With traditional grocery’s share of the fresh food dollar on the decline, communication about produce, protein, and prepared foods is more critical than ever. In this five-part series, “Don’t miss out,” AlixPartners experts break down often-missed marketing opportunities grocers must seize to experience the full power of fresh for their business.

Silos can be comfortable, but they aren’t conducive to growth. Retailers ahead of the curve in fresh food marketing have created structures for regular communication between the merchant team, the marketing team, and the operations team. Failure to keep these groups connected and informed of each other’s priorities can lead to disjointed and incomplete messaging to shoppers about fresh. Given the role of the perimeter in both store choice and profitability, greater collaboration between these teams is not only ideal but necessary.

Aligning timelines

Giving the marketing team greater visibility into the cadence of ad planning for fresh items will allow produce, proteins and prepared foods to get more timely representation across digital and in-store channels. If the teams aren’t intentional about sharing their timelines, they will miss opportunities to amplify each other’s efforts.

For example, the marketing team may make its content plans several months in advance while the merchant team works 4-6 weeks out. Unless they plan together, fresh will have a less relevant presence in the digital footprint than it should. With proactive communication, the marketing team can be more inclusive of produce, protein and prepared foods as it develops, gathers and schedules content for the many channels it manages.

Planning together

In the same way, if the merchant team knows the marketing team has a broad campaign coming up on meal value, for instance, it can highlight the fresh items it plans to price to “win.” With that notice, produce, protein and prepared foods can be incorporated seamlessly and featured with CPG items across all the campaign materials.

The operations team shouldn’t be excluded from this process; even the most brilliant plan will produce lackluster results if it can’t be executed in the stores. When the operations team is kept in the loop on upcoming campaigns, it can highlight practical considerations, warn of possible pain points, and advise on how to make as seamless as possible whatever processes are needed to support the plan.

Integration with operations is particularly critical to ensure successful outcomes for ad hoc promotions and features—that they drive movement and maximize freshness rather than frustrate department managers and create excess shrink. When the merchant team scores an opportunity buy, communication can make all the difference between the added volume being perceived as a “forced distribution” or a chance to get creative and contribute to a larger effort. Talking with stores proactively about what support they need to succeed in those situations is an easy place to start.

Staying in sync

Dedicated brainstorming between teams can certainly add value, but even designating liaisons to join existing meetings can create progress in aligning timelines and exchanging information. Creating structure for regular updates is especially important for produce—the top driver of store choice for many shoppers—because of supply and timing fluctuations due to weather and other factors.

If the merchant team suddenly needs to pivot to another lead ad item because rain has decimated the grape crop, for example, the marketing team needs to be informed so it can refocus content accordingly. On the flip side, if the merchant team gets an incredible deal on grapes—or another limited-time-only, highly seasonal item—the marketing team needs a heads-up as soon as possible so it can shout that value from the rooftops to boost traffic.

Driving differentiation

More collaboration between the merchant team, the marketing team, and the operations team will lead to a stronger presence for produce, protein, and prepared foods both online and in store. The bonus: Because those categories often account for much of a grocer’s differentiated assortment, marketing them more holistically will be powerful from a traffic standpoint as well as a profit standpoint.

Next up in this series: Don’t miss out: Lean into omnichannel to expand your experience advantage

Earlier in this series: Don’t miss out: Prioritize selling conversations with your fresh food suppliers



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