A new economy, a new mindset
ConAgra Foods makes a wide range of food items across several categories, including brands like Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Gulden’s, Healthy Choice, Hunt’s, Marie Callender’s, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM, Slim Jim, and Swiss Miss.
Since 2006, ConAgra Foods has partnered with Communispace to use their private online community to help them build relationships with their retail partners by better understanding shoppers at various grocery stores. These community members continuously share ideas and opinions on food shopping and product usage to fuel shopper marketing and in-store promotional plans.
Following the economic meltdown of 2008, shoppers were constantly re-evaluating their spending and assessing where to make cuts throughout 2009. To ensure that ConAgra Foods brands weren’t among the cuts shoppers were making, the company needed to partner with their retailer customers (Grocery stores, Mass Merchants, etc.) to execute shopper marketing programs to not only maintain sales but invigorate shopper spending in a difficult economy.
Knowing how vital this asset was to their success, ConAgra Foods turned to their Communispace community. The goal of this was to discover shoppers’ feelings and behaviors related to the six key Shopper Seasons that ConAgra Foods had previously identified. The transitions between Shopper Seasons are critical times throughout the year in which shoppers’ adjust their mindset. The Shopper Seasons do not necessarily follow the Roman calendar; rather, they follow shoppers’ mental calendars.
Creating an emotional connection to brands
As the economy in the US began to turn downward in 2008 and its impact continued to ripple through 2009 with a vengeance, shoppers were much more conservative with their wallets, constantly re-thinking all of their purchases, and budgeting more carefully than ever. In this environment, ConAgra Foods knew it was especially important to stay in touch with shoppers throughout the Shopper Seasons–understanding that behind every purchase decision lies an emotional truth.
Using the community to listen to members through each Shopper Season allowed ConAgra Foods to uncover these emotional truths and discover the transitions between seasons, observing any longitudinal changes from year to year. Through a variety of approaches that gave community members many ways to express themselves, such as image galleries, brainstorms, collaging and surveys, ConAgra Foods was able to create a complete picture of members’ lives in each of the Shopper Seasons.
The community helped to create a roadmap for retailers for each season by bringing forward its core essence; providing key insights for shopper behavior and guidance on how to align the store environment with the seasonal mentality, on everything from end caps to circulars and recipe brochures. This deeply insightful and comprehensive view of consumer mindset was fed into their shopper marketing programs and rolled out to retailers all over the country.
In one example of how this worked, members revealed their thoughts on the month of October, showing that beyond climate shifts between traditional seasons, shoppers experience ritual shifts. To shoppers, October is about way more than just Halloween, it’s actually a time of transformation, a bridge between the busy Back-to-School season and the hectic Holiday season, described by shoppers as “the calm before the storm.” ConAgra Foods collaborated with one major retailer to implement a nationwide October shopper marketing program complete with coupon offers, ads and online promotions that included themes beyond Halloween to better meet consumers’ mindsets during this time of year.
Defying the trends: Double digit increases
By continuously tapping their shopper community for input and transforming how they listened to consumers, ConAgra Foods brought newfound texture to their Shopper Seasons, bringing to life their consumers like never before.
For many of their retail customers, the insights ConAgra Foods brought to their plans resulted in programs that boosted sales in double digits across many of the participating brands. As an example, one major grocer with retail stores throughout the US worked over the course of three months to implement these programs delivering the retailer an increase in dollar sales of 63%, units of 75% and gross margin dollars of 42% year-over-year. Further, the ConAgra Foods brands participating in the program over the cumulative three months grew the retailer’s market share by 7.9 points.
In fact, ConAgra Foods has found that Shopper Seasons insights-based events produce a 24% higher gross margin return on investment for retailers than other events. This success, fueled by insights from ConAgra’s shopper’s community, is further cementing positive relationships between ConAgra Foods and their retail partners, delivering a fresh approach to their business growth.