hold us accountable for hitting our key milestones. Its going to be a fun back half of 2018!

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