Issue: November/December 2011
Social Media Survival Guide: Heinen's
Heinen’s uses Facebook polls to get feedback from its customers on new product releases and generate interest in the grocery's offerings.
A new line of Two Brothers gelato and sorbet was about to hit stores. The challenge: Get customers to try them, push advance sales with coupons, and figure out the in-demand flavors so buyers would be ready with inventory.
And do it quickly.
So Heinen’s e-marketing specialist Liz Lewis created a Facebook poll of flavor options — gelato choices such as coconut, Nutella and raspberry with chocolate chips — and encouraged people to head to stores for samples with exclusive coupons. More than 100 fans participated in that first survey, which showed coconut as the favorite.
It’s a methodology Heinen’s now uses nearly every time it launches a new product, says marketing director Kathryn Falls, adding that participation numbers have increased with each successive poll. Falls explains it’s as much about allowing devoted customers to be “in the know” as it is about market research.
“It’s using the medium to obtain critical information and let them become involved with us,” says Falls, who declined to share sales figures of the gelato line.
Early in Heinen’s social media involvement, Lewis says she asked the store’s fans and followers: What can we provide that will be useful to you?
They wanted to be the first to know about new products. They wanted to know not only what the stores are carrying, but also how to use it in their home kitchens. They wanted to know the behind-the-scenes stories from their favorite grocery store.
“It was early on,” says Lewis, “but [those responses] are the stuff we still use today.”
Although Lewis is Heinen’s official voice on Facebook, Twitter (@heinens) and YouTube, she’s not the only voice. A produce manager might jump in with a favorite applesauce recipe, a cheese expert to answer a wine pairing question, or a local farmer to tell Heinen’s customers about his latest harvest. Lewis is responsible for educating those who post on Heinen’s behalf, says Falls, with a reminder that what they say and do reflects on the Heinen’s brand.
The 82-year-old grocery chain also taps into its rich history to endear fans through social media. Last year, Lewis posted photos of the original Heinen’s from the 1930s and 1940s, and dozens of Facebook fans jumped in with memories from the grocery’s olden days.
“This comes under the category of fun,” says Falls.
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