A recent survey by NCS found that 85% of Americans are concerned about inflation and 68% say their current financial situation cannot withstand more price increases. Combined with 58% believing the cost of living will be much more expensive in the coming year, it might seem like a time for grocers to tighten their own belts.
However, the right approach to marketing can help companies protect and even grow their market share despite the challenges.
Consumers are changing their shopping habits by buying fewer non-essential food items, seeking less expensive brands and looking for sales to offset increased costs, according to Alan Miles, CEO of NCS. It’s up to grocers to find opportunities to offer less expensive options and strong promotions and get them in front of a receptive audience.
“Don’t stop advertising,” Miles said. “At NCS, we have never seen an advertiser pull back on advertising and still increase sales or maintain market share.
“Brands need to keep advertising to loyal buyers to defend their market share and remind consumers why they love their brand.”
One area where advertising can be useful is in attracting shoppers who no longer feel like they can afford to eat out. NCS found that 40% of consumers are now ordering from restaurants less often, which gives grocers and their brand partners an opportunity to capitalize on demand for cheap, convenient meals.
“This is an opportunity for brands to attract new buyers by advertising to consumers who don’t routinely buy their brand,” said Miles. “Consumers might be considering changing their preferred brand due to inflation. Therefore, in response, brands should consider changing their messaging to offer discounts and coupons.”
Even with the potential for new business from consumers cutting out restaurant visits, grocers still need to continue growing their brand by focusing on their existing customers. Miles noted that there is a 97% correlation between the number of buyers and sales during times of disruption, so holding onto loyal shoppers is vital.
That said, the specifics of the right strategy will vary from retailer to retailer. Miles noted that NCS’ advice would be different depending on where a brand currently stands in the market. Companies that have managed to increase their market share during the turmoil should emphasize turning the newcomers into long-term loyal customers. Gains usually come from first time users or long-lapsed former customers and working to keep them coming back can help extend market share gains.
Brands that are losing market share should focus on their most loyal customers and those who have recently made purchases, according to Miles. Solidifying loyalty among these shoppers can help regain some lost business.
“As a rule, when in doubt, focus on loyal buyers — especially if you have a large loyal customer base,” said Miles.
“Previous NCS research has shown it’s far easier to increase loyalty and buying frequency among existing consumers than it is to draw customers away from a competing brand.”