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 the often-missed marketing opportunities grocers must seize to experience the full power of fresh for their business.

Grocers operate with an incomplete understanding of their shoppers when they rely on their own data sources: the registers, the loyalty card, the website and the app. Those sources show what’s purchased, but not why. Grocers don’t just need to know which products their customers want; they must understand how they make decisions about food. Media consumption and psychographic data helps close the gap, equipping grocers to position their assortments to visibly meet customers’ needs rather than just fill their carts.

Grocers can access psychographic and media consumption data in several ways. Trade associations often have research available to members. It will focus on consumers at large rather than a grocer’s specific shoppers, but it will illuminate areas to explore. A grocer can also conduct its own research. Surveys and focus groups take expertise to execute and analyze, but they will be tailored to the grocer’s exact interest. There’s also the option to purchase third-party data. It comes with a cost, but the information can be remarkably granular and available fast.

Given the contribution of produce, protein and prepared foods to profit and the role they play in store choice, fresh should be the focus when grocers explore this data. Savvy merchants will have no shortage of ideas on how to apply their learnings in both strategic and tactical decisions.

Assortment opportunities

In evaluating its prepared foods assortment, for example, a grocer might explore feedback from its customers about when, how often and why they dine out—and whether they eat at a restaurant or take an order to go.

If many shoppers report they dine out to satisfy a craving or to treat themselves, the grocer could dig deeper to find out favorite restaurants and popular dishes, then focus its assortment on appropriately indulgent and comfort-food-style options. If instead shoppers said they dine out when they’re too busy to cook or want to save time, the grocer might focus instead on providing meals that can be ready in 15 minutes or less.

Knowing how much money customers usually spend when they dine out or take out, or on which occasions they seek healthier options, would provide additional context for the development of recipes. Knowing how often shoppers dine out or take out alone versus with family or friends would give guidance on package sizes.

Merchandising opportunities

Grocers looking at psychographic data might discover that many of its shoppers enjoy ethnic cuisine when dining out but don’t feel comfortable preparing those dishes themselves.

To encourage consumers to try replicating a favorite Chinese recipe that includes ground chicken, for instance, each package of ground chicken prepared at the meat counter could have a custom sticker applied that features a picture of the finished recipe and a QR code to a 60-second TikTok video of an influencer demonstrating the recipe. The key shelf-stable ingredients—hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, and water chestnuts, in this case—could be merchandised nearby.

Marketing opportunities

Psychographic data regarding meal planning could be another area that informs strategy. For example, a grocer that learns its shoppers over-index in meal planning might put together a meat department bundle, design a meal plan around the included items, and host a cooking class during which a chef prepares those recipes. The grocer could also livestream the event on social media, then repurpose clips of the show and portions of the transcript for additional website and social media content. Bringing in the chef of a local restaurant or a popular food blogger to lead the event would generate more buzz as they could also share the recipes and video on their channels.

Other insights a grocer might find on the topic of meal planning include how and when shoppers make decisions about what they will eat that day or that week. That information could prompt ideas on how a grocer can reach shoppers before or during those critical moments, from push notifications sent right before people leave the office for the day (or in advance of the lunch hour) to meal planning-focused newsletters sent on key days of the week.

Partnership opportunities

While psychographic data helps grocers position their offerings in more relevant ways, media consumption data helps them position their offerings in more relevant places. Investing in media consumption data might show a grocer, for example, that its customers under-index in time spent watching TV but over-index in time spent listening to podcasts. Understanding how, when and why its shoppers listen could help the grocer decide whether to seek guest spots, aim for a podcast partnership that provides a recurring segment, or start a podcast of its own.

Similarly, a grocer could discover which websites resonate most with its shoppers—from regional lifestyle blogs to TV stations—and find ways to collaborate. A grocer could provide a blog that specializes in gluten-free recipes with a custom meal plan each week based on the circular, for instance, or a grocer could contribute segments for the local news about what’s in season.

A grocer using digital signage in its store might consider how, along with paid content from suppliers, it could incorporate recipe videos from Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube creators.

Outreach opportunities

Media consumption data can also show grocers how much time their shoppers spend on various social media platforms. This information can guide whether a grocer should focus on creating catchy clips for TikTok, Reels for Instagram, recipes for Pinterest, or how-to videos for YouTube, among many other options. Given the vast number of marketing channels available, having data to guide prioritization of resources is essential.

Grocers can communicate about their offerings much more effectively when they have data on what matters to their shoppers and what influences the decisions they make about food. Guessing at these preferences or merely sticking with what has worked in previous years won’t cut it for grocers that want to grow their business and maintain a reputation as a valuable resource for their shoppers.

Coming soon – Don’t miss out: Embrace experimentation and start now

Earlier in this series

Part 1 – Don’t miss out: Prioritize selling conversations with your fresh food suppliers

Part 2 – Don’t miss out: Unite your merchants, your marketers and your stores

Part 3 – Don’t miss out: Lean into omnichannel to expand your experience advantage


Want more? Check out these other recent insights from the grocery experts at AlixPartners.