Grocers Grapple with Reaching Middle-Market Shoppers
Of all the categories of retail shoppers, one stands out as being particularly difficult to reach — the middle-market shopper. Neither price sensitive nor premium, middle-market shoppers are unpersuaded by the availability of cheaper or more sustainable options. To engage this elusive group, one-to-one marketing is the only reliable option.
“Middle-market shoppers are splitting their purchases across multiple grocers, which makes them harder to understand and reach effectively because the grocer doesn’t get a 360-degree view of them,” says Shekar Raman, CEO and co-founder of Birdzi, a firm that develops AI solutions for grocers.
“Grocers know what shoppers are purchasing in their stores, but they don’t know where else they are shopping and why. The only way to get through the noise is to communicate with shoppers on an individual level with offers that save both time and money.”
Polarization hits middle-market grocery shoppers
The polarization happening across so many other areas of American life has reached the grocery aisle. While inflation is causing many consumers to become more price sensitive—and private label products are taking off in popularity—another group of consumers is undeterred. At the high end, sales of sustainable, healthy products are also on the rise, despite the additional expense.
That consumer markets are bifurcating into two pools of spending isn’t new, but Raman says brands and retailers that sit in the middle, with products that aren’t at the bottom or top end of pricing, have been hit especially hard in 2022.
While the percentage of shoppers who fall into the middle tier is still large, the group itself is actually shrinking in size. For grocers that rely on this segment, Raman says effective marketing engagement has never been more important.
Getting personal to reach middle-market shoppers
Raman recommends that grocers use customer purchase histories to their advantage and that they extend their efforts beyond segmentation, using AI to personalize the shopping experience for each individual customer. He also suggests that grocers continue to invest in omnichannel solutions as a way to create better experiences for customers across all avenues, both online and off.
“Grocers can no longer depend on a printed weekly ad and generic offers to drive traffic into stores. Flipping through a circular or even searching offers online is work for consumers, and they don’t want to do it, especially when retailers like Amazon anticipate what shoppers are looking for and offer personalized items on a silver platter,” Raman says. “Grocers need to replace the shotgun approach of the weekly ad and vendor-created offers with offers created for each customer based on their individual shopping behavior and profile. Personal, individualized offers save time, delight customers, and not only drive traffic but move a customer from opportunity to loyalty.”
Raman says the best marketing strategies start with the customer, not the product. For grocery marketers trying to reach the elusive middle-market shopper, less is more.
Research also shows that customers in this segment want to feel understood. If grocers can deliver content or deals that make people feel that way, then it’s a win-win for everyone.
“Dynamic customer profiles are the first step in creating offers that are relevant to the customer. These profiles can be made up of price sensitivity, purchase history, categories shopped, and they give the retailer the information necessary to create offers for customers that make them feel truly seen,” Raman says.
How to implement personalized marketing programs
Most grocers—and particularly regional and national supermarket chains—already have access to the data they need to fuel integrated engagement strategies. For example, purchase histories should be available for any customer that pays with a credit card or signs up for a store’s loyalty program. Raman says not enough marketers are using this information to their advantage. Instead of sending targeting promotions, they’re sending generic coupons that never get used.
“Purchase history is like a brush that paints a picture of each shopper and, when combined with other retailer data, that picture can become a 360-degree image. I don’t know about you, but when I get a coupon for an item I never buy and does not jive with my purchase history, I wonder how important my business is to the retailer. Alternately, when I get an offer for an item that fits my profile, I’m psyched. Even better is when I get an offer for an item I have never purchased, but based on my purchase history, it is for sure something I would like to try.” Raman says. “The data is there, and the technology is there, to create personalized experiences for each shopper.”