Grocery stories are rapidly changing how they build customer loyalty, with new innovations like smart shelves and smartphone apps, but more importantly, they are moving to a more engaging marketing tactic. The traditional newspaper ad display with weekly specials will always be with us, but grocery retailers are starting to see the value of launching a direct and organic conversation with customers.
Grocery chain Kroger introduced a new website last month called KrogerStories.com, a bold experiment in brand journalism that may pay off big for the brand. Rather than simply advertising the price of ground beef, the site focuses on delivering “stories about Kroger’s great people, innovative projects, and the ideas that are changing the way we eat, drink, and think about food.”
The stories, which are produced by a combination of freelancers and Kroger associates, may have a subtle sell message, but focus more on the stories themselves, offering entertainment as well as information to readers. That’s the goal of brand journalism – going a step beyond ordinary content marketing tactics designed to build backlinks, brand journalism is created to inform, entertain and engage. Backlinks are naturally part of the strategy, but second to those primary goals.
Do retail customers, in grocery and other segments, want stories, or do they just want to buy their mustard and pickles and move on? Customers do want to have an emotional connection with the brands they buy, and emotionally-connected customers have been shown to deliver more sales and more consistent loyalty. Retailers don’t build that kind of connection with weekly newspaper circulars, and brand journalism is rapidly emerging as a valuable tool that delivers measurable results.
“We believe customers, associates and other stakeholders are increasingly making decisions about where to shop, where to work, and who shares their values based on how well they understand the ways a company makes a difference for their people, communities and the planet,” said Jessica Adelman, Kroger’s group vice president of corporate affairs. “And in this equation, we believe that stories – credible, authentic, human stories – matter more than perhaps anything else.”