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The grocer's guide to stocking and selling socially minded products

The grocer's guide to stocking and selling socially minded products

What grocery products make you itch to buy them? Is it the dish soap that claims to be ultra-concentrated? The flour with the lowest price? The toilet paper with “30% more per roll”?

Not likely. These products encourage transactional relationships, meaning the customer buys the product because he needs it, not necessarily because he wants it. Just as we shrug our shoulders and buy more gasoline when our cars are low on fuel, there’s almost nothing memorable or enjoyable about a transactional experience.

Chances are that the products you enjoy buying are those that do more than say, “You need me; here I am.” They’re the products that connect themselves to a noble cause, present their reasons for doing so, and ask you to take part.

These products tap into the irresistible power of storytelling, and research shows that customers are more than willing to buy in. According to content marketing agency Headstream’s 2015 Brand Storytelling Report, 79% of consumers want brands to tell stories, and 55% of people who connect with a brand’s story say they’re more likely to purchase the product.

Stock your shelves with social stories.

Of course, there isn’t just one way to tell a story, but some stories are more impactful than others. Consumers respond particularly well to products that tell a socially conscious story. An incredible 90% of consumers want companies to tell them how they’re benefiting a social cause (PDF), according to Cone’s 2010 Cause Evolution Study. But just 19% want to hear about celebrities or employees, and only 10% want to hear about the story of the brand’s CEO or founder.

The lesson? Find products for your shelves that show social passion. Here’s how to do it:

1. Do your research. Consumers are too smart for greenwashing, so find stories that go deeper than surface-level marketing hype. Brands must be truly dedicated to their causes for customers to bite.

2. Keep it short and sweet. Products need captivating stories, but they also must be easily digestible for on-the-go grocery shoppers. The best storytelling brands let customers choose their depth of interaction by offering quick on-package stories complemented by the opportunity to learn more online.

3. Prioritize product quality. Don’t forget your ultimate goal: You want products that sell. To find them, look for brands that tell great stories and produce top-quality products.

Bring shoppers in by getting the word out.

Once you’ve located story-driven products that shoppers will crave, it’s time to promote your socially conscious product offerings:

Tie in your brand. Stocking your shelves with storied products is a great start; the next step is to bring socially aware shoppers to your store.

A great model for this is Lucky’s Market. Many Lucky’s locations offer wooden tokens to customers who bring in reusable shopping bags. Customers then place their tokens in boxes, which represent local charities, and Lucky’s donates money for each token to that charity. This attracts customers who care about the environment and local charity efforts — people who are also likely to purchase socially conscious products.


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Leverage social media. On your social media platforms, share information about the socially conscious brands you’re carrying. At many Lucky’s locations, staff members host Impact Days, where 10% of proceeds go to worthy causes in the community. Lucky’s promotes these events via social media to draw customers to the store with the immediacy of an event that benefits great causes.

Host socially conscious samplings. Ever wonder why Costco gives out so many free samples? It’s because the grocery giant has found that samplings offer the best sales lift of any in-store marketing method.

Most brands will jump at the chance to conduct in-store tastings, so pair the power of sampling with the allure of socially conscious products. Make it a team effort: Ask them to bring signage and send product representatives, while you supply the space and the samples.

Story-driven products are one of the best investments you can make at your grocery store. Build a strong community, support great causes, and boost sales by making storied products a centerpiece of your store.

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