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Supermarkets Deck the Halls With Digital Offers

Supermarkets Deck the Halls With Digital Offers

It’s that time of year again, when projections of rapid growth in online holiday sales spill out like toys from an overstuffed Santa sack.

About a quarter of all holiday shoppers will spend more via the Internet this year than they will in retail stores, according to Deloitte’s 2012 Annual Holiday Survey. And they will use their tablets and their mobile devices as well, the pundits say, to compare prices, make purchases, look for gift ideas and just about everything else related to seasonal shopping.

Where do supermarkets fit into all this year-end cyber-hype? Although few observers seem to believe that retail sales of broccoli and stuffing will ever migrate completely to the e-commerce model, it is interesting to see more and more supermarkets embracing what is perhaps an even bigger online opportunity than e-tail sales: e-marketing.

This week’s cover feature, which looks at how supermarkets are approaching pricing this holiday season, includes several examples of supermarkets that are experimenting with new digital marketing and communication tools.

At Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas’, for example, the retailer for the first time this holiday season is launching “clipless” digital coupons that can be loaded directly onto customers’ loyalty cards. (A new survey shows digital coupon use is soaring.)

Bashas' has also begun distributing its weekly fliers via email for the first time, and is running holiday offers via Facebook as well.

At Chicago-based IGA, the independent network is using its nascent IGALink service to promote the holidays, offering high-value digital coupons from suppliers that are exclusive to IGA, for example. In addition, IGA members are seeking to capture email addresses through their holiday-sweepstakes registration for future marketing efforts.

Read more: Holiday Sales Outlook: Ho! Ho! Hold the Prices!

Other food retailers — including Save Mart Supermarkets and Albertsons LLC — are launching holiday-meal contests using the popular photo-sharing website Pinterest.

Those are the types of new-media efforts that are most likely to engage shoppers, despite all the noise around e-grocery selling.

Supermarkets need to continue to experiment with e-commerce product sales (see the Nov. 12 cover story for an in-depth look at one facet that shows promise, store-pickup of online orders) but the wild world of marketing through social media, digital coupons and the like is where food retailers need to focus, this holiday season and beyond.

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