Immediate Personalization Wins for Grocery Stores

May 5, 2020

Grocery brands are scrambling to keep their businesses running amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and part of that scramble includes a massive increase in digital activity. Last year, eMarketer predicted online food and beverage sales to grow 18.9% by the end of 2020. And then, on March 19, downloads of Instacart, Walmart’s grocery app, and Shipt grew considerably, as all three platforms saw gains of 218%, 160%, and 124% respectively when compared to prior year activity. That’s ten times the predicted annual growth in a single week.

Right now, the focus is on how to manage supply chain disruptions, stock-out problems, a rotating array of fulfillment options, and on top of it all, keep a good customer relationship. It can be hard to think about creating a personalization strategy in the middle of such turmoil, but, the sooner grocery brands start to catch up to customer expectations for relevant communications, the better their business will be now and in the long run.

(Profits will come as a result, too—Boston Consulting Group found that customers spent 40% more per session when personalization was present.)

As grocery brands look to meet the needs of surging customer activity online, here are three personalization wins they can follow to upgrade their personalization strategy accordingly.

Personalize With a Variety of Data Inputs

Tesco, one of the largest grocery brands in the UK, has been developing a big data strategy that helps them with advanced customer modeling, which allows them to  communicate and triangulate strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even without a broad data strategy, grocery brands can tap into many different treasure troves of customer insights across their business and apply it to their personalization efforts. For example, loyalty card data, third party location data, weather, and data about product availability are all valuable inputs to a good personalization strategy.

Now that shoppers are online shopping so much more, a significant new source of personalization data can come directly from websites and mobile apps. Easy-to-use data like search and shopping activity can inform personalization for offers like coupons or product recommendations. These data points can be used now to tremendous effect either at a larger segmented level in tests (Majority Fit Experiences) on the site or even in highly targeted individual messaging (Individual Fit Experiences). For example, targeted messages based on food preferences (IFEs) and targeted messaging to customers living in higher population density areas to ease deliveries (MFEs).

Create a Consistent Online/Brick and Mortar Experience

Getting a personalization strategy in place certainly helps communicate the most vital information to consumers now, but is also going to offer significant value over the long haul. Online shoppers are still part of a local community where there are brick and mortar stores as well. It’s important that grocery brands coordinate their online and offline logistics, fulfillment, and communication to optimize the customer experience. Even in the face of so much uncertainty, companies like Target are helping customers by providing multichannel personalization through curbside pickup and with SMS messaging and alerts when desired products are back in store.

In the near term, each grocery store location is juggling lots of information—from updated product availability to accurate delivery times—that is vital for customers. Therefore, an agile approach to information management, both on the back and front of the house, matters a lot. Even after consumers go back to their normal shopping habits, a coordinated personalization approach to both online and offline ensures that grocery stores can offer the correct promotions and specials, as well as share the right store hours, inventory, and updates on new offerings.

Prioritize Communication Best Practices cites a study from ROI that 78% of consumers trust transparent brands more—that climbs to 83% when looking at Millennial moms. That statistic is not related to the current COVID-19 environment, where trust and transparency matter more than ever. With a good personalization strategy across fulfillment, ecommerce, and marketing, brands can ensure that they offer up-to-date information and can be more confident in the information they share with customers.

Here are three best practices that we recommend, especially as grocery brands gain so many new online customers:

Reassurance (and care) messaging on delivery options: Provide clarity to all visitors, but especially to new visitors, who may not be familiar with your delivery offerings. This will help build confidence and nudge the customer down the purchase funnel. With the current climate, returning customers may also need reassurance that you’re still able to deliver to their location. Use location-based targeting to make reassurance messaging relevant to the visitor.

New visitors, and possibly new demographics: Think about HTML accessibility, large, bold text on a high-contrast background, and perhaps discounts for older shoppers.

Move recommendation containers above the fold: Placing personalized containers above the fold allows shoppers to easily see alternative options, aids discovery, and ultimately improves conversion. More prevalent recommendations can help new shoppers to your site find what they need faster, thus improving conversion rates.

As time passes, consumer habits will shift yet again. Many shoppers will be on tight budgets and will try to maximize every dollar. Consequently, brands can personalize content about where they can get the best savings and how they can make their loyalty points stretch further.