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Future proofing food services through community, ease and joy
October 18, 2021
Long-term shopping habits have shifted, and this includes how people buy their groceries. In order to connect with consumers in a digital-first world, food service brands need to reshape how they think about the entire customer journey.
Since the start of the pandemic, the grocery landscape has dramatically changed. Today's food shoppers are now motivated to make their purchases in new ways: to shop responsibly, locally and with greater efficiency. This change in consumer behavior is pushing established grocery names to innovate, while also ushering in an influx of technologies and food delivery services.
Increasingly, consumers are finding meal ideas on Facebook. “When kitchen fatigue creeps in, even the most adventurous home chefs need some culinary inspiration,” says Katy Clark, Facebook’s UK head of grocery. “And, as the world’s biggest discovery engine, people are coming to Facebook and Instagram to discover new products, recipes and food options.”
Grocery has moved fast. Today’s food shoppers are being inspired in new ways, and they’re purchasing their products through different channels. But the core marketing principles haven’t changed. Amid disruption and the digital acceleration, grocery remains a fundamental category, combining technological advancements with serving the community.
At Facebook’s recent EMEA Future Proofing Food Services event, we explored how new trends have impacted consumer behavior, how grocery brands could inspire customers and maximize the current opportunity by focussing on 3 key pillars: community, ease and joy.
The last 18 months have driven a steep change in the way we plan, receive and consume our meals. At the start of the pandemic, necessity drove consumer behavior: queuing at supermarkets or trying to secure home delivery slots. During lockdown, nostalgia-driven home baking and elaborate cooking experiments gave way to kitchen fatigue.
Throughout the disruption, the grocery industry has acted as an anchor in our communities. “Community has been at the forefront of everything that's happened in the past 18 months,” says Nick Ashley, head of media and campaign planning at Tesco. “We felt we had to act as a public service. Our messaging was in tune with the sentiment of the nation.”
As part of essential retail, supermarkets became a lifeline to communities, including their increased support to the most vulnerable through food bank donations. It helped place a spotlight on what we buy into, not just where we buy from. And, increasingly, shoppers are choosing brands based on views and values. According to KPMG, 9 in 10 consumers are willing to pay more to an ethical retailer or brand who is giving back to society.
Therefore, representing consumers in brands’ advertising and decision making has, arguably, never been more crucial. “It’s important to feel that something is relevant to you – it has a huge impact on how you respond to a brand,” explains Hannah Walley, of consultancy firm Kantar.
Disrupted shopping habits mean the way we shop for meals has changed. Today, consumers can mix and match between distribution channels, fueled by a combination of supermarket, takeaway and on-demand home delivery services.
At the same time, digital acceleration and expanding competition is reimagining convenience. Now, it can arrive in just minutes. “When you want or crave something, the fact we can deliver it to you in around 10 minutes is very, very valuable,” says Turancan Salur, UK general manager of on-demand grocery delivery startup Getir. “We focus on the convenience of the service; it’s more valuable than the product.”
Both disruptors and established brands are expanding into innovative areas where they can drive the on-demand opportunity. In fact, according to Retail Weekly, global quick commerce is predicted to be valued at £160bn by 2025. It shows that convenience remains core to where – and how – people choose to shop. In one study of 5,000 shoppers in EMEA, convenience or being close to home was the top factor in making someone choose one supermarket over another.
From the homely smell of freshly baked bread, to the satisfying crunch of biting into an apple, our relationship with food is emotional. Through lockdown, during a time of stress and anxiety, food brought us joy: nearly half (48%) of the most loved brands of 2020 were food and beverage ones.
Driving that emotion helps generate sales: more than twice as many purchases in food and beverage are spontaneous (68%) rather than planned (32%). Emotion is at the heart of what Getir, and other grocery retailers, provide. “Spontaneity and joy are a big part of our marketing,” Salur says. “You want an ice cream? Well, you can get an ice cream now. That spontaneity is very powerful and brings value to consumers.”
Digital is now the primary way that grocery shoppers around the world discover brands and products, with 71% doing so online. And it’s discovery that drives shopping spontaneity, from ‘going’ shopping to ‘always’ shopping; from an intent-based purchasing experience to being in a discovery mindset. And Facebook’s platforms can be optimized for spontaneous behaviors: brands can remove friction, use shoppable formats and be considered and purchased in five taps or less.
Rearranging the store around you
From the way people discover products to how they shop for them, there’s no silver bullet for grocery brands. For example, Ashley explains that a cohort of customers has reverted to shopping in one store, all in one place. It’s a sentiment shared by Salur: “The same consumer uses a variety of different channels to do their shopping. It’s not exclusive, people want options.”
According to research by Kantar and Oxford University, there isn’t a single campaign structure that leads to dominant performance across brand outcomes. Rather, a varied media mix – containing multiple touchpoints – best helps with brand building. “Most brands we see could be more effective if they played around with media channels, test and learn, and make sure they’re not overly reliant on one or two channels,” Walley says.
Facebook ad solutions can also be repurposed. For example, discount supermarket chain Lidl used Facebook Instant Experience to digitize print flyers, resulting in a 10X return on ad spend and a 2.3% increase in overall turnover at trial stores in Ireland. Dynamic ads could be used for the healthy eating market, adding nutritional information or serving suggestions. Branded content means grocery businesses can partner with a creator, leverage their community and trusted voice to authentically show off the brand through home cooking sessions.
It’s by future-proofing through community, ease and joy that grocery brands can maximize the opportunity for growth and win new audiences. “Rearranging the store around you means being there for the consumer,” explains Zehra Chatoo, strategic planning partner at Facebook. “It’s driving that sense of community, removing friction, then injecting creativity and emotion for spontaneous purchases.”