How S-Commerce Is Driving Growth at The Fresh Market

CMO Kevin Miller details retailer's success with Firework platform
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
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From left: Antonio Gagliardi, SVP at American Express, moderates a session at NRF with The Fresh Market CMO Kevin Miller, center, and Jason Holland, chief business officer at Firework.

While many grocery retailers are still trying to figure out how to replicate the in-store experience online, The Fresh Market thinks it has found its answer: Firework.

"At The Fresh Market, we have a type of experience that we want to deliver," said Kevin Miller, chief marketing officer at The Fresh Market, speaking at a Big Ideas session at NRF's Big Show in New York City. "And our experience is anchored in a feeling of trust, joy and anticipation. So when you come to The Fresh Market, we want you to feel like you're going over to your best friend's house for the holidays. Your best friend meets you at the door, they're very happy to see you, their wife and kids are there. The dog's coming up and he's happy to see you too."

[Read more: "NRF’s ‘Big Show’ Offers Inspiration, Innovation"]

Miller said the grocer was looking for a partner to help bring that kind of warm and fun experience to its customers online, and settled on Firework, a shoppable video startup based in San Mateo, Calif.

"When we look for strategic partners for The Fresh Market, it's very important that they pass three strategic screens for our business," said Miller. "One is will the partnership increase our reach for our core customers? Two, does it increase our relevance to that target audience? Does it help us talk to them not only at the right place, at the right time and with the right message, but more important these days, in the right way? And then obviously and most important, does it increase revenue? So reach, relevance and revenue are the key strategic frameworks we use when evaluating partners."

Miller says when the retailer looked at Firework, it saw that the technology had a potential to deliver on all three of those strategic streams. And the grocer challenged Firework to create a holiday video this past season.

"We wanted it to be emotional more than anything else. We weren't worried about the shopping delivered by the brand," Miller said. "And you know what? They delivered a video that did that. We placed it up there, the views went through the roof, the time spent went through the roof."

The retailer embedded the video on its own assets.

"Our website, our social assets and our emails," commented Miller. "We send 80 million emails a month. What surprised me was our customers did not reject this intrusion of new content, new media on sites they were used to going to. In fact, they embraced them. They kept watching them more, they kept spending more money. They kept coming back to this content and we just kind of let it go and we wanted to see if this would continue."

And continue it did. 

"Firework videos are performing better than any other media that we were doing at The Fresh Market," Miller said. "In fact, they performed better than all industry benchmarks or any other media platforms that I've ever used. It was stunning in terms of its effectiveness. The other thing about these videos is our customers can see the food and product, they are educated in terms of recipes, in terms of the backstory, and they also create that one-click shot. So when a customer clicks on one of these videos, it takes them right to our e-commerce customer site where they can buy. The engagement rate and the time spent on these videos and livestreams are just incredible and it continues to grow."

Miller said a Firework-produced video partnership with celebrity chef Anna Rossi has been especially successful.

"She's a combination of Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart and Mary Tyler Moore," remarked Miller. "She has a wonderful personality and she's really passionate about The Fresh Market. We had amazing results. One livestream resulted in more than 7,000 people coming to our website live; it was like a party event for them."

Miller added that during the two-week period leading up to Thanksgiving Day, the retailer had more than 700,000 views, "as big as any audience on Netflix for a grocery store livestream event and the conversion rate."

Miller said 80% of the customers that viewed the event and placed orders had never come through The Fresh Market before. More than 400,000 customers went to The Fresh Market's homepage to order meals after attending the event.

"Phenomenal results. We did not expect this. We haven't gone all in yet," Miller concluded. "We put the baby out there and the baby started walking. Then the baby started to crawl really fast, then the baby got up. Now the baby looks like it's going to turn into Derrick Henry. It's so big, it's so fast, it's so strong. It's unbelievable."

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