Data – it’s at the heart of every business decision. Should you run the same St. Patrick’s Day corned beef promotion as last year? What meat cuts do your shoppers usually gravitate toward in the early spring? Is there a new opportunity to cross promote fresh produce alongside your glazed Easter hams this year?
Coming out of a year of enormous uncertainty, data is now available for what a traditional year at your store looks like as well as a year fraught with retail chaos. But the question for many retailers isn’t how to use the data, it’s where to find it and if they can afford it. Let’s explore some available information resources.
Trade associations like the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Marketing Industry (FMI) have resource centers on their websites offering a plethora of helpful information at no cost. With webinars, blogs and reports designed specifically for independent grocers, their websites are full of valuable resources.
When it comes to agriculture products like meat and produce, retailers don’t have to look further than the USDA Checkoff Programs to find insights on everything from wholesale price updates to consumer data.
“We have a research team at NCBA that regularly conducts market research studies to better understand the beef consumer on a variety of topics,” explained Jason Jerome, senior director of retail and foodservice engagement at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “We also have channel intelligence experts on staff that work to break down retail data and share trend information with partners.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees 21 checkoff programs (also known as research and promotion boards), each with a mission to maintain and expand the market for its commodity. From avocados to pork to Christmas trees, each program conducts and shares research and retail data publicly for free. These resources are distributed through email newsletters and in each checkoff’s retail hub (like Beef It’s What’s For Dinner’s Retail Hub).
Another place where retailers can typically get free consumer insights is from their suppliers. Ken Jones, director of meat, seafood and poultry for Hen House Markets in Kansas, gets consumer insights from his beef supplier partner.
“We have a scheduled weekly contact call to review existing trends and opportunities,” Jones explained. “In addition, they provide a comprehensive review of future product availability and supply opportunities.”
Help scheduling long-range product buys for feature ad activity and merchandising sales building events also come to Jones through his beef supplier.
“Being aware of what your top customers buy is helpful,” said Jones. “Securing those products for special promotions and ad activity can keep these customers coming back into the store and building long-term loyalty for Hen House Markets.”
At Midan Marketing, we also conduct and share free research about the meat consumer. During COVID-19, our team set up a page with action steps specifically tailored to meat retailers. For retailers with budgets for data and insights, Midan’s Meat Consumer Segmentation data is an additional and invaluable resource.
Some data vendors offer aggregated loyalty data alongside many other valuable resources.
Mintel also offers small business solutions on an ongoing or one-off basis. Mintel’s analysts closely follow product innovations, macro trends and consumer insights and behaviors. With these they offer a product database, a purchase intent tracker and detailed consumer reports. When purchased as a stand-alone report, retailers will pay for an 80-100 page document on a specific retail area. These reports narrow in on one product area, like Packaged Red Meats or the Natural and Organic Food Shopper. Mintel also offers the option of purchasing access to a specific library (such as Food), which significantly reduces the cost per report.
Whatever insights you need as a small business, there’s likely somewhere to find it at little to no cost. And using the data well can pay dividends in the long run.
Use Facebook for Business to understand, reach customers better
You’re probably already using social media like Facebook to advertise or create a community for your store. But did you know that by using Facebook for Business, you can quickly and easily learn a lot about your customers? Facebook Audience Insights aggregates data on the people who follow your page and lets you compare them to the whole of Facebook users.
This information includes basic demographic information like age and gender breakdowns and education levels, but also can tell you about your customers’ interests and hobbies. With this information, you may learn that your customers over-index on their appreciation for live theater, leading you to hold a joint promotional event with your local community theater. Or you might find that your audience has a greater interest in Greek cuisine – causing you to stock a larger variety of olives or an obscure ingredient like mastic.
Facebook can also segment your audience with buyer personas to help you better understand your customer and advertise to them more easily. For instance, your store may have a large segment of “Career Building” buyers – young, childless singles that are a mix of renters and first-time homebuyers living in condos and single-family houses. Or if your customers are a bit older, they may fit into the “Clubs and Causes” lifestyle which is dominated by upper-middle income, retired singles and couples in their late 60s and early 70s.
Tools like these are available on all the major social media platforms. While the insights tools of LinkedIn and Twitter are slightly less robust, all can help you gather valuable insights about who your customers are and what they value.