How Food Retailers Are Using Social Media During Coronavirus

During the pandemic, food retailers must keep the lights on to manage peaks in demands and the global scale of operations. Social media has been a reliable place for food retailer brands to reassure customers about safety, social distancing procedures, and stock capacity

How Food Retailers Are Using Social Media During Coronavirus

One of the biggest social media challenges is maintaining the right communication – from building community relationships to community management. Food retailers need to ensure employees and customers that they’re doing everything they can to keep them safe during the pandemic.

Food retailers have used social media to announce vital information from designated hours for the vulnerable to new social distancing procedures. Grocery employees are working around the clock to keep shelves stocked – all while keeping the stores and warehouse facilities clean to protect employees and local communities.

As food retailers continue on the frontlines of the pandemic, some retailers are experiencing spikes in demand: up to 800% for cold and flu medicine and up to 50% for food items. Whether it’s shopping online or in-store, managing massive surges in demand and traffic can cause significant pressure on employees and supply chains. 

No matter their local situations, one thing most food retailers have in common during this time is maintaining their online communities through social media.

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Engaging With Online Communities During the Coronavirus

Connecting with online communities and creating relationships has never been so essential. During this stressful time, people depend on their local food retailers to provide all the essentials they need.

While many are self isolating at home, a Statista worldwide survey found that there has been a 22% increase in time spent on messaging services (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) and a 21% increase in time spent on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).

Socialbakers data also shows an increase in time spent on Facebook for fans of brand pages. 

Percentage of Facebook page fans online during January, February, and March

Local communities rely on food retailers’ social media platforms to check for any important information. In terms of social media platform engagement, Socialbakers has found that post interactions for the largest food retailer profiles have grown in recent months, particularly on Facebook.

Evolution of relative media post interactions on Instagram and Facebook

Below, we will look at how food retailers have managed disruptions in operations and connected with their customers on social media. 

Whole Foods Market – Community First

When President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, most food retailers, including Whole Foods Market, immediately communicated new store hours for vulnerable customers and early closing times for sanitizing and restocking shelves.

Whole Foods Market is known for its community-centric approach on social media and prides itself on putting local communities first. They posted on Instagram a “We’re here for you” social media campaign to inform their audience on where to find updates on how the company is addressing the pandemic.

With over 300 stores across North American and the United Kingdom, each store has its own individuality. Community managers at every store prioritize customer engagement with local communities in-store and online. 

Whole Foods Market alone has over 150 company Twitter accounts, and they have designated social media community managers managing localized company Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. A global company of this size and has multiple social media platforms for each store that requires organized community management. That way food retailers can address all the concerns customers have on social media. 

Tesco – Social Distancing Campaign 

In the middle of the pandemic, Tesco created a different approach to restructure its store and online stock capacities. 

In a BBC interview, Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis stated that “between 85% and 90% of all food bought will require a visit to a store, and here significant changes to the store environment have been implemented to maximize safety for colleagues and customers.” 

On Tesco’s Instagram, they created a social distancing campaign with a short clip ensuring customers that Tesco implemented new social distancing procedures to guarantee customers that it’s safe to shop in stores. 

By encouraging customers to shop in stores, Tesco will be able to relieve pressures on delivery capacities and prioritize deliveries for vulnerable customers.

Followers will still have questions when new social distancing procedures are in place. It’s important for social media teams to set up roles and approval flows to go through hundreds of comments to answer all their questions.

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Walmart – IGTV

The retail giant found a creative way to connect with its audiences, utilizing IGTV. During the crisis, Walmart acted fast by adding sneeze guards at cash registers and early curbside pickup for seniors, vulnerable customers, and first responders. 

In early April, Walmart Radio DJs created an IGTV video about the 6-20-100 rule: 6-foot social distancing, 20-second hand washing, and if you have a fever of 100 degrees or more, stay home. 

IGTV is a valuable format to reach audiences while most are staying home. However, it’s important for social media teams to know all the current Instagram updates before creating Instagram content. 

In less than two minutes, Walmart was able to communicate new social distancing procedures and how their employees are keeping the stores clean in a fun and creative way. 

The Takeaway

No one knows how long this pandemic will last, but it’s important for customers to know that their local food retailers will always be there for them. 

It’s clear that one of the biggest social media challenges is communicating the right information and addressing all the concerns customers may have. Today, social media has made it easy for retailers to connect with customers during these stressful times. Discover more on how brands are helping out during this crisis.

Content Marketing Specialist

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