Here’s a question for you to ponder – why are the big 4 supermarkets, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons struggling to retain customers and losing market share?
Is it simply because the two big discount supermarkets, Aldi and Lidl, are able to offer quality food at discount prices? Well, the food industry certainly seems to believe so. However, if that really is the case then why is Waitrose thriving too? Why is a supermarket catering for what many see as the luxury end of the market picking up market share at the expense of the big 4 supermarkets? Well, it certainly can’t be price, that’s for sure. So what’s the reason behind Waitrose’s increasing success? Well, according to latest Waitrose 2014 Food & Drink Report, it’s largely down to social media marketing and the innovative use of real-time communication on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.
The Food & Drink Report, 2014, is a major study by Waitrose that uses data from millions of purchases in shops and online from over the past year.
The study claims that consumer habits are now influenced by social media more than ever. Drawing on sales data as well as consumer research and expert insight, the Waitrose report claims social media is increasingly influencing consumers’ food choices, with millions sharing photos, recipes and blogposts on platforms including Instagram and Twitter. Over the course of 2014, Waitrose has confirmed that its Twitter following rose by three-quarters, while its Facebook ‘likes’ increased by over 50%
But as interesting as that might be, how has that increased interest in the social media translated into increased sales and greater profits?
Well, Waitrose claims that social media is now the principle point of contact between the business and the consumer. In fact, it states that social media has ousted email as the major point of contact, and claims that in July, the volume of customers contacting the business by social media channels easily outstripped email. Waitrose claims that in 2014, sales from tablet devices increased by 26% year-on-year, whilst overall online sales rose by an impressive 40%. It believes that this trend will only continue to rise as more and more consumers embrace the social experience.
The Waitrose report claims that the effect of social media isn’t just about increased profit however: it also found that “social media has revolutionised the way people talk about food and drink,” citing hashtags like #yummy and #foodie, as well as #flexitarianism [semi-vegitarianism to you and me] and #weekend foodie, and incredibly popular topics on the retailer’s Twitter and Facebook sites – topics like “Heston”, “gluten-free”, “cheese”, “Mother’s Day” and “coffee”.
Social media has also been beneficial in increasing the consumers’ knowledge and understanding of what’s in their foods and this has helped to transform consumer eating habits. According to Gordon McDermott, course manager at The Waitrose Cookery School, “because of social media, people are very aware of what’s in products, and they’re learning more about ingredients.” Social media’s viral nature has also helped to spread food trends nationally. Waitrose claims most people hadn’t ever heard of quinoa before this year, but after featuring in over 540,000 Waitrose Instagram posts in 2014 it is now a household staple for many consumers, and just as popular as rice and pasta. Social media has also helped Waitrose capitalise on the popularity of national and world sporting events, increasing the sales of Tunnock’s Tea cakes by 62% during the Commonwealth Games, and South American wines by over 50% during the World Cup.