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Why grocers should spend more time with social media


No question about it, today’s consumers have unprecedented power over retailers and brands. They are demanding. They want selection, quality and value. Meanwhile, new consumer groups such as generation Y and ethnic consumers are emerging as formidable shopper forces.

But let’s step back for a minute and look at consumers as more than masses of shoppers. Let’s look at them as individuals. What do you see? I see iPhones and Facebook pages. I see people connected through smartphones and social-media networks. You should, too. Mobile phones and social media are quickly becoming important ways for retailers and brands to connect with consumers. To succeed, you need to understand and leverage this technology.

Let’s start with the real game changer: mobile. How many of you own a smartphone? Fact is, most Canadians don’t. Ownership of smartphones (which, like the iPhone, is a cellphone with full computer capabilities) stood at just 18% in April 2010. But 29% of Canadians indicate they plan to buy a smartphone soon. It won’t be long before half the population owns one.

We can already see the profound impact this technology has on grocery shopping. Consumers are using smartphones as part of their shopping routine and mobile coupons are increasingly popular . I use Clip Mobile on my BlackBerry (

Meanwhile, smartphone loyalty cards are eliminating the need to carry a plastic card. Some, such as Tesco’s Clubcard app in the U.K., let consumers track their spending. Other apps enable shoppers to plan their grocery lists, view nutritional information and schedule delivery. But don’t expect smartphones to do everything. Just 15% of Canadians said they would be willing to use their phones to make payments, for instance.

Now let’s look at social media. Barely seven years old, Facebook and other similar sites have turned the relationship between retailers, brands and consumers on its head. If consumers have something to say about a store, product or service, there’s a ready-made audience listening.

A whopping 40% of consumers trust social media more than TV, traditional media and product websites

Why does social media matter? Friends and family dominate the “trust zone” when it comes to recommendations about a product. But a whopping 40% of consumers trust online reviews–well above TV, product websites and other more traditional media.

Some dismiss social media as a fad. I don’t think so. Facebook alone has 500 million members. If it were a country, Facebook would be the world’s third largest. Canadians in particular have embraced social media with gusto: 60% say they visit social media sites, and 26% spend six or more hours a week on them.

So where does social media fit into your business? I suggest you view it as a storefront through which to draw consumers. Shoppers want to be involved and, as a retailer, you can connect with them in a meaningful way online. Mobile and social media are also new forms of advertising. No longer is it sufficient to just produce a TV commercial or newspaper ad. In less than   ve years, social media has become a viable form of marketing and has, by many measures, become one of the most e fficient ways to reach consumers.

The key is acknowledging the unprecedented power of consumers. Use mobile and social media to open a dialogue with shoppers.   e goal should be to help make their lives easier and give them what they need. Now that’s connecting with your customers–and creating value.

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