As the arms race in social commerce continues to take shape, the Texan grocery chain HEB is turning to Facebook’s live shopping feature to reach more shoppers who are increasingly spending more time online due to the ongoing pandemic.
It’s also a move to maintain brand relevance and build an online community after Covid-19 safety precautions shut down the grocer’s food samples known as Cooking Connection.
“Our job is to make sure we continue this relationship with them even when they don’t step into our stores,” said Giovanna Dimperio, HEB’s senior director of digital marketing. “When COVID struck and we couldn’t have this resource in the stores, we took care of digitization.”
The regional food chain, which also has locations in northeast Mexico, originally started its weekly, interactive cooking series on Zoom in November 2020. But after Facebook rolled out its live shopping features last May, HEB incorporated the social media giant into its digital video strategy.
According to Dimperio, the Facebook series features local chefs and allows viewers to purchase HEB products that will be used during the tutorial, right down to the bowl that the cook uses. On average, Facebook’s virtual life classes garner hundreds of thousands of views. One video in particular that focused on French cuisine received nearly 500,000 views.
“We not only see positive engagement for the content we publish, but we have also created a really interesting community feeling,” said Dimperio, referring in the comments to the interaction of customers with the chef and each other. .
It is unclear how the project will be funded or what the financial return was as Dimperio refused to provide these details. According to Kantar, HEB spent $ 16.2 million on media from January through September 2021. The grocer spent $ 28.8 million in 2020, up from $ 30.2 million in 2019. These numbers don’t include social media spending as Kantar doesn’t track those numbers.
It might not be traditional advertising, but Dimperio says engaging in the community has marketing value to building brand awareness and keeping HEB in mind. With the marketing team looking to create more interactive and participatory content this year, Dimperio said engaging the digital community will help them learn more about their customers.
“We are constantly looking for tests and innovations in digital spaces to help consumers the way they want. We create content that we think will be useful to Texans and try to tailor it to their needs, ”she said.
The idea of shopping on social media, especially live shopping, is still relatively new to Americans. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest introduced or ramped up all live stream shopping functions in the middle of last year. eMarketer reports that US social commerce sales exceeded $ 30 billion last year, though those numbers are overshadowed by China’s live shopping market of $ 351.65 billion in 2021.
While interest is growing, Nick Meyer, Director of Social Strategy at Campbell Ewald, points out that the introduction of livestream shopping features must complement branded content to avoid hard sales.
“Don’t offer live shopping just because it exists,” said Meyer. “Do it because you have the right products, people, and experiences that can be improved with the ease of live shopping.”
Cooking Connection has returned to HEB stores with food samples since the end of May 2021. The grocer adheres to the Covid safety protocol with hand sanitizer and without direct contact between cooks and buyers. However, Dimperio says the grocer will continue to prioritize social commerce and experiment beyond Facebook as social media platforms eventually offer more.
“Our digital work that’s really moving forward is how we make sure we connect with customers in the way they want and switch platforms to meet the customer where they spend their time,” said she.