In the age when millions of customers purchase and receive electronics, clothing, furniture and groceries (Kosher and not) within hours from Amazon, the kosher food industry will not be immune to the repercussions of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods. In fact, given Whole Food’s top-tier position in the organic, specialty foods market, a model that can easily shift to regional kosher products quicker than its competitors, the shift in kosher shopping may be closer than ever.
True, Kosher is more of a specialty category with a small niche market and, yes, online grocery shopping, though a $20 billion industry and growing, still has problems solving last mile logistics. Those are certainly challenging hurdles for anyone. But the one company who can – and will – solve it will be Amazon, with Whole Foods providing wholesome, healthy value and niche, specialty products that kosher consumers are used to locally.
So how can kosher markets, manufacturers and food companies adapt to the reality that Amazon could, literally and figuratively, eat their lunch for them? Here are three industry-leading marketing strategies worth implementing now:
Re-Focus Your Brand.
Think hard: what is your brand great at? What are you the best at? What problem can you solve that others can’t? Write it down, erase, rewrite, repeat, refine. Refocus your brand on your core competencies, supplement it with value and then re-strategize your marketing channels to accentuate it. Amazon’s value propositions focus on selection, pricing and speed, solving pain points for customers who want everything in one place for the best price and shipped immediately.
To put it into perspective for kosher companies, Amazon and Whole Foods can offer the largest selection of groceries at the lowest price, delivered to homes faster than customers can shop in-store. So how are you differentiated from Amazon? Do you offer services, value and taste that can beat Amazon/Whole Foods? And is your brand strong enough or nimble enough to adapt to their next acquisition? Find out now. Refocus your brand, uncover your value and accentuate it everywhere.
Think Beyond the Aisle.
Most Kosher pre-packaged brands rely on packaging, promotions and loyal in-store customers to sell their products (with good reason since most purchases are made in-store). But with more customers preferring freshly made foods and healthy options – pre-packaged food & beverages fell by .4% in the first quarter of 2017 while fresh meat grew by 1.7%, produce grew by 1.9% and prepared foods grew by 4% – , most kosher pre-packaged brands stand to lose out by biding their hopes on the shelf. Not only that, but CVS, Kroger’s Walmart and now Amazon/Whole Foods are investing more in freshly prepared foods and less in pre-packaged items, hurting boxed, canned and bottled brands even more.
So what’s brand to do without sacrificing margins with promotions? Create a fresh experience for customers. Share unique and new uses for your products on your website. Create micro-sites for every brand in your portfolio, complete with modern data-gathering technologies. Explore partnerships with Kosher supermarkets, content creators and brand ambassadors to build custom content for shoppers online and offline. The average shopping trip lasts just 41 minutes; think about ways to create value for the other 10,000 minutes of the week.
Build a Custom Online Experience.
Did you know customers are exposed to over 200 brands a day via outdoor, email, print and social media? That’s a lot of brand exposure, making it difficult for any one brand to stick. Unless you can capture and control the customer’s focus, you can kiss brand loyalty goodbye. And where do they end up? Amazon. So control their focus by building out a custom brand experience online that can’t be mimicked by Amazon. No, we don’t just mean a website or email program. We mean a fully optimized online customer journey that captures their attention, gathers data about their journey and helps solve customer pain points before, during and after the sale.
For example, an organic egg company branching into Kosher would start by understanding the journey and thought process that goes into purchasing eggs and creating social advertising with incentives for Kosher customers and lookalike audiences, a content-based website with Kosher recipes to help customers get the most from their products and an email program designed to nurture customers into a second purchase (online or in-store) as well as acquire data. Amazon does it. Whole Foods does it. If you don’t capture and control the experience of your customer, highlighting your unique brand value and services every step of the way, you lost them to one of 200 brands that does it right.
TO SUM IT UP: At the end of the day, your marketing strategy – online and offline – works best when it stands on a rock-solid brand structure and position. Amazon bought Whole Foods for their data treasure chest and brand position as a uniquely gourmet, organic, upstream brand that can always go downstream in search of price-conscious customers. The lesson for kosher brands: with a strong brand, you can always go down, but you can’t always go up. Start looking up now.