Remember back when you were a child, backing cookies with mom, or grandma? The aroma in the air, the taste of stolen bites of cookie dough? Chances were, the cookie recipe you were using with Mom was something she had gotten from a close friend, maybe even her own mom, or was recommended by one.
Enter the digital age. The way Americans source recipes, think about food, plan our meals, and learn to cook has drastically changed, according to a new study: Clicks & Cravings: The Impact of Social Technology on Food Culture. In a survey of more than 1,600 US adults, almost half reported learning about food and recipes via social networking sites, and 40% learn about food via websites, apps or blogs. This marks a dramatic shift from the sensory food experience that dominated our learning (relying on smell and taste) to a new, rational one: What’s on the label? What are the ingredients? What does it look like? By relying on digital and social media, we’re inadvertently “crowdsourcing” our food before we decide what to eat, make, or buy.
So what does this mean for food and grocery brands online? Engaging with consumers needs to go beyond a collection of fans and followers and into the realm of meaningful conversations and emotional connections. The payoff to this approach is the creation of brand advocates and a connection that will drive influence. The study groups consumers’ engagement with grocery brands online into three categories:
- Spectators: The largest group, using social media as an extension of family and friends, looking for recipes, information, and good deals.
- Dreamers: Content curators leveraging social networks and looking to increase their influence.
- Doers: The core of food-related social media, creating content that inspires followers.
By keeping these consumer groups in mind, grocery brands can create a variety of content to appeal to each of these consumer segments. Posting recipes, for example, will engage the Spectators, but offering consumers the opportunity to share their own recipes will inspire the Dreamers and Doers.
The bottom line? The shift in consumer behavior has provide a lot of opportunity for grocery brands online. A clear strategy incorporating different consumer values will pay off with emotionally connected advocates and ultimately, brand loyalty.