An apt for apps
NEW YORK The ubiquitous universe of social media — comprised of blogs, microblogs, podcasts, social networks, video sharing sites and more — still holds many unanswered questions for some industry marketers. But there’s one thing that is certain: Social media is changing the way consumers behave, and companies and brands must embrace and effectively plug into today’s social world. Those that don’t will be left in the dark.
It once was believed that consumers didn’t want brands invading their (cyber) space, but recent research points to the contrary. “Digital is so pervasive, so we really wanted to see how it was changing the way the consumer engaged with brands. The big takeaway is that because digital is so pervasive, it has a tremendous amount of sway with consumers,” Garrick Schmitt, group VP experience planning at marketing and technology company Razorfish, and author of the FEED report, told Drug Store News.
The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study found that 65% of consumers reported having a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their opinion about a brand. Of that group, a whopping 97% reported that their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand. The August 2009 survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. consumers (50.5% female and 49.5% male) in four major age groups.
Furthermore, Razorfish found that nearly 40% of consumers have “friended” a brand on Facebook and/or MySpace, and 26% have followed a brand on Twitter. This clearly indicates that consumers welcome a “dialogue” with brands. However, it is important for retailers and consumer packaged goods companies to understand that consumers aren’t “friending” you or following you on Twitter because they want a personal relationship. They want access to exclusive deals or offers.
For example, Walgreens, which had more than 354,000 followers on Facebook, is using a special “Holiday 09” tab on its page to promote daily specials in its stores. The interactive “25 Holiday Toys Calendar” interfaces like an electronic Advent calendar — each day a different window opens to reveal the deal of the day, such as three 12-packs of Coke for $10 on Dec. 3. The company has another 5,000 followers on Twitter. As for competitors CVS and Rite Aid, both companies’ Facebook efforts still are in the infancy stages.
Meanwhile, Walmart boasts more than 216,000 Facebook followers, and Target trumps all of them with more than 588,000 Facebook fans. According to The Big Money magazine, Target gained more than 97,000 new fans through its two-week “Bulls-Eye Gives” charity campaign, in which fans could vote on the organization they though Target should give its money to — St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was the big winner.
Even smaller chains, such as grocer Price Chopper, which operates 119 Price Choppers across New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, offers exclusive coupons on its Facebook page. The site has nearly 8,000 fans.
Taking a slightly different approach is ShopRite, which has partnered with MyWebGrocer to roll out an iPhone and iPod Touch application. The application functions as a portable weekly circular so users of Apple mobile devices can access weekly grocery specials. The app can sync and download store specials directly to an iPhone or iPod Touch, and can sync with customers’ shopping lists at ShopRite.com.
Such approaches aren’t just about building awareness, but are more about building loyal consumers. At least that is what appears to be happening. “We were somewhat surprised to see the percentage of people who say these social networking sites and their connections with brands on them are creating a higher level of loyalty to the brand,” said Scott Haiges, president of ROI Research, which conducted an online survey of 3,011 consumers. “We found that 36% say they are more loyal to companies or products that they are a fan of on Facebook, and that number goes higher to 53% with Twitter.”
Haiges believed that the real challenge currently facing companies and brands is figuring out a meaningful way to leverage social media and to better listen to consumers. “Here’s the open door opportunity for brands: To disseminate something of interest or meaning to people who are in your brand network, and almost one-third are going to repost it. The sphere of influence is pretty significant,” he said.
One such manufacturer that is recognizing the magnitude of influence via such avenues as Twitter is Beiersdorf USA, whose brands include Nivea and Nivea for Men. The company does not have its own Twitter account, but earlier this year it partnered with Kim Kardashian, star of E!’s reality TV series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” to help promote its Nivea Good-bye Cellulite gel cream and patches. Kardashian took part in the Nivea “Good-bye Cellulite, Hello Bikini Challenge,” during which she tweeted on the four-week program and her progress. By December, she had more than 2.6 million followers.
While the impact from Kardashian’s Twitter certainly was a boost for the brand, Nicolas Maurer, VP marketing for Beiersdorf USA, told Drug Store News that the company still is evaluating if it can do the same thing from a brand standpoint.
Meanwhile, the Nivea brand launched a Facebook page in May 2009, and in August announced the launch of its online resource for men dubbed “The Groom Room.” The site features exclusive blog posts, articles and grooming tips just for him. “[The Groom Room] is meant to be something that is not static. It evolves over time and gives us the opportunity to be up to date,” Maurer said. “It is a great opportunity to really engage rather than just make consumers aware of [our products].”
“[Social media] is completely changing the way we interact with consumers,” Maurer continued. “It used to be about understanding [consumers’] needs, providing an answer to those needs and basically creating some kind of awareness that this was available in the marketplace. Now you have to do that but, at the same time, you have to engage and converse with them on an ongoing basis. I think everybody is learning as we go. … We feel it is necessary for us. I don’t think it is an option anymore.”
The breadth and depth of social media participation varies broadly by company, and there’s no doubt that many marketers are still trying to figure it all out. “I think what they are getting out of it right now is a connection with an audience they probably didn’t know on a personal level,” Haiges said. “I don’t think that the brands in these high-frequency purchase categories, like CPG and healthcare pharmaceuticals, can really look at this as a: ‘Let me just collect fans and do nothing with them’ [approach]. This is the real chance for them to create brand advocates.”
Even pharma companies are jumping aboard the social media bandwagon. For example, Boehringer Ingelheim is on Twitter, and AstraZeneca has its “My Asthma Story” site, which is a standalone Web site accompanied by a YouTube Channel around its Symbicort medication. However, in the pharma space, there is the issue of adverse reporting and Internet promotion, and U.S. health regulators are beginning to weigh-in on this gray area.
In mid-November, the FDA held a two-day public hearing on FDA-regulated medical products using the Internet and such social media tools as Twitter and blogs. The goal: To see if the agency needs to specifically regulate how drugs and medical devices under its oversight are promoted on the Internet. The FDA already enforces strict advertising rules for such traditional forms of media as TV, newspaper and magazine, but no rule specifically addresses the Internet.
Despite the flurry of social media activity, Razorfish’s Schmitt said there are a lot of brands that still aren’t fully leveraged in digital, and continue to spend more money on television or even such media as newspapers — a move that Schmitt found “perplexing.”
Added Haiges, “How do you calculate the ROI? From what we’ve seen in the data is that social networking is not your traditional advertising channel or even digital channel … this is your key performance indicator for building brand loyalty.”
Haiges believed that a company’s first investment should be in allocating human resources to monitor and run its social network sites. A company is “missing the mark” if it is spending money on an in-house research team and a person with qualitative research experience is not in charge of communicating brand messages and trying to interpret the meaning of consumer posts, he noted.
So where is social media heading? “I really think that social networking sites are going to morph and become a real source where [companies] can listen,” Haiges said. “Think of it as almost a proprietary online community where they can create their brand pages to allow feedback on new product introduction or warranty information or trouble-shooting. You can start to use the social networking site as a resource for all things product related.”
Hy-Vee names new president
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A 28-year employee of Hy-Vee has become its new president, according to published reports.
The company appointed Randall Edeker as president of the supermarket chain Thursday at the company’s annual meeting, succeeding Ric Jurgens, who had served as president since 2001 and will maintain his position as chairman and CEO.
Edeker had previously served as EVP and COO.
Tricare expands vaccination coverage to pharmacies, clinics
NEW YORK Convenience and value. That’s what community pharmacy and their retail clinic partners deliver to their patients. And that’s what the Department of Defense is counting on in covering immunizations at local pharmacies and identifying convenient care clinics as network providers — two separate pieces of news issued within the past month that really underscore the importance of pharmacies and retail clinics in the delivery of health care today.
Prior to these announcements, military personnel interested in getting their flu shots had to schedule an appointment with their doctor, as Tricare only covered the cost of shots delivered in a doctor’s office.
“As a convenient and accessible healthcare provider, pharmacy is uniquely positioned to offer services for patients, such as vaccinations,” stated Steve Anderson, president and CEO for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Anderson noted that as of earlier this year, pharmacists have the ability to immunize patients in all 50 states. “[This] presents an important opportunity for pharmacists to counsel patients during their visit, and an additional healthcare provider from which to obtain these vaccinations.”
It’s also quite a bit of opportunity for pharmacy — Tricare provides healthcare coverage for 9.5 million eligible beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries pick up almost 2.3 million prescriptions every week, and 1.2 million of those at retail pharmacies, according to Tricare .