Tips and Ideas for Effective Marketing in Grocery Stores

Marketing pro gives advice on in-store displays, discounts, and more

Supermarket savings opposite South Melbourne Market.
James Braund / Getty Images

In-store retail marketing is a key success factor for supermarkets and food brands alike, and Perry Abbenante knows a thing or two about retail marketing. He provides strategic and tactical direction to food retailers, manufacturers, and brands as an adviser and consultant, and his background includes VP of marketing at Pretzel Crisps and senior global director of grocery and private label at Whole Foods Market. When he was at Pretzel Crisps, Perry shared what he did to help the brand drive sales at the point of purchase, as well as other tactical and strategic advice.

Developing Winning In-Store Promotions 

In-store promotions are a must-have element of a successful brand, according to Perry. "Without them, the brand will fail," he said. "I tell clients that they shouldn't get into the trap of believing they'll save money by avoiding the investment in retail promotions. You won't save money....You will lose shelf placement."

Developing winning in-store promotions starts with a good relationship with retail buyers for stores. If you ask them what you can do to support them and their merchandising programs, you're more likely to get more shoppers near your product.

"Too many brands fail to ask them what's important to them as retail buyers," noted Abbenante. "If a certain promo is important to the retailer, support it. The retailer may then be more inclined to support you in the future."

Create in-store displays that stop the shopper. Focus on making displays big, colorful, and simple, according to Abbenante. He recommended including an assortment of your best-selling products in a display, basing the colors around the colors of the packaging, and creating vertical or horizontal blocks. It should also be big enough to attract attention.

Successful displays also need to be shoppable. Ensure that the customer can grab multiple products without the display falling apart. If the display is in a high-volume store, make sure it will look OK without being constantly replenished.

Attracting New Customers

When it comes to getting penetration or gaining new shoppers to buy a product, Abbenante noted that getting the product into displays outside of its normal department is key.

"In our activation markets, we get our staff on the ground to get placement outside the deli where we are normally merchandised," he said. "This tactic helps to attract new people who have never seen your product."

Getting Customers to Buy More 

Getting existing customers to purchase more during a given shopping trip is the lifeblood of consumer foods. Abbenante explained how he's used promotional price points to get more Pretzel Crisps into consumers' pantries.

"It's all about the price point. Most retailers have accepted the multiple-price-point mantra," he said. "A two-for-$5 is more effective than $2.49 each. If you have a two-for deal, you will almost guarantee that every customer will buy the multiple."

Another way to help convince customers to buy more of your product at a time is to position it as a multiuse product. For example, with Pretzel Crisps, Abbenante said, "In addition to being a great standalone snack, it's great for dipping and can be paired with meat, cheese, fruit, or veggies. An example of this is the Tortellini Delight Slider on a Pretzel Crisp, which shows we are a great base for an appetizer. Our demos show people how to use it in more than one way."

Abbenante also noted that social media can help brands demonstrate the multiple uses of products with recipes, images, and videos. He pointed to Pretzel Crisp's Finger Food Friday recipes on Facebook, which showed different ways of using the food.

Discounts and Temporary Price Reductions 

Discounts don't need to be huge to draw customers. They just have to be relevant and compelling enough to prompt people to act. Think about what would incentivize your target consumers when deciding how much to discount.

Abbenante also noted that the same applies for temporary price reductions. "Off-shelf promos and TPRs—temporary price reductions, that tag on the shelf—is a combo that drives volume," he explained. "You don't need a really big discount for a TPR. Sometimes just a 20-cent price reduction will do it because the tag attracts attention."

You could also try partnering with another brand on a deal to draw customers. Abbenante said that he partnered with a company to run a promotion that offered a free container of hummus with the purchase of two bags of Pretzel Crisps. "It was very successful," he said. "Whatever your product, look for brands that have synergy with yours and contact them to see if you can partner on co-promotions."