All the hype, pomp and circumstance aside, digital marketing is mere blip on the radar screen for most retailers…especially those in the grocery channel. I say this with all due respect to grocery retailers as I understand their need to hitch their wagons to those media and programs that represent critical mass. Accordingly, digital engagement in the grocery channel, defined as communicating digital content and offers, is far from grabbing the headlines away from traditional venues and promotions.
My assessment of as to why digital programs still live in the periphery of the retailer marketing options centers around whether digital programs are passively or actively promoted. Pour another cup of coffee and let me explain.
Passive digital programs are those that are launched relatively quietly, typically exclusively on digital touch points. For example, in the case of a grocery retailer offering load to card or load to account digital coupons, there is often little or no mention of these programs in the mass media such as weekly circular television, radio, or even direct mail. Further and even stronger evidence of the passivity of promoting digital content, there is rarely any mention or reinforcement of the program in-store. Please don’t bother asking a cashier or associate about the program in-store, you will only get a blank look and a shoulder shrug.
Another key component of a passive approach to digital is content itself. Retailers who expect hundreds of meaningful, widely purchased brands to drive the content bank of these digital programs, often find that unless the shopper is in the market for an obscure meat seasoning, or a new herbal toothpaste, the digital offers available have little relevance to their shopper’s needs. But yet retailers who take a passive approach launch programs with these offers and then wonder why engagement is so disappointing.
Here’s the first take-away for retailers. Digital is not going away. Shoppers want it. Shoppers are hooked on the concept and other channels of trade and on-line retailers are setting the early shopper expectations in both content and technology. As Winn-Dixie aptly “tags” their new digital program, “The Future of Savings is Here”. They have it right.
The second important point for retailers is that passively engaging digital and waiting for the content to arrive, is depriving them of a golden opportunity to become a committed leader and thus gain share of wallet from their current shoppers and actually be in position to lure shoppers from their competitors. But this can happen only if the retailer takes an “active” approach to digital.
Here are a few recommendations I offer to become an active retail digital marketer.
1. Shout about the program in-store. Point of sale signage, bag stuffers should tell the story. Associates should be aware of the program and endorse it at every opportunity.
2. Drive the digital content with retailer-sourced offers. Make the commitment to have some of your “skin in the game”. Measure results and then “invite” your brand partners to contribute based upon your early positive results.
3. Tie digital into the mainstream of your marketing program. If you offer paper coupons in your circular or paper direct mail, convert them to load to card or account. Also, think about layering digital bonus savings on front page items, end cap features, perhaps have a “Store Managers Digital Offer of the Week”. Get inventive.
4. Measure the results and use the resulting customer data to become iteratively smarter about which offers and content drive the best results among your shoppers.
5. Don’t forget to include store brand offers. Nothing will get your brand partners interested in participating faster than if they see their share of category sales diminishing due to the impact of your store brand digital offers and campaigns.
Active digital engagement is an opportunity to lead, differentiate and embrace the future. Staying passive will keep you comfortably operating in the past or at least until you fade from the scene. It’s your choice.