Unified Hispanic Marketing Events Serve ‘Virtual’ 400-Store Chain

With the launch of a new Hispanic marketing initiative for 2014, Unified Grocers, Inc. is pursuing shopper marketing dollars on behalf of the largest “virtual” Hispanic chain in the country — the more than 400 Hispanic retail locations it serves throughout the Western United States.

“The game changer is this notion that we are bringing the stores together as this large virtual Hispanic chain,” sue Klug, Unified’s SVP and CMO told Progressive Grocer. “Each of these grocers has operated independently in the past and we’ve serve them independently in the past, but the notion that we are pulling them together for the purpose of these marketing programs really changes the game for brands who can now speak to them easily with their specific brand messages.”

These retail locations combined serve about five million shoppers a week, generating more than
$5 billion in annual sales. Unified is partnering with key brands to harness that collective power with its two new programs: ¡Celebremos! and Mercado Savings.

“We’ll provide merchandising support and, for the first time ever with our Hispanic marketing programs, we’ll have quantifiable data and critical metrics around the number of cases moved at retail,” added Klug. “It’s all about driving sales and providing a measurable return on investment for participating brands.”

According to Nancy López-Pedroza, Unified’s regional marketing manager, retail marketing services, the program, which is customized on a monthly basis, provides scale to the brands for their shopper marketing dollars, making this the first time ever that they can reach out to 400 Hispanic stores in one initiative. However the program is designed to feel very retail centric in terms of its execution, so it meets the needs of both the CPG brands as well as the individual retailers involved.

“We’re presenting something very powerful and different,” said Lopez-Pedroza. “Extensive research went into the planning phase in which 35 manufacturers and 12 retailers gave their insights into areas of opportunity. Created solely for the Latino shopper, ¡Celebremos! and Mercado Savings reflect Unified’s strong commitment to the Latino community and they will be a powerful force in generating sales and establishing customer loyalty for our supplier and retail partners.”

¡Celebremos! (Let’s Celebrate!) is built around a festive store-front environment. Featuring six rotating themes — music, education, tradition, health, family and food — the events can be customized to differentiate the store and connect with the local community. Unified will initially partner with 19 Hispanic retail chains in Southern California and Northern California. The program gives participating brands scale — 16 store-front events at large and mid-size retailers — and coordinated support to distribute cases to the stores and merchandise the products on-site.

For merchandising support Unified is partnering with a third-party that will focus on the timely execution of these programs at retail. “They will move cases from the back room and put them on the floor, and based on the and support from the participating brands some of these cases will be end caps,” said Lopez-Pedroza. “They will also be placing signage in the stores in support of the program, and this solves of another problem for the brands, who sometimes have issues with programs that are created but don’t get executed at the retail level. So part of the design of the program is that we provide the brands the support that they need to make sure that everything is executed on time.”

Latinos lead the way in digital and social media use in the shopping experience. Unified is embracing that trend with a digital platform focused on basket building and engaging content built on brand messaging. Mercado Savings is a complementary program to the ¡Celebremos! store-front events and will reflect the same monthly themes.

Each program will be measured in three parts to gauge its success. The first part measured will be execution, in terms of how many people attended the event, how many samples were given out, etc. From the merchandising perspective they will measure how many cases were removed from the back room and placed on the floor or end caps. If a retailer is short on product, the third party merchandising partner can call Unified and place an order for that retailer.

“In terms of scan information, we will be providing brands with scan information for a specified period prior the event, during the event, and post event, which will let them see the kind of return the particular event delivers,” said Lopez-Pedroza. “We have permission from the stores to share their movement data and we will be gathering those other metrics so that the brands can make smart decisions – not based on intuition but based on facts. In this space, the Hispanic market, they have traditionally been reluctant to share their data, but because real pulling it all together in an aggregated fashion, they feel that they can provide the data in a way that does not disclose proprietary information, but at the same time it does meet the objectives of the CPG brands.”

In addition, Unified is embracing the Hispanic market's trend of heavy social media use with a digital platform focused on basket building and engaging content built on brand messaging. Mercado Savings is a complementary program to the ¡Celebremos! store-front events and will reflect the same monthly themes.

Commerce, Calif.-based Unified Grocers is a retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor that supplies independent retailers throughout the western United States.

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