Women continue to dominate supermarket shopping as their families’ “CPO”—Chief Purchasing Officer. Although men have increased their influence in this sphere, women still maintain their retail spend of up to $15 trillion annually. Furthermore, 70% of these women have children under 18 and participate in the labor force, while 84% of women are the sole preparer of meals in the household. So, in the retail space, what does this mean specifically for grocers? Working moms are in search of faster and easier ways to find healthier meal options for themselves and their families. Balancing the demands of a full-time job with those of having children at home, these shoppers also place a premium on time and convenience. Traditional supermarkets are facing challengers from all sides of the grocery ecosystem these days, with “fresh format” grocers—including The Fresh Market, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s—leading the way. These stores can capitalize on the rise in demand for healthy food, organic selections and compelling promotions by optimizing their content marketing experience.
In this column we review content marketing programs by consuming content and evaluating its effectiveness at shaping positive opinions about a brand or inspiring engagement and action. “Consuming” is an appropriate word for this edition as we evaluate three national specialty grocers through the discerning eyes of working mothers.
Brooke Wagner, The Fresh Market
Before I had my child, my typical Sunday afternoon consisted of trips to three grocery stores—one for household staples, one for organic produce and one for farm-raised or free-range or whatever non-hormonal-injected meat I could buy. My son is now nearly a year old, and I’ve become less of an adventurous cook as I’ve ventured in parenthood. However, food quality is even more important to me, so while my shopping experience is fragmented, I still go to various stores for different needs. The Fresh Market is one of those.
My love for The Fresh Market was born in the store, but I follow them on social media, hoping to find out in advance about specials, events and what products might inspire me to make something more than grilled chicken and broccoli these days. On Facebook, the brand does a great job of engaging its followers with delicious foods and in-store promotions. But then it lets me down by not offering links to recipes of the food I’m drooling over. Why?! Instagram is perfect for a brand such as this because it’s a highly visual medium, and because food works so well there. I just wish The Fresh Market posted more frequently in this channel.
I have a new friend at the meat counter. He helps me every time. It’s just one of the many things I love about The Fresh Market in-store experience. In addition, I could get lost in the cheeses, wines, desserts and breads. I love that I can buy something prepared when in a pinch, and that I can find high-quality ingredients to make a nice meal. Every store offers a consistent brand experience, and I know exactly what to expect.
Between a family, a job and time for myself (hah!), I’m strapped for time. So I connect most deeply with brands that are where I am and serve content to me based on my needs. The Fresh Market website accurately represents the in-store experience, but I rarely have a need to proactively visit a grocer’s website. I’d love to see the brand do a better job of pushing content to me via social channels and a mobile app. If I got additional tips, recipes, information about specials or even catering, I’d shop there more often and develop an even deeper affinity for a brand I’ve grown to love.
Susan Stegemann, Whole Foods
As a full-time working parent of two young children, grocery shopping is something I tend to do on weekends. I might pick up something that’s needed during the week, but there just isn’t much time to fetch my daughters from childcare and prepare and eat dinner by a reasonable hour that also doesn’t make the kids late to bed.
Socially Speaking: The Whole Foods Market Facebook page is your ordinary business page. Several of my friends “like” it. For my first visit here, I found no special tabs to click on—no coupons, no contests, no polls to engage with, nothing that I’d want to share. There was also nothing to give me a reason to visit the store today.
The Google Test: [Whole Foods coupons] was my search query. Sure enough, that’s exactly what I found—via the first organic entry that immediately followed the ads. I set my location and store and continued to scroll through all the coupons I could print. Wait, what? Whole Foods, the company whose values include “doing the green thing,” is suggesting I print coupons. Like on paper. I imagine they take care to recycle said paper appropriately in one of their specially marked recycling and compost receptacles. But it really caught me off guard to not be invited to sign in and save my coupons to their mobile app.
The Homepage Front: If I go to the homepage directly, I find coupons tucked under the “On Sale” page, but I had to re-enter my location and store. I was surprised they still didn’t know this about me; I just told them when Google sent me to their site. Nevertheless, it offers plenty of recipes and food ideas to sift through were I inclined to spend my time here. I don’t visit sites to discover new things to make, yet I admit that easy, quick meals and delicious-looking foods that pop up in my social feeds are generally effective at distracting me like a ‘squirrel’ moment. But I wasn’t really pulled in here.
Going Mobile: Visiting WholeFoodsMarket.com from my phone quickly assured me that, yes, they do have an app. So I downloaded it, and while I could find what’s on sale, I couldn’t find any coupons. So I guess that explains why I can’t save my coupons to it—they don’t exist in this medium.
In-Store Insights: When I visit Whole Foods locally, it’s the store I’ve come to know. It’s easy to find organic, healthy foods—even a quick lunch. Sale items are marked well, and if I can’t get what I’m looking for, there’s always an associate nearby who’ll ask me if I need any assistance. Coupons or not, I’ll still buy what I intended to.
Dishing it Out: While my prior store visits set the bar high for my online expectations, the online experience could do a better job of fostering the in-store experience. Besides the clear miss on adding coupons from desktop to mobile a la Target Cartwheel, a more customized online experience has the potential to inspire me to visit my store more often. What’s at the lunch buffet today? What products are new or featured and what makes them healthy/kid-friendly/good? Where recipes appear, inform me about some of these ingredients. Better yet, tell me what’s for dinner, and assure me that, when I go to the store, I’ll find all the ingredients (and another copy of the recipe) all in one place. (Bonus points for samples and coupons too.) Until then, I’m sure I’ll stop by again when I get around to it.
Emily Wright, Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s was once a frequent destination for me, when I lived in California. The store has a huge cult-like following, and I admit that I was in that group. I loved Trader Joe’s so much that when I discovered there was no store within 40 miles of where I was moving in North Carolina, I went to the website and petitioned for one to open nearby.
When I do have the opportunity to go to a store these days I have to do some pre-planning since it isn’t a convenient stop for me. I’ve attempted to follow Trader Joe’s online, however, the options are extremely limited. The only digital channel I subscribe to is their e-newsletter, which doesn’t seem to be distributed with any regular frequency. For many customers, including myself, the entire shopping experience—from the Hawaiian shirt–clad, chatty associates to the one-of-a-kind items like cookie butter—seems like such a fruitful opportunity to transition to social media. But to the dismay of many, they’ve resisted. The brand hasn’t jumped into this decade with a corresponding online presence. If you search social media for it you’ll find loads of content, but Trader Joe’s isn’t creating any of it. I heard that they had an app, but I searched the App Store and couldn’t find anything that was being produced by the brand, only by fans. When I went to Pinterest and searched for Trader Joe’s, I found a lot of pins but very few that resonated with my need to find healthy, quick recipes. During my search I didn’t find anything that I would act upon, and I can’t see myself searching for that term again.
As you’d expect, the in-store experience was great. I found my old favorites as well as a few new items that my family devoured within days, such as Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix. Although it had been a few months since my last visit, going has a great sense of familiarity. And despite the lack of content online I’m sure I’ll find myself shopping there again.
Trader Joe’s has carved out a niche in a competitive marketplace with their specialty name-brand items, lower prices and amazing customer service, and they’ve allowed their many fans to take over. As a busy mom of three, this isn’t an ideal situation for me. While I love the brand, I wish that I could find that voice online to guide me through my shopping experience and inspire me with fast, new and healthy meal options. When I’m online looking for anything food-related, it’s to quickly get dinner ideas, so I want things clearly labeled and organized in a way that’s easy for me to find, use and archive so I can easily locate the “wins” again.
My recommendation would be to extend their voice online. I get that they don’t want to start opening up every social media channel out there because of their market positioning. But it would be great if they could even consider a prominent and more robust recipe and inspiration section on their website so their fans could easily share it. That would give the store a voice on social media without Trader Joe’s having to manage it.
By Brian Cook