Technology Tools Grocery Stores Can Use to Operate Safely During Social Distancing

woman shopping in grocery store with face mask

Supermarkets, grocery store chains and independent grocers are finding ways to turn lemons into lemonade. While the pandemic has curtailed in-store foot traffic and affected the frequency that shoppers visit stores, grocers are using technology to increase sales while improving customer satisfaction by reducing stress and making shopping easier.  

One of those tools is online grocery shopping. Instacart is perhaps the most well-known company but others including goPuff and Shipt, which operate grocery delivery services in select cities around the U.S., are seeing an increase in demand as consumers choose to avoid crowded grocery store aisles to reduce their exposure to the coronavirus 

Another tool that stores are using is business texting. Texting software makes it easy for food retailers to send messages to customers before, during and after placing orders online. Texting gives stores multiple opportunities to communicate with shoppers and update them on the status of their order, which is helpful if changes need to be made as it goes through the subsequent steps in the process, from picking and packing to delivery or curbside pick-up. 

Features and benefits of texting your grocery store customers 

A key benefit of texting is that it’s a technology that’s easy for everyone to use. Most consumers already rely on it to communicate with friends and family. Business texting is like what they’re used to—only better, because grocery stores can send texts to their customers from a laptop, desktop computer or mobile device using an intuitive software interface 

Business texting also has timesaving features that personal cellphones don’t, such as Scheduled Messages and Dynamic Fields, which allow details from a customer’s contact info to be inserted into a message automatically. Texts that are personalized with a customer’s name and include a discount code, special offer or resonate with them in other ways can help build loyalty and set your grocery store apart from the competition.  

Imagine sending a personalized text to a shopper who ordered a bouquet of flowers from your floral department exactly one year ago for a presumed birthday or anniversary. The odds are pretty high that the customer will appreciate receiving a friendly “nudge” text at just the right time. The exchange may look something like the example below.

grocery store floral dept text message to customer

Of course, the frequency of text messages
sent by a store will vary depending on their communication strategy. Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly texts with special offers or promotions might be the regular cadence a store chooses to adopt. However, before you start texting, you should read this post on the importance of getting opt-in consent from customers.  

Whether a text is sent to a single customer or a group, the message can be created in advance and scheduled to be delivered at a later time. A text can also include a Custom Signature, so the recipient knows who sent the message and the department they work in, which helps convey a more personal feel and can encourage a two-way conversation if the customer has a question or a follow-up reply unlike when using short codes. 

COVID-19: Stores are preparing for shoppers to stock up on groceries 

As cooler weather arrives, health experts warn that cases of COVID-19 will rise as people gather indoors. This concern has many shoppers planning on stocking up on groceries, but they want to do so safely. In response, stores are stockpiling inventory and manufacturers are increasing production of popular food items.  

USA Today reported that more than half of Americans have or plan to stock up on food or other necessities, primarily due to fears of a coronavirus surge. Stores can use texts to communicate with shoppers and remind them about online shopping and delivery options or to promote food or other items that managers think they may want to stock up on.

Send marketing and promotional texts to increase store revenue 

Customers appreciate being offered discounts for items they already buy. But stores make more by encouraging online shoppers to buy additional products or switch to store brands, which is why sharing news about discounts by text is a smart strategy. Plus, the offer is right at their fingertips in the native texting app on their smartphone. Customers know exactly where to find it when needed, unlike an email message that can get buried in an inbox. 

Not to mention, when customers shop online it’s more difficult to encourage impulse purchases. They’re not passing by all the things that could tempt them as they walk down store aisles. By using text marketing to offer a discount or entice them in another way (such as including a photo of the product using MMS), they’re more likely to be receptive and add the item to their virtual cart.  

When customers engage in online shopping, they simply enter the coupon code included in the text message at checkout to receive a discount. If you know the general shopping habits of your customers, you can time the texts so they’re sent on the best day to maximize their effectiveness.  

Perhaps your store has an excess quantity of perishable items that you’d like to sell quickly. Send a text to shoppers who have purchased the item in the past and let them know that this special savings offer is available for a limited time, as the example below shows.

BOGO offer for grocery store text message

Use text templates to keep your messages on-brand and typo-free 

Templates help grocery stores and supermarkets convey a consistent, professional message. Stores can use a common voice when communicating with customers to keep their messaging onbrand. Once a template has been created, employees can select it, update specific fields and send it without the original template’s wording being affected. 

Stores can create text templates for any department or situation. Having COVID-19 or coronavirus-related texts pre-written can be useful, whether to let customers know how frequently your store is cleaned or to remind customers that early morning hours are set aside for seniors and other customers who may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus 

Having templates for departments that interact with customers most often is a good idea. For example, the bakery can use one that lets customers know when their custom birthday cake is ready. Or, the pharmacy can use one that lets customers know that their prescription order has been filled, as the text below states 

grocery store text message to pharmacy customer

Texting increases customer satisfaction and upsell opportunities  

For online shopping orders, items that were in stock at the time of purchase may not be available when that order is being prepared. In those situations, an employee can text the customer and ask if they’d like to choose a substitute item (which can be a good time to suggest the store’s brand if one’s available). It’s also an opportunity to ask if they’d like to add any new items to their order. Shoppers may realize they forgot to buy something and are happy to include it in their current order without needing to log back online 

If no substitutions need to be made, stores can still send a text letting the customer know their order is about to be picked to see if they would like to add anything else. Adding one or two items to an online order can help boost a store’s revenue. Even if no new items are added, customers will appreciate being given the last-minute chance to amend their order.  

Texts help keep online shopping customers updated about curbside pick-up  

Whether it’s due to health concerns or just the convenience of having someone else do the shopping, a growing number of consumers are choosing to have their groceries delivered to their homes or to pick them up curbside. If a customer chooses the curbside pick-up option, a text can let them know where to park and what to do when they arrive as the two-way texting conversation below demonstrates.

grocery store text message to customer

Keep store employees in the know with timely text messages   

In addition to customer communication, texting can be used internally for connecting with individual employees or teams using group texts. Texts can be sent between departments for collaboration as well as for sharing company-wide news instantly 

The Human Resources department can text employees about schedule changes, timecard reminders or payroll issues. Group texts can be sent to the entire company letting them know about urgent weather issues such as a storm that causes a power outage, flooding or other damage.  

Texts can also be used for sharing good news like an employee upsell incentive program. A grocery store may want to set a goal to increase product upsells for online orders by $1,000 in the coming week. Texts are a fast and easy way to spread the word. When a store multiplies that additional $1,000 of revenue by the number of stores in their chain, it could add up to a substantial amount while rewarding top employees at the same time.  

grocery store text message to customer

Learn more about text-based communications for grocery stores 

Grocery store margins are thin, and competition is fierce, which means every customer counts. Texting can help build brand loyalty and turn shoppers into buyers by providing stores with the simple, frictionless experience that today’s consumers expect.  

If you manage a supermarket, grocery store chain or are an independent mom-and-pop shop, texting can help you reach customers in secure and effective ways. To learn more, see how Zipwhip works.  

Discover how texting can help you succeed during the pandemic and beyond. For tips on getting the most out of your texting capabilities, download our free e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. It contains everything you’ll need to know about adopting texting as part of your grocery store communications strategy.  


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