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How to Be the Target, Not the Walmart in Grocery

What’s wrong with the grocery industry’s current marketing tactics?

Grocery stores throughout the United States have the opportunity to truly connect with their customers. However, it’s something that a lot of organizations in the industry are currently not doing as well as they should. The process of grocery shopping doesn’t have to be so transactional. In fact, it will offer an even better experience for customers when it’s thought of and marketed as a relational process.

In short, brands could be utilizing community building to their advantage.

Think of Walmart. Customers come in with a long list of items they need. Often times, they won’t go outside of that list because they have tunnel vision. It’s more transactional—customers want to be in and out in at the least amount of time possible. They probably aren’t looking to spend much money either. It’s no wonder they have the slogan, “Save Money. Live Better.” It appears they want to start being a bit more relational with its customers, as you can see on social media, such as here and here. But, their core messaging has to do with more promotional posts, such as recipes for quick meals or current deals on products, which serves that in and out customer.

On the other hand, there’s Target, which is a brand that has built its entire success of relationships. When customers wander through a Target store, there’s a viral joke that Target will show them what they need, instead of going to the store for particular items. Target makes customers feel a sense of FOMO, fear of missing out. They don’t want to miss a single thing in the store. They want to touch every pillow, smell every candle, etc. Customers aren’t worried about price as much as they are about the experience. They use that idea to their advantage on social media, as seen here, here, and here. It’s all about transforming the idea of “I need to just get this done” (Walmart) into “I can’t wait to do this” (Target).

Be the Target, not the Walmart in the grocery industry.

The potential is especially high for Fields Foods, a St. Louis, Missouri based full-service grocery store. The company came about between the years of 2013-2014 and has been very successful since then with a revenue of $5 million and four locations throughout the city (ZoomInfo, 2020). Because the brand mainly targets urban customers between the ages of 23 to late 30s, as well as a small percentage of elderly, they have the power to take over the social media game, which is where their customers are very active. When the brand shares user-generated content, like Target, customers will feel even more connected and loyal to the brand. They may also benefit from an education center on their website to offer consumers a resource for recipes, employee spotlights, social good, and more. Both of these efforts will directly relate to community building tactics.

Grocers must expand on the traditional marketing funnel.

When we think of the traditional marketing funnel, it typically consists of Awareness, Engagement, and Conversion. From the top of the funnel, people become aware of the brand, whether that’s from word of mouth, a Google search, an ad, or something else. If they like what they see, they may engage in various ways, such as a like, comment, share, etc. Lastly, this may result in a conversion from the user, which can be in the form of a phone call, form submission, purchase, and more.

What we often forget is what comes after. We all know it’s much cheaper to retain a customer who converts over and over than it is to obtain a new one. So, why are so many of us overly concerned with generating new customers?

Loyalty and Advocacy are crucial pieces of the marketing funnel for the grocery industry.

To be truly successful at the relational, community building efforts listed above, Fields Foods must concern itself the most with its most loyal customers and brand advocates. The Loyalty piece of the marketing funnel describes customers who are the brand’s fans. They will interact with social media posts and visit the store often. Discounts and special content for these repeating customers are super important to continue making them feel valuable. But, if these customers feel forgotten by the brand, they may be easily persuaded from a competitor who claims to offer even more.

In addition, brands must pay attention to its brand advocates, who live in the Advocacy portion of the funnel. Because these consumers love the brand so much, they are the ones who will refer others to the brand. Therefore, those people will flood into the Awareness part of the funnel, and hopefully, will be pulled all the way through to conversion. These consumers are the most important because “83% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services – making these recommendations the highest ranked source for trustworthiness” (Nielsen, 2015). Again, it’s a great idea to remind these consumers why they are valuable to the brand. Loyalty Programs, surveys, and incentives for references are excellent ways of doing this.

Field Foods seems to do a lot of these ideas mentioned above really well, but there’s still room for improvement.


For more information on how to utilize community building tactics for any industry, visit my website:


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