D I G I T A L C O M M U N I C A T I O N S T R A T E G I E S Final Project Laura Wilson, December 2010
Company Background Bloom was established in 2004 as an operating division of Food Lion LLC asubsidiary of Delhaize America. Bloom is a chain of grocery stores in the South andMid-Atlantic states with over 65 store locations to date. The idea for Bloom blossomed in 2002 when Food Lion saw a void in thegrocery store marketplace for a store that was truly customer-centric. Food Lion setout to examine how a grocery store could give the customer’s a shoppingexperience that was simple and hassle free. Food Lion’s concept team worked topinpoint ways that they might be able to alleviate the normal stresses of going tothe grocery store. They wanted Bloom to meet customer’s needs and expectationsof the competitive prices and quality products of a Food Lion but give theircustomers a different more upscale, efficient, stress free experience. The concept of Bloom was piloted in Charlotte, North Carolina with five initiallocations. The pilot stores featured non-traditional layouts that were designed tomaximize convenience for the shoppers and eliminate the feeling that groceryshopping was a “ necessary chore.” Today Bloom differentiates itself from other grocery store chains through itsstore design and layout, merchandising, and technology that enhances thecustomer shopping experience. Bloom utilizes technology in its stores that helpscustomers find products quickly and gather important information about itsproducts with ease and efficiency. The unconventional layouts Bloom uses include what is referred to as a“TableTop section” at the entrance to the stores where shoppers can purchasequality, fresh pre-made meals. Bloom stores place a heavy emphasis on meetingcustomers needs for home meal solutions that include fresh, ready-to-eat “home-cooked” style meals. The Bloom stores also feature noticeably wider aisles for easier navigationthrough the store and more convenient grouping layouts of the food. Bloom storesgroup its foods in ways that “make sense” to the customer. In many Bloomlocations milk, eggs and other typical “convenience items” are located at the frontof the store so that customers do not have to walk to the back if it is not necessary. Bloom is also one of the first grocery stores to pioneer the “self-checkout”where customers are able to scan their own groceries in a quicker and moreefficient manner. When customers walk in the door of most Bloom stores they areable to pick up their own personal shopping scanner, which allows them to scanand bag their own grocery items as they shop through the store.
This eliminates the time-consuming checkouts and long, frustrating linesthat most people hate about grocery shopping. “Check-out” for Bloom customersusing this system is simply paying for what you bagged. Using this scan technologyalso gives customers a running total of the cost of the items that they haveselected while they shopping through the store. This allows customers to moreaccurately keep on their grocery budget. Bloom has also piloted Personal Assistant Technology in their storesincluding touch screen computers that customers can use to find out productinformation, recipes and grocery lists and print them right there in the store. Bloomstores also use small produce scales with printers that let customers create theirown bar-coded tags to maximize the customer convenience when checking outtheir own items. Digital Communication Strategies-‐ Final Project-‐ Laura Elizabeth Wilson 3
Current Social Media Landscape Bloom has clearly made an effort to enter into the social media landscape in some form. Bloom has created a customized Facebook page and has begun using Twitter to announce “deals” and to push out some content they have created. Neither the Facebook page nor the Twitter account have a significant following or significant engagement amongst customers. Description: Bloom Grocery Stores has one official Facebook business page. The page features customized tabs and includes a “switch page” which changes the landing page for the user after he/she likes the page and offers coupons and specials. There are currently 1,539 users that like the Bloom page. Description: @Bloom_Grocery is the official Twitter handle for the chain of stores. Bloom tweets very infrequently (sometimes days apart) and does not have a strong following on Twitter. There also appears to be little engagement with other users on twitter. Description: There currently appears to be no officialYouTube channel although there are a number of Bloomcommercials on YouTube with the most frequently watchedvideo receiving 6,682 views. Description: There currently appears to be no official blog for the Bloom grocery stores.
Website and Demographics The Bloom website ShopBloom.com averages approximately 27,078 uniquemonthly visitors. Bloom’s customers tend to be college educated, mostlyCaucasian and affluent. Over 48% of visitors to ShopBloom.com are between theages of 18-34 which appears to be representative of both Bloom’s typical customerand their target audience. According to Quantcast.com, the Bloom website attracts males and femalesalmost equally, however, females frequent the website at a greater rate than istypical of your average website. It should be also be noted that ShopBloom.com does receive a greateramount of traffic from an African-American demographic than may be typical of theaverage website. However, I believe this can be attributed to the population in manyof the areas where Bloom stores are located. ShopBloom.com gives visitors the option of opting in to weekly e-newsletters as well as joining their Breeze mobile club to get targeted coupons anddeals. Digital Communication Strategies-‐ Final Project-‐ Laura Elizabeth Wilson 5
Competition Two of Bloom’s biggest competitors are Harris Teeter and Trader Joes. A comparison between the three websites on Compete.com shows thatShopBloom.com gets significantly less traffic than two of its competitors. It must benoted that Harris Teeter and Trader Joes do both have greater national reach thanBloom however they are still significant competitors in the southeastern andmidatlantic states where Bloom stores reside. Harris Teeter is particularly popular inCharlotte, NC which is the city of Bloom’s 5 flagship stores. A comparison of the social media between the three stores shows that whileBloom’s website will have to make significant leaps to catch up to its competition,an overview of the social media landscape shows that Bloom is not too far behindits competitors. While Bloom has the least amount of fans on Facebook it has themost advanced page with extra applications and functionality for its users. WhileBloom’s twitter account is not used frequently it appears to be used moreeffectively than Harris Teeter (Trader Joe’s does not have a twitter account) Websites Website Stats Social Media Bloom -Site is too small -27, 078 monthly visitors -No official blog -Layout becomes confusing - Weekly email -Doesn’t fit well with image -1,277 inlinks - Mobile Club - Facebook page- very few fans -263 pages - Twitter account- few followers and little engagement Trader Joes -Themed and stylized -399,897 monthly visitors -Does not appear to have one official blog -Fairly organized - Facebook page with over 265,000 fans -Interactive virtual tour on -86,326 inlinks -No official twitter account website -No YouTube Channel - 515 pages Harris Teeter -Well organized but visually -328,700 monthly visitors -No official blog boring site -16,933 inlinks -Facebook page with over 29,000 fans -Well developed ecommerce -6,252 pages - Twitter account but few followers and engagement -No YouTube Channel
Bloom in the Media and in the Blogs Bloom lists their press releases and media coverage they have received byyear on their main website. The majority of the press releases for 2010 and 2009were that of “product recalls.” While this is certainly very important and valuableinformation for the consumer I would like to see more information regarding Bloomas a company—what cool things are they doing? What causes are theysupporting? What events are taking place in the stores? How is Bloom making animpact in the communities in which they reside? Not surprisingly, much of the blog conversation surrounding Bloom onlinetook place on discussion boards and forums where consumers were discussing themerits of shopping at various grocery stores. Interestingly many of theconversations that specifically mentioned Bloom were comparing Bloom to acompeting grocery store such as Harris Teeter. There was a resounding consensus that one of the most compelling reasonsto shop at Bloom was because it was often quick and convenient because of theeasy layout. It also was clear from the discussions that Bloom does attract a young,affluent audience that is on the go and does not necessarily want to leisurely shopin a grocery store. Many of the positive comments about Bloom was that it was simple to shopthere if you just needed to pick up something for dinner because they had lots ofready-made foods available in the front of the store and they also grouped theirfoods together by meal or in ways that made sense. For example, one person likedthat Bloom often had all of the typical breakfast items near one another so that shedid not have to search around the store to try to find the items necessary to makeher breakfast. Digital Communication Strategies-‐ Final Project-‐ Laura Elizabeth Wilson 7
Analysis of Current Strategy While Bloom’s online presence is, in my opinion, very weak I found a number of interesting and unusual campaigns that the stores have ran “offline.” This included a series of very funny and irreverent television commercials that were clearly aimed at a younger demographic who would appreciate the humor and wit in the commercials. One particular commercial that was posted on YouTube had over 6,000 views and was a commercial where a young woman was admiring a particularly attractive and buff “bag boy” who could carry out all of the bags that she was able to check out herself. In the commercial she joked that since she could check out her grocery items herself she was able to have as many bags as she wanted so that the attractive employee could help her. The commercials are unlike anything you would normally associate with a grocery store. Bloom also erected a giant billboard sign to promote a new brand of beef that it was selling. The billboard dispersed an enticing steak scent during rush hour each morning and evening in Catawba County, North Carolina. This billboard is one of the first of its kind in the country. Bloom clearly has a goal of differentiating itself from the normal staid grocery stores that people dread going to. Bloom has run a number of edgy and unconventional campaigns offline and it is disappointing to see that this has not carried this over to the online space. Bloom is clearly trying to appeal to a younger 18-34 demographic and it is surprising that they have not tried to reach this demographic in the online space where we know that they frequent. Since Bloom has adopted a number of leading edge technologies in its grocery stores I believe it should mirror this in its online strategy to continue to maintain its unique selling proposition as a “different kind of grocery store experience.”Goals 1. Continue to improve convenience for customers by providing a hassle-free, unique grocery shopping experience both in the stores and online. 2. Focus on reaching the target audience of young professionals between 18-35 online.Objectives 1. Implement website upgrades to improve the online experience with Bloom and increase overall sales by 20 percent in 2011. 2. Increase visits to their ShopBloom.com by 25% through a new blog. 3. Increase visits to its stores by 25% in 2011 because of new mobile application.
RecommendationsUpdate Website ShopBloom.com does not represent the image that the Bloom stores wantto portray to its customers. Bloom prides itself on being cutting edge and differentand this website does not represent those qualities. The website has several aspects that are very important to change. First, theactual content on the site is far too small. The dimensions of the page do not takeup a significant enough portion on the screen and it makes the images and textdifficult to see clearly. The organization on the website is also poor. The menu bar on the site isvery confusing and does not help the user navigate the site with ease. This is incomplete juxtaposition to what Bloom hopes the customer experience is in itsstore. Bloom prides itself on ease of use at its store but its website is difficult andfrustrating to navigate. There is no clear call to action for the user on ShopBloom.com. What is itthat you want the user to do on the website? This should be the largest button onthe site in order to make it very obvious to the visitor what it is that they aresupposed to do once they are on the site. Currently, the visitor is faced with somany options and so much to look at on the homepage of the site I believe thatthey will be “paralyzed” and do nothing. In my opinion the “call to action” on the siteshould be some kind of “opt-in” that allows Bloom to gather information about thevisitor so that Bloom can continue to communicate to him/her. The links to Bloom’s social networking sites, newsletter and mobile couponclub should also be positioned more prominently on the homepage. Currently theselinks are almost “below the fold” and a user would have to scroll down to find them. ShopBloom.com must clean up and organize its site in order to givecustomers the same experience online as they do in their stores. By fixing thewebsite in the ways suggested ShopBloom.com can expect an increase in thenumber of consumers who return to the website and who have a positiveimpression of the store. The success of the website changes would be measured in an increase inthe number of visitors to the site and a decrease in the bounce rate amongst userswho land on the site and an increase in the amount of time spent on the site. Digital Communication Strategies-‐ Final Project-‐ Laura Elizabeth Wilson 9
Breeze Blog One of the unique things about Bloom as a grocery store is that it providesits customers with tons of great information at their finger tips when they arebrowsing through the store. Bloom does this in their stores through state of the arttouch screen computers that can print information for customers on the go. Bloom,however, does not offer the same breadth and depth of information to itsconsumers online. I think that Bloom could benefit from a blog that speaks to the youngerdemographic that spends a significant amount of time online. A blog is a type ofwebsite or part of a website that is frequently updated with fresh content or“entries.” I think that the target audience for Bloom would be interested in content thatis “lifestyle” related such as ways to save money when shopping in the store,recipes that can be whipped up in only a few minutes and unusual combinations offood. A blog of this nature would also be another way for Bloom to differentiateitself by showing the stores “personality” through witty entries and videos similar totheir humorous TV commercials that seemed to be a hit amongst viewers onYouTube. A blog would also give consumers a place to interact and comment withBloom in a way that is not currently available to its customers. One place thatBloom appears to be really hurting is in its lack of a “raving fan base.” If Bloom doesnot give a forum to foster such a community it will never be able to build a loyalcustomer base amongst this demographic. Another reason that a blog may be important to Bloom is that none ofBloom’s current major competitors are using such a tool and this would be a wayto set itself apart from the traditional grocery store. Bloom would measure the success of this blog by the number of views thatit gets, the number of sites that link to it and the level of activity, interaction andengagement that takes place surrounding the blog.
Mobile Application Lastly I suggest that Bloom expand their current “Mobile Club” further into adownloadable mobile application that customers can use to store shopping lists,product information and access mobile coupons that can be scanned on theirphone as well as mobile “push notifications” (messages that are initiated by a serverand sent to the customer rather than specifically requested by the customer) whileshopping. I believe that this is particularly relevant for this store because Bloom haspositioned itself as the leader in unconventional ways to connect with its customerswhile they are shopping. Bloom has a variety of tools and technology in its stores toprovide its customers with a quick, convenient and hassle free shopping experiencebut it does not offer a mobile application, only mobile SMS texting informationthrough its mobile club. According to a ComScore MobiLens study in October 2010, 28% of US cellphone users have smart phones and 41% of all new mobile phone purchases aresmart phones. This number is even higher for our target demographic between theages of 18-34 and it will only be increasing in the coming years. The mobile phone is the perfect platform to explore ways that Bloom canprovide a cutting edge and unique shopping experience to its customers. Whilethere will be some customers who will not be able to participate in this shoppingexperience because they do not have a smart phone I think Bloom offers enoughother options for its customers to counteract that negative aspect. By offering this unique application for smart phone users I think Bloom wouldreceive increased media attention and online buzz as well as more returnedcustomers in its target demographic. Bloom will be able to continue to be amarketplace leader in convenience technologies in grocery stores and maintain itsimage as the cool, grocery store alternative. Bloom would measure the success of this feature through the number ofdownloads of this application and the increase in online and offline mentions aboutits brand. 1 Digital Communication Strategies-‐ Final Project-‐ Laura Elizabeth Wilson 1
Conclusion Bloom is a leader in unconventional and outside-of-the-box retailexperiences, however, Bloom will only be able to maintain this image if it capitalizeson its opportunities in the digital world online. By updating ShopBloom.com and giving it a cleaner, more organized lookand adding hip, relevant and useful content to its blog, Bloom will have a strongerweb presence, increase its web traffic and provide a forum for engagement with itscustomers outside of their stores. By adding the option of allowing customers todownload a mobile application Bloom will be reinforcing the idea that it is the cool,grocery store that allows you to have the information that you need when you shopand gives you a shopping experience that is convenient, fun and hassle free. Bloom must update its digital strategy in order to survive in the crowdedmarketplace of grocery store retailers. A store that touts itself as technologicallysavvy and at the forefront of the future shopping experience must have a consistentimage and message outside of the store. While there are many things that Bloom can do to improve upon their overalldigital strategy I believe that updating its website, pushing out compelling contentthrough a blog and engaging customers and offering a hip, relevant mobileapplication Bloom will be making the right steps towards securing its spot asmarketplace leaders in the coming years.