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‘We looked to digital’: How a regional grocery chain is using Facebook live shopping to get in front of more online shoppers

'We looked to digital': How a regional grocery chain is using Facebook live shopping to get in front of more online shoppers
Written by Publishing Team

As the arms race in social commerce continues to take shape, Texas-based grocery chain HEB is working on Facebook Direct Shopping to reach more shoppers, who are spending increasingly more time online due to the ongoing pandemic.

It’s also a move to maintain brand relevance and build an online community after Covid-19 safety precautions shut down in-store cooking illustrative food samples known as Cooking Connection.

“Our job is to make sure that we continue this relationship with them even when they don’t even set foot in our stores,” said Giovanna Demprio, Director of Digital Marketing at HEB. “When COVID hit, and we couldn’t get that resource in stores, we looked digital.”

Originally, the regional grocery chain, which also has locations in northeastern Mexico, started its weekly interactive cooking series on Zoom in November 2020. But after Facebook rolled out its direct shopping capabilities last May, HEB has included the social media giant in its digital video strategy.

According to Dimperio, the Facebook series features local chefs and allows viewers to purchase HEB products used during the tutorial, right down to the bowl the chef uses. On average, virtual life classes on Facebook attract hundreds of thousands of views. One video in particular, which focused on French cuisine, garnered nearly 500,000 views.

“We also see, not only have we been positively engaged in the content that we put out, but we have created this really interesting sense of community,” said Demprio, referring to customers’ interaction with the chef and with each other in the comments.

It is unclear how the project will be funded or what the financial return on investment will be, as Demprio declined to provide those details. Per Kantar, HEB spent $16.2 million on media from January to September of 2021. In 2020, the grocer spent $28.8 million, down from $30.2 million spent on media in 2019. This The figures do not include spending on social media because Kuntar does not track that numbers.

This may not be traditional advertising, but Demprio says there is marketing value in community engagement to build brand awareness and keep HEB ahead. As the marketing team looks to create more interactive and engaging content this year, Demprio said that engaging the digital community will help them learn more about their customers.

“We are always looking to test and innovate in digital spaces to help connect with consumers the way they want them. We create content that we think is useful for Texans and try to adapt it to their needs.”

The idea of ​​social media shopping, especially direct shopping, is still relatively new to Americans. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest all rolled out or boosted their direct shopping features around the same time in the middle of last year. eMarketer reported that social commerce sales in the US topped $30 billion last year, although those numbers were overshadowed by China’s $351.65 billion direct shopping market in 2021.

While there is growing interest, Nick Meyer, director of social strategy at Campbell Ewald, points out that offering live shopping capabilities should complement brand content to avoid driving tough sales.

“Don’t offer direct shopping just because it’s there,” Meyer said. “Do it because you have the right products, people, and experiences that can be improved as easily as direct shopping.”

Cooking Connection has since returned to HEB stores with food sampling as of late May 2021. The grocer maintains a Covid-Safety protocol with hand sanitizer and no direct contact between chefs and shoppers. However, Demprio says the grocer will continue to prioritize social commerce, and experiment with outside of Facebook, as social media platforms eventually deliver more.

“Our digital work is really moving forward, how do we make sure we connect with customers the way they want them, and we transform platforms to meet customers where they spend time,” she said.

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Publishing Team