Save Mart launches digital ad network to drive in-store shopping
The California-based grocer is expanding its retail media partnership with Swiftly.
The California-based grocer is expanding its retail media partnership with Swiftly.
Retail media is growing at a breakneck pace and it’s at the top of commerce conversations in 2023. But it’s worth taking a step back to remembering that marketplace-based advertising remains in early stages of development. That means there is room for a variety of retailers to adopt it, and apply a diverse range of approaches to find what success looks like for their particular business.
The latest example comes in the form of news out Tuesday from The Save Mart Companies (TSMC) and Swiftly.
TSMC, a grocer that operates approximately 200 stores under the Save Mart, Lucky and FoodMaxx banners in California and Western Nevada, is launching a retail media network through the retailer’s websites and mobile apps that aims to drive in-store traffic and sales. The new offering expands TSMC’s partnership with Swiftly, a digital customer engagement company that helps brick-and-mortar retailers grow digital relationships with shoppers.
TSMC’s retail media network is taking an approach that is distinct from the advertising offerings of ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Walmart and Instacart. Rather than search-based advertising in which brands purchase media to improve their ranking in results, TSMC and Swiftly are offering content, coupons and loyalty experiences alongside display advertising and product listings.
One part of the impetus for the focus on in-store shopping comes by way of category imperatives. About 80-90% of grocery transactions still take place in stores, and that’s especially true for regional-level grocers. Additionally, consumers are moving more seamlessly across digital and physical shopping. According to Swiftly data, over 85% of consumers prefer interacting with brands using both channels, so brands will want to show on apps just like they do in the store.
But it’s clear that they’re also thinking about injecting new ideas into the market. Swiftly CTO Sean Turner said the companies believe they can “out-innovate” competitors.
“There is a lot of opportunity to democratize the industry by bringing a lot of the capabilities that the larger players have, and enabling those in the rest of the industry,” said Sean Turner, CTO of Swiftly. “Save Mart is a very forward thinking grocer…and we've partnered together to look to leapfrog what its very formidable competitors are doing in digital.”
Turner offered a few examples of early campaigns being run on TSMC’s sites through the retail medai network:
Chobani has an activation that includes recipes that highlight how yogurt fits into full breakfast meals.
Freebie Friday offers a digital coupon to Save Mart items that offers redemption of a full-sized item available in the store.
Quaker Grits is featuring content on grits for California shoppers who may not be as familiar with a food that’s popular in the South and Midwest. This includes storytelling, pricing and availability.
Foster Farms’ Honey Crunchy Mini Corndogs is featuring a $2-off coupon in the frozen section. When users click into the coupon, they can also see other products available in the store to which the coupon can be applied.
The variety of available media speaks to how shoppers are using digital properties at a grocer such as Save Mart. The company’s websites and mobile apps don’t offer an ecommerce marketplace. Rather, digital is complementary to the in-store shopping experience. So shoppers are interacting with the content in a number of different ways. Rather than pointing to online checkout, everything must orient back to the store.
“They might open up the retailer's weekly ad, they might go to see what coupons are available, they might look at what items are on sale, and we leverage the digital properties to help to tell that story," Turner said. “And that's really where a lot of this brand storytelling can come in. Shoppers are able to leverage some of the great stories, both around savings as well as around new product ideas, to educate shoppers, and offer a better service to shoppers when they come into the store.”
Like most of retail media, part of the advantage lies in targeting capabilities. Advertising through these owned web and app experiences is powered by first-party data. That’s different from the third-party data that for years powered cookies and social media-based advertising. It’s an area where grocers can gain a particular advantage. Their stores are the site of regular purchases, and as a result they have the potential to access lots of data about consumer habits.
“I can't think of a vertical where you've got a richer first party data set, and more choice in terms of just the number of SKUs and brands that you have in your average grocery store, Turner said. “That's ripe for this kind of advancement.”
For regional grocers that have long operated on tight margins, there’s another significant opportunity in retail media: Adding a high-margin digital business that scales quickly. Now, the local supermarket is an internet-based business, too.
Ask Instacart answers prompts with personalized recommendations.
A pair of recent launches from Instacart highlight how the grocery ecommerce company is integrating two of the key emerging areas of technology into its offerings: Generative AI and marketplaces.
Let’s take a look:
Instacart is seeking to harness generative AI to create a more personalized shopping experience.
A new tool called Ask Instacart that is launching this week is designed to allow customers to type in questions about specific recipes or general recommendations for an occasion. Embedded in the search bar, Ask Instacart also provides personalized questions to be asked by customers. In addition to specific items, it provides information about food preparation, product attributes and dietary considerations.
For those eying how generative AI will play a role in the shopping experience, Ask Instacart shows how search can be transformed into a place for discovery. Instacart is aiming to provide answers to the more open-ended questions that people would naturally ask, not just simply provide info in response to a question that has one answer. It shared the following sample prompts:
The tool is also showing the way for generative AI to integrate with retail media. Ask Instacart is designed to integrate with a brand's sponsored products campaign, so that the answers to questions that match consumer needs can also provide a way for brands to stand out.
To create the tool, Instacart combined the language understanding of ChatGPT with its own AI models. It added in catalog data from 80,000 retail partner locations around the country, which together have more than one billion shoppable items.
Beyond mission: Ecommerce marketplaces have honed a shopping experience where it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. But if shoppers want to happen upon something they didn’t know they needed, social media or the store is still the best place to visit. Instacart is showing how generative AI can make discovery a marketplace function. It also signals that advertising will come to generative AI by way of retail media. Going forward, the growth of discovery could make retail media more valuable as a tool for advertising that raises brand awareness, not just lower-funnel conversions.
Instacart will power a new virtual convenience store for the grocery chain Aldi.
Aldi Express will feature 2,000 of the most-shopped Aldi items, ranging from prepared food and snacks to grocery staples.
Drawing on 2,100 Aldi locations around the country, items will be delivered as fast as 30 minutes, the companies said.
“Through ALDI Express, we’re making shopping more convenient so you can satisfy a craving or get a missing ingredient in minutes,” said Scott Patton, VP of National Buying at ALDI, in a statement. “Together with Instacart, we’ll continue to find ways to innovate and make the online grocery experience even more effortless and accessible.”
Aldi began offering delivery via Instacart in 2017, and has since expanded services to include pickup as well as alcohol delivery.
Aldi’s marketplace moment? While Aldi previously offered delivery, making the assortment available through a virtual store offers the opportunity to create a marketplace for its goods. With the virtual store, it will more closely resemble DoorDash and Uber Eats, which have been expanding their grocery assortment. With a marketplace, additional revenue opportunities could open up for the grocer, such as advertising through retail media.