Social media has a big impact on how people shop. Not just for the big-ticket, research-heavy purchases that they might make once or twice a year, but also on the FMCGs/CPGs that they buy on a weekly - or even daily - basis.
A quarter of all purchases of FMCGs are influenced by exposure to one form of social media or another and this proportion is growing. In the non-alcoholic beverage and the baby and child care sectors, this proportion rises to almost 34% and 38% respectively. Shoppers are weaving their interaction with social and mobile marketing into their everyday lives: 37% of grocery shoppers access stores’ social media sites, 59% of tablet owners access supermarket sites on their devices, and 31% of customers access supermarket information on their smartphone or mobile phone if they have one.
According to recent surveys, these social, mobile customers are bigger spenders than the average shopper, spending 27% more on average than their less digitally connected peers. As a result, big brands are increasing their social media investment - Kellogg’s digital media spend passed $1 billion last year, and Unilever now spends 15% of its advertising revenue on digital channels.
Social media can influence both impulse purchases and regular shopping habits when it comes to FMCGs. The trick is to understand where, when and how your customers want to interact with your brand, and with your products. Social marketing for regular purchases is about strengthening and deepening the customer's connection with the brand.
Kraft created an award winning channel for their customers when they devised the iFood Assistant iPhone App. Now on its fourth version, and after millions of downloads, this 99c app contains thousands of recipes (“all tested in the Kraft kitchen!”) many of which come with video demos and step by step instructions. Users can navigate the application using voice commands as well as text - ideal for sticky-fingered cooks; and they can search for recipes using the “what I have in my cupboard” search facility. Here’s the clever bit - the app doesn’t just suggest recipes that use Kraft ingredients - after all, every cracker box since time immemorial has been doing that - it creates shopping lists based on the recipes that the user cooks; guides users to local stockists and provides them with coupons, and even provides them with a barcode scanner so they can easily input and search for Kraft products. Furthermore, Kraft is using the data to learn more about their customers: when and how do they shop, what are they making, and which ingredients do they prefer? The iFood Assistant brings together the brand and its customers around a shared passion for food.
Coca Cola is aiming for a very different market with its Facebook page. It offers a mainly young, internationally varied audience daily games and puzzles to ensure that they return often. It encourages Coca Cola “fans” from around the world to share their stories and photographs on a (closely curated) set of timelines, showcasing the worldwide appeal of their product. While the Coca Cola Facebook page is very different in structure to the Kraft iFood App, the aims are the same:
- To share the unique emotional connection that the brand has with its regular customers and
- To learn more about those customers - their habits, behaviours and preferences.
Impulse buys are also increasingly mediated by social media - especially now that so many consumers can access Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest from their mobile phones. Timely, relevant
offers that are based on a customer’s geographical location and known interests can shift a consumer’s buying behaviour from one brand to another, or tempt them to make a discretionary purchase. Seventy eight percent of all FMCG customers expect brands to have an active Twitter feed and 56% of shoppers expect a mobile-friendly website from those same brands. This suggests that customers are keen to be kept in the loop about promotions, product launches and special events, even on the go. In a recent study, 21% of users said that they would willingly let advertisers know their geographical location in return for tailored special offers.
Customers are becoming more aware of the fact that they are giving brands valuable exposure when they retweet their messages or repost branded content on their Facebook timeline. In return, these customers are starting to demand something in return from social marketers: 41% of shoppers surveyed said that they expect to receive special offers in return for following a brand on Facebook. Twitter recently joined up with American Express to offer users cashback and discounts for sending branded tweets. “Guerrilla” and “viral” marketing is becoming increasingly difficult as brands with deep pockets learn to dominate the social sphere.
However, social media still has some incontestable benefits compared to other channels. A recent study showed that 76% of people still rely on recommendations from friends when trying out a new product, whereas only 15% of people said that they would be influenced by advertising alone. Recommendations from users on social networks are extremely valuable as they fall into the “word of mouth” category of product exposure and is therefore far more likely to influence buyer behaviour.
Secondly, social and mobile media can create truly unforgettable moments. While traditional print, broadcast and even digital advertising relies on having customers see and hear about your product, social media channels can create rich, memorable experiences. Campbells created an interactive “ingredient matching” game that allowed people to combine Campbell's soup ingredients on their iPhone. When compared with a TV spot, the interactive mobile advert was over twice as memorable at only 4% of the cost.
Kay Hammond, CEO of multi-award-winning social media marketing agency TAMBA, says that the benefits to social media engagement far outweigh the risks. “There has been some high-profile mismanagement when it comes to social media campaigns, and these have led to painfully public PR problems. Smart brands realise that the rules of social and mobile media marketing are different to those for traditional brand promotion activities. Nevertheless, they also recognise that more and more people are spending increasing periods of time on social media channels, or glued to their smartphones, than they are in front of a television, so they need to adapt to survive.”
Kay’s takeaways are as follows:
1) Be authentic. The great strength of social media is that it feels like a conversation between brands and their customers. But that can present a risk, too. Don’t present a “personality” in your social networks that your corporate culture can’t sustain. Digital natives in particular have a very keen nose for hypocrisy and won't hesitate to chastise you publicly if they suspect you of double standards.
2) Be a great conversationalist. Don’t just broadcast - listen too. You can learn so much from your social networks: take the opportunity to understand who they are, how they connect with your product, and what influences them when they choose you over a competitor.
3) Offer something of value. Social network interactions feel very personal to the people involved - that’s what makes social networking so addictive. Offer valuable content, interesting stories, moments of fun and engagement. Anything else can feel like spam.
4) Understand the different social media platforms and how they relate to your needs. If you want to encourage impulse purchases then you need a different approach from one that is intended to deepen a relationship with a regular customer. A youthful audience can be found on different platforms (Facebook, Tumblr) to an affluent, more mature audience (Pinterest). Understand the aims of your campaign and choose your tactics with care.