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Hy-Vee balances traditional marketing, new channels

In the eight-state region where West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee operates its network of 246 supermarkets, reaching customers requires a multifaceted marketing approach.

For many of these Midwestern consumers, weekly newspaper inserts still are the primary drivers of their grocery purchasing behavior. “Many of our loyal, long-time customers still do one big grocery shop for the week, typically right before the weekend,” said Donna Tweeten, executive vice president and chief marketing officer/chief customer officer at Hy-Vee.

These shoppers tend to be very price-sensitive, and they know how much their typical grocery items cost.

At the same time, younger millennial shoppers are forcing Hy-Vee to look at new ways of communicating its marketing messages, including digital and social media, outdoor advertising, and enhancing the overall in-store experience, Tweeten said.

These younger shoppers tend not to be as price-aware about traditional grocery items, but they do care about the prices of the things they buy frequently, such as snack bars or almond milk, as well as beauty care items.

“You have an entire generation that doesn’t watch traditional TV at all, and doesn’t look at the newspaper,” she said. “They don’t read ads, they don’t read inserts — they don’t shop that way at all.”

Marketing has become a balancing act between seeking to engage consumers through social media, while continuing to use traditional TV and newspaper ads to reach older consumers.

“We still need to be on TV and in the newspaper, but it is imperative these days to have an increasing presence on digital and social media, and out of home,” said Tweeten, who added that the company has “been doing some interesting things with outdoor” advertising.

In addition, much of the marketing effort has shifted to the inside of the store, where Hy-Vee seeks to create a sense of theater with such departments as beauty care. The company’s partnership with bath and body brand Basin, for example, has created a bright and colorful gateway for to the store-within-a-store beauty care department.

The key is providing sensory stimulation and an entertaining environment, Tweeten said.

“I think that in our business, you need to give people reasons to come into your store other than just shopping for groceries,” she said. “In order to win out over your competitor, you can’t just be a better grocer — you need to be a better retail theater expert.”
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