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How H-E-B Is Leveraging Livestream Shopping

Grocer builds engagement (and sales) with online shoppers
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
For 2022, the company's digital health and wellness content will focus on what makes a "healthy plate" and meal prep.  

H-E-B is tapping into authentic content from its relationships with top influencers to embrace a new digital marketing strategy.

The company has become the first grocer to leverage Facebook’s new shoppable livestream through a variety of events including this month's "A Very Texas Holiday with H-E-B" hosted by James Van Der Beek.

"When a customer is viewing the video, if they saw, for example, an ornament they liked, if they click on that, they can actually see all the different products," said Giovanna Dimperio, senior director of digital marketing at H-E-B. 

The grocery chain is also hosting a weekly cooking show on Facebook that has live shopping capability; H-E-B also runs the stream on YouTube.

"The chefs talk about different ingredients or different accessories, the products that they use are a popup and are featured in the bottom corner so that customers as they watch can easily see what they're talking about, click on them and actually add them to their curbside order or their cart right away," Dimperio said.

H-E-B started the live virtual classes in 2020, and then this year "Facebook rolled out this capability and asked if we'd like to test it. And so we tested it this summer, found success. Then the shopping part was added this summer."

H-E-B is increasing engagement and reaching new audiences on Facebook and YouTube, as well as the retailer's websites and mobile apps  even TikTok too. 

"We are across all the different platforms and we've got a lot of stuff that's currently a part of our mix. We're really excited about the future of live shopping and live streaming with the shopping integration," Dimperio said. "We're always looking to test in these spaces and as customers are spending more time online, we're shifting some of our platform mix to really meet the customer where they are spending time. And so the focus we have is on that customer-first mindset and really tailoring our digital marketing just like we tailor our stores to meet the consumers that use them. And so we're creating content that we think is useful to Texans and then tailor it to their needs."

Dimperio said live events are a unique opportunity for brands to create meaningful and long-lasting relationships with consumers, and to connect them with other members of the community.

"One of the things that we really loved seeing was not only that people liked it because they learned something, but also that they started to create a community in the chat, whether it was on Zoom or on Facebook, really talking to each other," Dimperio said. "And then because we provided an interactive part of the classes where people can ask questions, that reinforcement really helped fill that void that people had in the past from not being able to ask in-store or do something there. And so when we saw that having this interactive participation really made customers feel positive about it, we started testing more interactive content."

Over the summer, H-E-B hosted a 12-hour live event called the Grilling Open that ran from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

"For twelve full hours, we talked about everything from grilling breakfast and scrambling eggs, to how do you grill pineapple and different types of fruit, to what about seafood and desserts and pound cakes and everything you could think of grilling," Dimperio said. "We had that shoppable as well and found that was not only something that was kind of fun for customers but also that interactivity, they really liked where they could ask questions and get answers, like 'Hey, show us the other side of that steak.'"

Dimperio said the company's digital marketing plan will also focus on hyper-local and wellness content. 

"We've been focusing on how do we bring some of our friends of H-E-B into the cooking class to share their kind of localization or their tweak on different things," she said. "So when we think about localization, it's 'How do we make sure everything is relevant for Texas? How do we bring on friends of HEB in the chef community who can talk about different regional tastes?' And then when it comes to products really showcasing some of the things that make some of the great products that we have. Highlighting some of those things as well will be really important in the next year."

For 2022, the company's digital health and wellness content will focus on what makes a "healthy plate" and meal prep.  

"One of the most popular classes we did this year was for back to school where we talked about how to meal prep for kids in a way that saves you time and sanity, but also doesn't have a lot of processed items in it by doing batch cooking ahead of time," Dimperio said. "And so you will see more things from that digitally beyond the cooking classes as well as we go into January and with a couple of the things that we have coming up this year, you'll see a lot more in the health and wellness space."

With approximately 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, San Antonio-based H-E-B is No. 13 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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