A successful recipe for marketing in food retailing adapted to current customer needs.

Grocery retail chains are facing unprecedented economic pressure throughout the developed world. Demographic shifts and demands for convenience, low prices, and customised service are mandating a whole new approach to multichannel messaging.

Grocery shoppers’ demands for convenience and value for money are increasing – and will continue to do so. The grocery business of tomorrow will succeed not by having the lowest prices but by inspiring shoppers to greater loyalty.

Marketing departments have begun to do this. The leaders have responded and evolved by using data more effectively. The process begins with highly relevant, ongoing campaigns – supported by all the devices and venues that individual shoppers prefer. Such a path to success can only be created when the retailer is in control of both the data and all its channel-specific applications.

Heeding the Warning Signs

Early last year, global consultancy McKinsey & Company published an ambitious call to action for the beleaguered grocery industry. Challenges to profitability include shifting demographics, new buying habits and technologies, and relentless pressure from competitors like Walmart. Grocery retailers, the authors proclaim, must embrace these disruptive trends. They must innovate in order to avoid a disastrous race to the bottom.

Innovation can take many forms. The study recommended that grocers build ongoing campaigns emphasizing one or more of the value propositions that define today’s shopping experience: convenienceinspiration, and value for money. Communicating and delivering on these imperatives – especially the first two – can happen via printed or online channels. But to do so efficiently, they all require mastery of one essential element: a mountain of product and customer data.

With Great Data Come Great Responsibilities

As we noted in our last article, grocery retailers have access to enormous volumes of data, from supplier-originated product data in a PIM to images and marketing data in a DAM. These data also include a myriad of pricing, inventory, and (depending on the number and location of branch locations) logistics information. If the retailer is proactive, they also include individual customer buying histories, thanks to loyalty discount programs.

Just having the data is of course not a great advantage. Knowing how to use it – in concert with marketing and store operations – is the key to success.

Start With the Basics

Untangling and optimizing all that data often begins with something all grocery retailers have but few utilize to its full potential: the lowly printed insert or circular. In the last article, we described how the Comosoft LAGO system is used, in connection with Adobe InDesign, to produce hundreds of regional variations from a single, “master” circular. As impressive as that is, it’s only the tip of the marketing iceberg.

In his October 2018 blog, content marketer David Kindervater noted that the “print is dead” trope is a fallacy. When it comes to marketing, print and digital are inseparable partners, not zero-sum rivals. Not only does print appeal to our sense of touch, it can also be highly customized, through the “magic” of data-driven, variable data printing. Today, grocery circulars can be customised to the individual store level, creating variants for almost any local situation. In the not-so-distant future, customisation of a mailed flyer can reflect an individual’s shopping preferences.

A major step in that direction is Comosoft’s Direct Individualized Marketing (DIM) module. Acting as a sophisticated traffic controller, LAGO DIM can take basic customer information (e.g., names and addresses) as well as preferences and purchase history, combine them with PIM and DAM information, and generate multiple, “one-to-one” campaigns for both print and digital media.

The Integration Challenge

No matter how well-designed a print or online campaign may be, the key to success will always be a retailer’s integration of complex data. Mobile shopping apps, in-store kiosks, and loyalty programs all rely on the same basic data as the lowly circular. If the basic data infrastructure is sound for print campaigns, it will give retailers a leg up when expanding their digital footprint.

Unfortunately, there is no out-of-the-box solution for creating a grocery retailer’s ideal data marketing system. There are simply too many variables. However, both vendors and major retailers are embracing the integration challenge. One prominent grocery chain recently re-vamped its data operation with the help of Comosoft specialists. “We integrated four robust systems into LAGO,” one senior IT executive remarked. “We were able to streamline marketing for produce and accelerate time to market across our regional and national brand’s print and digital platforms.” The chain was also able to streamline and reduce costs for both print and digital marketing campaigns. “Gone are the days of multiple deadline extensions,” he said.

Making the Connection

In the pre-digital, pre-industrial days, the local general store had just about anything a shopper might need. The owner also had a direct, personal relationship with individual customers, whose needs and preferences were known. Those days are gone, but the desire for an intimate, personal connection still remains. The grocery retailer who can make that connection, virtually and with the aid of well-integrated data, will succeed at making their brand a trusted destination.