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Communicating a Change? Use These Marketing Tools to Underline the Value for Your Online Grocery Customers

Consumer expectations of retailers are at an all-time high

Countless studies demonstrate that shoppers no longer merely expect, but now assume, that their favorite retailers will do everything they can to cater the shopping experience to their individual wants and needs. For many shoppers, this includes stocking their preferred products at the lowest price, at all times, both in-store and online, or failing that, locating those products on their behalf and delivering them to the shopper, ideally at no extra charge.

Case in point: 81 percent of respondents in IBM’s annual Consumer Expectations Study agreed that they expect in-store associates to be able to “quickly and efficiently” locate an out-of-stock (OOS) item at an in-stock location and find a way to get it to them (up from 72 percent) in 2011. And if the OOS item can’t be found at another location of the same retailer? Almost three-quarters will shop at a competitor’s stores to find the product.

Yet, beyond the ongoing availability of and price-consciousness about retail products and services, consumers want information—details such as “in-stock now,” “quantities limited,” etc.,—and they want it at their fingertips, regardless of which channels they’re using to engage with your brand.

Communication is the latest lynchpin in retail success

Regardless of the channels in which you do business, clear and consistent communication is key to maintaining the loyalty and buy-in of your most valuable consumers (i.e., the high lifetime value shoppers that contribute most to your revenue growth over time). And nowhere is this more important than if you’re planning to change the products or services you offer to your customers.

Successfully communicating change is all about clarity—ensuring that your customers understand exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve, and underlining why the new way of doing things is in their best interests. When done well, clear and consistent communication can help people feel positive about change and lessen the impact of resistance. However, the reverse can also be true—poorly-planned communication could heighten resistance and lead to customer attrition.

The good news is that retailers—and especially those in the grocery eCommerce industry—have multiple touchpoints with which to communicate with their customers. From digital messaging to good, old-fashioned hardcopy (i.e., paper!) and beyond, make sure to make good use of any or all of those prime opportunities to inform and excite shoppers with details of how your business is evolving in the future:

Digital communication tools

eCommerce retailers have perhaps the widest array of channels with which to engage in meaningful communications with their customers. The benefit of promoting business changes on your own digital real estate—in addition to knowing that you have a captive audience that has visited your site for particular reasons—is you control the message, and you also likely control the costs (vs. purchasing ad space on third-party sites or elsewhere online).

For these reasons, consider including details of your impending business changes on the following digital channels:

  1. On your eCommerce hub (think: a pop-up or a Shadowbox image/video viewer that opens on your eCommerce site’s homepage when users navigate there to browse and shop)
  2. In email notifications – whether as a part of your current eNewsletter program or in one-off notifications leading up to the launch of the new program or business change. (IMPORTANT: Remember to always comply with your region’s legislation around sending Commercial Electronic Messages, including Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) and the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S.)
  3. Via push notifications from your eCommerce or branded app
  4. Across your brand’s social media channels – keep the main messaging consistent, but use each channel to its greatest advantage by targeting different audience segments that use social networks most (e.g., while Gen X shoppers regularly use Facebook, Millennials tend to prefer YouTube and Gen Zers favour video-rich platforms like Snapchat, Whisper and Secret). You can learn more about generational differences in grocery retail by reading our digital primer here.

Other ideas: Add an FAQ page to your website that each of your digital channels link to, which explains what customers can expect from your business during and after the process. And if you’re looking for another way to build a more meaningful dialogue with your customers, introduce a new email address that’s specifically designed to address customer questions, concerns or other feedback about your change. Consider making it punchy but still, matter-of-fact (such as [email protected]), or tie in with the promotional language around the change for even greater impact in the marketplace.

Non-digital communication tools

Most warehouse and/or in-store order fulfillment systems provide paper receipts that can be prime real estate for communicating important information with shoppers. In addition to including news about upcoming promotions, why not take the opportunity to inform your customers about changes that might affect the way they shop your brands Just be sure to keep the information brief, emphasize the value for consumers (no one likes being reminded of downsides to doing business with a brand at the same time as they’re reviewing a receipt, bill or invoice), and use clear calls-to-action that direct consumers to digital sources for more complete information:

  1. On inserts, pick-forms, or other collateral material included in packages of shipped goods
  2. Using call-outs on checkout receipts and on POS signage

Other ideas: Add a QR code or SMS short code—both of which have come back into fashion in a big way, thanks to virtual and mobile grocery stores like Amazon GO—to fast-track the navigation to sources of more comprehensive information, such as your eCommerce hub, FAQ page, as outlined above.

Some closing thoughts on communicating change to your most valuable shoppers:

Remember that clarity and consistency are integral to maintaining solid, trusting relationships with your customers. When communicating with shoppers, be sure to address the biggest and most relevant (that’s to say, most impactful to their customer experience) as simply and clearly as possible. Always reinforce the “why” and the benefits your customers will receive as a result of the changes ahead. And start communicating the changes well ahead of when they’re planned to take effect, using subtle notifications that are light and matter of fact; don’t make your messages seem alarming or urgent—a sure-fire way to shock your customers into finding alternative sources for the products or services they expect to get from your brands.

Find additional practical ideas for communicating developments in your grocery eCommerce business in our “10-Step Guide to a Successful eCommerce Launch.” Get it today by clicking the button below!


Stefanie Neyland
Stefanie Neyland is a Content Marketing Manager at Mercatus, specializing in all things grocery eCommerce.

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