Are Retailers Becoming Digital Content Creators?

Behind the Headlines: Grocers such as Hy-Vee and Meijer are setting a standard for connecting with customers
Photograph: Shutterstock


Retailers are increasingly using digital platforms such as social media and blog posts to market their brands, but some are taking it to the next level with engaging content, specialty newsletters and even online streaming networks. 

Hy-Vee, for example, is amping up its digital offerings in earnest with its Helpful Smiles TV—an online streaming network that it's showcasing on its website. The West Des Moines, Iowa-based grocer has populated the "channel" with a variety of authentic content since its launch in the summer that not only engages its customers with relatable, approachable topics but also discusses the relevant solutions it offers across its stores.

For example, its “Makeover in Aisle 5” segment has a style expert intercept shoppers going about their daily business to offer them a free makeover, which is sourced entirely from the store’s makeup section and F&F clothing boutique that has carried the Tesco brand since 2016.

More food for thought is the “I Think I Burnt the Water” segment, which follows an inexperienced home chef as she navigates the aisles of Hy-Vee to get all of the ingredients for a new recipe that we then watch her tackle in her kitchen. I think this concept is especially smart, as it not only gives customers recipe ideas and step-by-step video instructions on how to make them, but also demonstrates that all of the items needed, including specialized kitchen gear that one might not necessarily have on hand, can easily be found in the aisles of their local Hy-Vee.

This only scratches the surface of the plethora of content that Hy-Vee offers, which include child-raising tips, exercise advice from Hy-Vee’s certified personal trainer, wellness tips and a variety of recipe videos, from Italian food to cocktails. The recipe videos perfectly play into the “viral” trend of short cooking demonstrations that provide a soothing and inviting viewing experience and make a gourmet dish look as easy as pie.

Not only are these videos on-trend, but they're also high-quality with a professional flair. The retailer bills its network as “a whole new way to get the best of Hy-Vee right at your fingertips,” and I think “whole new way” is the operative phrase here. As consumers are increasingly influenced by short-format online videos, which is evident in the success of platforms such as Buzzfeed’s Tasty Network and Business Insider’s stylized restaurant reviews, this is the way to go. Even though I don't have a Hy-Vee in my area, the videos left me inspired to run to the store and whip up some Apple, Pecan and Cinnamon Stuffed Pork Loin Roulade or Taco Pizza. 

In a similar vein, Meijer just launched a special holiday page, the Meijer Holiday Herald, which offers "news, tips and tricks for a festive, not frazzled, holiday season." The page features heartfelt stories such as "Meet the Four-Legged Stars of Meijer's Holiday Commercial," as well as guides such as "Tips for Buying Craft Beer for Holiday Gifts" 

As we look toward the future of grocery in the digital age, the initiatives underway at Meijer and Hy-Vee provide a benchmark for where the industry is going. Indeed, the demand for e-commerce services such as same-day grocery delivery and curbside pickup are widely discussed, but grocers must understand that the demands and opportunities of digital go far beyond this. Online platforms, if utilized correctly, can allow a grocery store to go from a place to accomplish an errand on the way home from work to a household name and source of inspiration. 

See some examples of Hy-Vee's videos below: 

I Think I Burnt the Water: Fried Chicken

Makeover in Aisle 5: Baby Ready, Fashion-Forward

EDItalian: Chicken Sorrentina with Fettuccini 

Momosites Attract: Potty Training Pro Tips

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