by Kate McMahon

Thomas Edison - the very definition of disruption long before the term was fashionable - once wrote: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

The same could be said for retailers who are missing the opportunity to engage with their customers on a variety of social media platforms, and risk losing market share to savvy competitors who are doing just that.

A new report from the Retail Feedback Group details the “wide gap” between shoppers using social media and connecting with their supermarket. In fact, while 87% of supermarket shoppers in the study reported following one or more social media site, just 25% indicated they are friends with or connected to their primary grocery store. That 62% differential struck me as a wide gap, indeed. The shopper feedback experts agreed.

“It is imperative for retailers to close the social media opportunity gap given the influence that our social media networks have on decisions we make everyday like trying a different store or a new item,” Brian Numainville, a principal at RFG, told me, just before he presented the study’s findings yesterday at the National Grocers Association (NGA) convention in Las Vegas.

I think there are several takeaways in this report that should be mandatory reading for the marketing teams at retailers large and small. Among them:

• Only 47% of the shoppers surveyed knew that their primary store had an app or mobile-enabled site, indicating retailers need to boost awareness about the digital tools available.

• Almost half of the supermarket shoppers said they were very willing to make a new recipe or meal and 32% were willing to purchase a new food item based on social network suggestions.

• Shoppers who do interact with their primary store are most likely to check the digital circular (65%), followed by researching special promotions (48%) and building grocery lists.

The report also noted that members of various generations use social media differently – with Baby Boomers tilting toward Facebook and Millennials using YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat more heavily. Given that Millennials are interacting on digital platforms at a higher rate (66%) compared to Boomers (47%), that’s where I would be focusing my efforts and investment.

Beyond the percentages, it’s clear that social media should be an integral part of any retailer’s strategic business plan. And the most effective measurement of its success is engagement – creating a relationship with the customer that transcends the physical store and digital platform.

And not missing an opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.


Comments? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .