[EDITOR’s NOTEThis piece comes to us from Amber Gray, digital marketing manager at Produce for Kids, overseeing all digital marketing efforts including social media, the Produce for Kids website and e-newsletters. She oversees all Produce for Kids recipe development and photography, and serves as editor-in-chief of the Produce for Kids blog.]

Amber Gray

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show about marketing in the produce/grocery industry. I had the chance to speak on how produce brands and retailers can work together to market to and educate shoppers in-store, as well as what’s coming for our industry. Here’s what you need to know.

Connecting with Shoppers

Produce is not usually an impulse buy. Your shopper adds the items she needs to her list prior to heading to the store. She searches for recipes and ideas on Pinterest, she sees photos of tasty food on Instagram and knows what staples her family will want to snack on. Marketing outside of the store, along with knowing what’s trending, is important to getting on that list.

Once a shopper is in the store, merchandising displays, sampling, recipes and cooking demos can inspire her to try something new and drive incremental sales.

The shopper of the past was loyal to a single store for all their grocery needs, but today’s shopper is more likely to visit multiple stores or shop online to get what they want, how they want it. 75% of shoppers cite the produce department as an important factor in where they choose to shop. We all want to shop at a store with beautiful displays and fully stocked shelves, but it’s more than just that.

The grocery store is a crowded place. Shoppers are bombarded with signage, products, packaging, health claims and even other shoppers. We’re busy and distracted. How can you get and retain attention from your shopper?

What Brands & Retailers Can Do

It’s about creating an experience that gets their attention, makes a connection, inspires them and provides a solution to their problem. Retailers and brands can work together to create a space that does all of these things.

Displays like this one from Sunkist offer a destination to shoppers and creates an experience. They grab attention with eye-catching graphics and information to educate consumers on a variety of citrus they may not be familiar with.

Displays can make a connection like this one using pincodes to link shoppers to Pinterest using their smartphones in store. Shoppers can scan and instantly connect with a brand or retailer on Pinterest, get recipe inspiration and perhaps pick up a few extra items while they shop.

Display inspire through recipes like this Produce for Kids display, where we have produce-centric recipes that can shoppers can grab. The recipe tear pads come with a shopping list, making it easy for families to quickly add the necessary ingredients to their cart.

They provide a solution like “What’s for Dinner” with meal kits. This growing medium helps make shoppers’ busy lives easier with grab and go options. There’s also the ability to cross-merchandise by placing other convenience items, like salad kits, nearby.

What’s Trending?

It’s important to know what’s trending to ensure you have the right product in stock and are capitalizing on these trends on social media, your website and in circulars.

Aside from trends around the Super Bowl, back to school or the holidays, what are people looking for? Think about the explosion of avocado toast and the rise in popularity of cauliflower rice and spiralized veggies.

Utilize tools like Google Trends to see when certain terms peak throughout the year or over time. You can even narrow down to your city to make sure you’re talking directly to your customer. Once you know a trend you want to capitalize on, look at what content you can create around that topic or how you can celebrate that trend in your circular or with an in-store promotion or demo.

Online Grocery Delivery

Busy consumers are turning to online grocery delivery or store pick-up to help them save time. And while many brands and retailers are nervous about online grocery shopping bringing an end the impulse purchases, it presents us with an opportunity to learn more about our customers. Impulse buying isn’t dead, we’ll just have to work a little harder to deliver more relevant options to the consumer.

According to Fresh Trends 2018, 79% of shoppers want to choose their own produce. They want to touch, feel, see, smell the produce themselves. And 56% said they would not consider purchasing fresh produce online, primarily over concern about the quality of produce picked.

So there’s still a ways to go for the majority of consumers jumping onto the online shopping bandwagon in this industry, but it’s growing and we need to have a strategy for it.

One of the ways we’re capitalizing on this trend towards online shopping is through shoppable recipes on our website. A consumer coming to our website can click on the “Get Ingredients” button and instantly add ingredients to their online order though Instacart, Shipt, Amazon and others.

Technology In-Store

With the rise of online shopping, we’re also seeing a rise in technology in-store. New store formats, like the Amazon Go store that let’s shoppers grab what they need and head out the door with no cashier needed, or “Scan and Go” rapid check out systems like at Walmart or Kroger that let shoppers scan as they go, help add convenience to busy shoppers’ lives.

We’re also seeing more digital signage throughout stores. Digital signage makes it easy to update prices, promote special, advertise brands and more. As technology evolves, there will be opportunities to better target shoppers in store based on shopping habits, offer opportunities for them to connect with and get information from the digital displays through an app.

The Rise of Voice Search

According to a report from Juniper Research, 55% of U.S. households will have voice-powered smart speakers like Alexa and Google Home in them by 2022. Voice ordering isn’t limited to these products, our smartphones and even some cars also have the capabilities.

As the future of search evolves, there are things your company can do now to stay ahead of the curve. Voice search results (the answer Alexa returns to the use) is often pulled from featured snippets in search results. A featured snipped is usually the first search result and often displayed as an answer to a question or list.

There’s no way to guarantee that your website will be featured in a featured snippet. They’re constantly changing with the Google algorithm. However, you can set yourself up for success by answering questions people have. If you’re an artichoke brand and know people are searching for How to steam artichokes, you should create content that answers that question.

Augmented & Virtual Reality

The Pokemon Go craze a few years ago really brought AR/VR to the mainstage. We’re now seeing it pop up everywhere, from at home to in store. Today, you can use AR technology when buying furniture online to see how it will look in the space in your house. Soon, consumers will be interacting with a brand’s products before they ever purchase them, so how can you leverage this?

We’re seeing interactive packaging in grocery stores. And through the use of VR, we’re able to take customers on the farm and in our packing facilities without leaving the trade show floor or office.

There’s so much coming in the technology/digital space that your brand needs to be aware of. What trends are you already capitalizing on? Which do you need to take a closer look at and incorporate into your strategy?

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