Over the past year, grocers have sprinted to expand or build online operations to meet the demand caused by the pandemic. We all remember the early COVID-19 days, riddled with overwhelmed online shopping tools, crowded stores and plenty of confusion. While demand continues to eclipse pre-pandemic numbers, the industry is in a better position to think more strategically about digital offerings.
This means that grocers who are continually investing in their online platforms can consider how to better serve shoppers, increase efficiencies and expand margins. One of the most effective and straightforward ways to build these margins is to promote private label brands more extensively. And during a time of climbing digital engagement, this is easier than ever with a few simple methods.
A Rise in Digital Engagement
First, let’s consider the landscape. COVID-19 forced a wave of shoppers to digitally engage with their grocers, many for the first time. As customers flocked online, some grocers successfully found ways to keep their new, online audience intrigued. One of our clients experienced a 21% increase in digital engagement during Q3 2020 as customers embraced digital tools and the customer embraced their digital customers.
Successful grocers are focusing on growing their increasing digital communications, creating more awareness of its online assets and tools to meet this enlarged online audience. Any digital tools or personalized communication that helps customers save time will lead to increased retention, loyalty and sales.
As digital engagement continues to rise, stores have a unique opportunity to promote private label brands.
Utilize Search Results
Perhaps the simplest method is to promote private labels in search results. If an online Whole Foods shopper searches for peanut butter on the site, they will immediately be met with multiple variations of their 365 private brand. Grocery retailers of all sizes should do the same. During these in-transactional moments on the site, retailers have a great opportunity to surface private label brands and convert sales. Especially amid the pandemic, shoppers are looking for new product options. According to an Inmar survey, 61% of shoppers reported switching purchase loyalty to less-expensive brands since the beginning of the COVID-19. As such, this is the perfect time for stores to surface their own, often more affordable brands.
Feature Brands in Weekly Promotions
Like in the physical retail world, flyers, circular and coupons can have a huge impact on online shoppers’ purchasing habits. In fact, with grocers collecting more data by the day throughout the pandemic, these online deals can have even more.
With data-driven insights, grocers can include private labels in their personalized offers — giving shoppers the prices they love with a touch of customization. By reaching customers at the right place and time with the right promotions, coupons and discounts, grocers can establish and grow strong relationships among its brands and customers. Presenting personalized promotions, that include private label brands, in these weekly promotions keep the products top of mind while helping shoppers get the items they want and need.
As grocers welcome droves of new shoppers to their digital platforms, they have the opportunity to facilitate unique and exciting experiences — an emphasis on health via personalized dietary and recipes. Depending on shoppers dietary preferences, health, allergies and tastes, retailers can recommend products and recipes that align with the shoppers wants and needs.
The ability to push these recipes also means the ability to push private labels. If a shopper finds a recipe on the grocer’s app, they can be presented with an ingredients list that includes the grocers’ brands — making their list-making easy and their shopping journey easier. This kind of digital convenience and personalization makes it much more likely for customers to try private labels. As well, the experience builds a level of trust that keeps a customer coming back and embracing the entire grocery experience, private brands included.
The Possibilities of Online Engagement
As shoppers adopt more digital tools amid COVID-19, grocers must offer tools that make shoppers’ trips more efficient and personalized. Most people are not satisfied with being treated as a number when they shop. As such, stores need to find ways to build strong relationships with relevant content within these communications to shoppers. Once these relationships are established, shoppers will trust the recommendations of the brands, enabling them to promote private labels and more during COVID-19 and beyond.
Shekar Raman is CEO and co-founder of Birdzi, a grocery retail AI solutions company. He is passionate about building data-driven technologies leveraging AI and machine learning to help retailers and brands elevate the customer experience.