There’s an important audience that the supermarkets should get to know better. It’s not because they necessarily spend more than average, nor because they’re any more loyal than other shoppers. They’re important because they freely and actively promote supermarket brands to their friends and families. For the first time, using SMG’s planning application Community Igniter, we can identify the people we call Grocery Groupies.
Our research shows there are over 400,000 of them in the UK and that they’re connected and influential in their communities. Community Igniter can help us understand not just how they shop and what motivates them but also how brands can join or influence the conversations that this vocal group are having.
Do this effectively and grocery retailers can have their messages amplified across Groupies’ personal communities. Each month, an average Grocery Groupie holds conversations with 25 people about their choice of food retailer. The people they talk to come from a range of networks: from their neighbours, to their work, from friends they have from their old schools to people from their children’s schools. So a message resonating with one of these shoppers has the potential to be amplified 25 fold, igniting the personal communities of this influential and connected group.
Who are they?
Forget the image of the issue-driven, blogger activist; these people look like grocery retailers’ other customers, they’re just even more intent on getting a good deal for their families, and far more likely to talk about it. Indeed, they are happy to accept that big brands can and should influence their shopping habits; they just need to be clearly shown what’s in it for them.
They tend to be in their 30s and 40s, well educated, female, and married with children. They own their own homes and the majority is working. They are not struggling on their present income but nor do they tend to describe themselves as ‘comfortable’ – like most people they’re coping OK. They’re not particularly differentiated by social grade or income; they’re generally in the late majority in terms or technology adoption; they’re online but not constantly.
What Grocery Groupies are is highly connected and active in their personal communities. Nearly half belong to local community groups – they are 20% more likely than the average person to do so. They are particularly engaged with organisations based on hobbies, sports and charity. They are also more broadly connected to a range of networks – for example, those based on work and those based on life-stage (like mother and baby groups). They talk about a wide range of conversation topics, particularly holidays, celebrities, the environment, and they’re concerned about education and crime and anti-social behaviour.
So when they talk supermarkets, what do we learn about their priorities? Community igniter allows us to get into the actual content of their conversations. Like most people right now it’s value that fuels their advocacy but behind this - rather than special offers, product range, or queues – it’s quality of food they’re spreading the word about. They’re passionate and love talking about their food experiences, whether it’s recipes, restaurants or having people round to eat - so it makes sense that quality at the checkout is key for them.
Who’s winning with the Groupies?
Morrisons and Waitrose – at different ends of the spectrum in terms of their positioning – come out top, while the bigger players struggle to get their share of Grocery Groupies.
Morrisons – with an impressive 179,000 Grocery Groupies – has over 30% more of these people as customers than either of the bigger Sainsbury’s or Asda chains. Waitrose has the highest proportion out of the top 6 grocery retailers. The proportion of its total shoppers that ‘Grocery Groupies’ account for is 60% higher than Sainsbury’s proportion and 70% higher share than Asda’s.
Sainsbury’s and Asda fair the worst. ‘Grocery Groupies’ are 15% less likely than average to shop at Sainsbury’s and 20% less likely to shop at Asda. This means that while 39% of the whole population ever shop at Asda, just 31% of ‘Grocery Groupies’ do so. Tesco does no better or worse than its massive share of the market suggests it should – 57% of the population ever shop there for groceries, as do 57% of Groupies.
Influencing the Groupies
The good news is that they actively embrace sources of information and are happy to accept brand influence themselves. When we examined their attitudes we found they are likely to agree that ‘Relevant direct mail can change my opinion of a company’ and ‘I often notice brands that appear in TV programmes and films’. Specifically they embrace corporate sponsorship, agreeing that ‘I am more inclined to purchase from a company that sponsors events’.
So what media channels work hardest for Grocery Groupies? Promotions are still important as conversation starters – in newspapers and increasingly online. A third of Groupies refer to TV advertising, suggesting the big grocers’ investment in the medium is working hard for this audience. But it is TV programmes themselves that are even more important in fuelling advocacy. Perhaps this suggests that the grocery retailers should redouble their efforts to harness the British fixation with food programming? Smart PR and content initiates - particularly those focused on quality – can help nurture advocacy.
So only by using Community Igniter we know what influences the Grocery Groupies and how they influence others.
Three things grocery retailers need to do
Pay attention to the needs and priorities of the Grocery Retailer Groupies: reach one effectively and you potentially reach 25 people they talk to regularly.
This means getting involved in their personal communities: what’s important to them – from sport, to volunteering to mothers groups and neighbourhoods - should be more important to grocery retailers.
Track their performance against this audience over time: if a grocery retailer is getting more of these people through their doors then they know they are meeting their needs and gaining access to their powerful community connections.