This article originally appeared in Progressive Grocer.
The pandemic has ushered in myriad changes to the retail marketplace— and the way customers buy groceries is one of them. To adapt, you’ve expanded online ordering options and instituted new cleaning protocols. But have you improved the way you communicate with customers?
Progressive Grocer asked Brendan Moore, Zipwhip’s vice president of enterprise, how the company’s Texting for Grocery can help grocers engage customers in ways that improve shoppers’ responsiveness and satisfaction—and do it in the way those customers prefer.
Progressive Grocer: Zipwhip’s State of Texting report shows that 58% of consumers say texting is the fastest way to reach them. Is there other data that underscores the important role texting plays?
Brendan Moore: We found that 70% of businesses now use texting to reach customers and employees; 34% of businesses that adopted SMS in 2020 did so because of the pandemic; and
77% say they’ll continue texting post- COVID. Businesses that don’t add a texting component to their customer engagement strategy risk losing business to competitors that do.
PG: Why is texting a good way for grocery retailers to engage with shoppers?
BM: Statistics tell the story. More than 45% of customers are changing their fulfillment preferences as a result of the pandemic. There was a whopping 370% increase in curbside pick-up in Q2 2020! Forty percent of online grocery retail shoppers say they’re likely to continue shopping for all of their groceries online, and U.S. digital grocery retail sales are projected to reach $248B by 2025. That’s 60% higher than 2019 estimates. Fulfillment has become a key differentiator…and customers’ expectations now include timely notification of order status for pick-up, contactless delivery and payments.
Texting for Grocery gives grocers’ digital engagement managers, online e-commerce managers, chief revenue officers and customer success managers ways to communicate with customers that meet or even exceed those expectations. They can send updated information about the status of each order as it is being picked, packed, and prepared for delivery or curbside pick-up. For example, if an item was in stock at the time of purchase but isn’t available when the order is being fulfilled, grocers can text to ask if the customer wants a substitute item, suggest the store’s brand and ask if the customer wants to add to the order. They can send delivery and pick-up notifications, too. Some of our customers are leveraging our MMS capability by snapping pictures of substitutes and produce so customers can validate what’s being picked. Fulfillment rates go up and complaints go down—it’s a win-win!
PG: Do you have examples of stores using Texting for Grocery?
BM: A regional grocer in the midwest with 250+ locations across 8 states currently uses Zipwhip. They view conversational texting as a differentiating engagement channel and are spreading its use across several departments.
PG: Moving beyond online ordering… what are other ways texting can help grocery retailers?
BM: Texting establishes a personalized, service-oriented connection using a channel that customers use every day. And it encourages the kind of back-and-forth engagement that helps develop a relationship with customers. Grocers are using our texting platform in many ways. Membership programs are extending exclusive phone numbers at each store to either “text or call” with any questions. In-store bakery and floral departments are taking orders, providing updates while the order is being filled, suggesting recommended upsell items, sending a picture using our mobile app and coordinating pick up or delivery.
Stores also can create personalized messages for out-of-stock products and let customers know when the item is available for pick-up. And because this all happens via their phones’ native texting app, the messages don’t get buried in an email inbox the way so many messages do.
PG: Can Texting for Grocery be used to help manage employee communication, too?
BM: We have seen HR managers embrace texting as a primary way to communicate with employees. Now grocers can use our platform to recruit employees to hiring events, schedule training, confirm onboarding and even share last-minute store updates and staff meeting reminders with the Group Messages feature. Employees can text the employer, too. For example, if someone can’t make their shift, a group text can help quickly fill it.