Leveraging Social Media At The Store Level Use of digital tools for grocery retailers is lagging other channels

By Jeff Doucette, founder, Field Agent Canada

Last year was a very interesting year of exploring the power of social media for our team at Field Agent Canada. We were able to see a lot of the pros and cons of using various social media platforms to engage with shoppers right across Canada, through a lot of experimentation in 2021.

In general, it seems that social media is not being leveraged in grocery retail as it is in other retail channels. Obviously, there is a strong use case for social media in e-commerce channels and in retail categories such as fashion or sporting goods that may be targeted to a younger demographic.

But in grocery, efforts in social media tend to be coordinated by big chains and are at a national level. I think that there is an even great opportunity for the grocery channel to use social media at a local or “grassroots” level to build connections with the overall community and individual shoppers, while also driving sales growth.

First, let’s start with the basics. What happens when you Google your store? Is your Google Business listing up to date? Do photos of your store appear? Is your store pinned at the correct location on the map? Are the store hours up to date (especially during holiday period)?

The second major consideration is that there are a lot of different social media platforms and the demographics of who is on those platforms varies quite a bit as shown in CHART 1.

If you store is located near a university the platforms of choice maybe TikTok or Instagram while if you were in a suburban bedroom community a better platform mix might be Facebook and Instagram.

Having a series of YouTube videos tied to your Google Business profile can provide some interesting content that helps introduce your store to local shoppers. Maybe a short welcome video from the store manager. Or maybe a video showing the bakers hard at work getting the fresh baked goods ready for the day. Or the seafood manager highlighting the freshness and selection available in their department. This content will be long living and give potential shoppers a better view inside what makes your store special.

Other content on more “in the moment” platforms such as TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram should highlight what is happening right now in-store as the content only lasts a short period of time. Without being too much of a sales-pitch, content can still engage the local shopper. An Instagram post showing a newly built display of Easter candy or a TikTok post showing a new item that just arrived in-store is more subtle but still engaging to your viewers.

Also have fun! Some businesses are “all business” on social media, but a fun video of your employees dancing in the aisles, or a time-lapsed video of the delivery truck being unloaded on the overnight shift shows another dimension of your business. Funny, interesting and quirky gets views on social media (at least in moderation)!

I encourage you to also ask staff, family and friends which local retailers are already doing a good job on social media. Check out their accounts, see what they are posting and which posts get the most views. Use this intelligence to drive your own content mix.

Maybe you are like me and you are not overly tech savvy or creative – so who should run your social campaigns and manage your digital presence?

Fortunately, in the grocery industry we have a wealth of social media knowledge in the store’s team of employees. Ask around and find one or two people on your team who spend an hour or two of their day bringing your store to life on-line. You will be amazed (as was I) to see the passion and creativity that can be unlocked by adding this responsibility to someone’s job description.

But just don’t turn over the keys. Have them draft a communication plan that carefully schedules out the cadence and content of social posts and be sure to approve all creative ideas before pressing “post”.

Another avenue you might take would be to find a local shopper who has a solid on-line presence and can act as a “shopper ambassador” for your store. There is an ever-expanding group of deal hunters and couponers that have thousands of followers on various platforms and having them make a weekly post about your store can grow awareness and also expand the followers of your social media accounts.

Having your ambassador shoot a post in the store each week highlighting what’s exciting in-store can drive interest and traffic to your location. They can also have a secret deal of the week that the promote to their followers.

Many of the popular influencers in the coupon/deals space are what I like to call “Digital Robin Hoods”. Their most popular posts find hacks that allow shoppers to take advantage of multiple deals to get products for free or close to it. Imagine finding an item that is in the flyer but also has an on-shelf coupon and a digital offer on a platform like Checkout 51 or a loyalty points offers. Digital Robin Hoods do uncover some pretty amazing deals that are unintentional and they do highlight the need for retailers, brand marketers and account teams to work closely together to coordinate promotional efforts in the digital age – but that is a topic for another

Again, know who you are partnering with and vet their existing content before developing a partnership with an influencer. Start out slow and give the influencer room to make their posts about your store genuine so they resonate with their audience and in turn, will be more beneficial to your store.

There are lots of digital media experts out there and I am definitely not one of them. I encourage you to think about growing your social media efforts for your store in 2022 and have fun! Budgets don’t have to be huge and the benefits can be very positive in building your connection with your local community!

Jeff Doucette is the founder of “Field Agent Canada” an on-demand panel of Canadian shoppers providing a suite of innovative services to Canadian retailers and brands. He can be reached at jeff.doucette@fieldagentcanada.com


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