Social Web Spins New Challenges for Food Retailers

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Social Web Spins New Challenges for Food Retailers


Despite all the buzz about the value of the social web, many grocery store executives confess to being concerned about how to leverage this vast resource to achieve business objectives. To help demystify the issues at play and help retailers facilitate practical responses to strategic challenges experienced by the grocery industry and its operators, the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) of North America presented results of a new study, “Untangling the Social Web: Insights for Users, Brands and Retailers,” at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference held earlier this week in Orlando.

“This study, designed by retailers for retailers, examines and demystifies the social networking landscape,” said Michael Sasolo, research director, CCRRC North America. “It imparts foundational knowledge to decode the complexities of the social web and plants seeds of inspiration to help companies build effective sales and communications strategies.”

The research, conducted by The Integer Group, a leading promotional, retail and shopper marketing agency, will be released in installments, the first of which was included the overview and Part 1 at FMI Midwinte, as well as on the Council's website.

While few question the pervasive nature of social media and how quickly it became a powerful force, its use as a business tool is still evolving. At the same time, companies already feel the impact of their involvement – or lack thereof.

“The growing reality is that shoppers use social networking connections with friends to gather opinions and feedback, but use company connections to get ideas about where to shop and what to buy,” explains Sansolo. “Brands and stores canimmediately learn what customers are saying and what they really want, gainingreal-time feedback. The results are dramatic: When shoppers get a response onTwitter they become 60 to 65 percent more likely to follow that brand and make a purchase.”

These are among theinsights shared in Part 1, “Assessing theSocial Networking Landscape,” which serves as a primer about the topic. It compares social networking to high school behavioral dynamics in which participants self-select into cliques and social circles that can build or destroy reputations. Some groups are inclusive; others are exclusive; while those that stir up fun and excitement attract a crowd.

When the 18 leading grocery executives who serve on the Council convened to determine research topics, the phenomenon of social media became an immediate focus of discussion.

“They recognized that this is a revolutionary force in communications and way of building communities, but didn’t understand how to get their hands around it,” says Sansolo, who blogs about the research. “This comprehensive yet succinct report makes the social web relevant to retailers.”

Additional installments of the CCRRC study will be released in coming months. The schedule includes:
• Part 2: Identifying the Allure of Social Networking: Traits, Behaviors and Motivators, Feb. 13
• Part 3: Social Networking Personas: A Look at Consumer and Shopper Mind-Sets, March 5
• Part4: The Value of Social Networking for Brands and Retailers, March 26
• Part5: The Effectiveness of Professional Social Networking, April 16
• Closing Executive Summary, April 16

Composed of 18 visionary grocery store executives, the group oversees research initiatives conducted by independent third parties, serving as an authentic and comprehensive “voice of the customer.” The Coca-Cola Company sponsors CCRRC as part of its commitment to help customers drive their business forward and to expand knowledge in the retail community.