What E-Grocers Can Learn From Voila’s Marketing Program

Sobey's new e-commerce offering is more than just the back-end technology
Image courtesy of Mercatus

Recently, Sobeys launched a new grocery delivery service called Voila by Sobeys, which has seen rapid adoption in key urban markets across Canada. Previously, I reviewed the new e-commerce solution favorably, with particular focus on customer service, and I’ve also discussed it in a recent Digital Grocer podcast.

But Voila's immediate success can’t be attributed solely to it using Ocado’s e-commerce storefront, its robot picking technology and positive great customer service. A critical component is how the company has been marketing the new service to attract both new and existing Sobeys instore customers to the e-commerce offering. Its marketing strategy offers a good model for all grocers looking to successfully launch or ramp up their own e-commerce program.

Strong Branding

Creating from scratch a brand that becomes a household name is no easy feat, but Voila is a textbook case in how to do it right.

The branding incorporates bold, bright, cheerful colors to suggest optimism and happiness, coupled with images of fresh foods. Deliveries are served up in juicy orange bins, a departure from the traditional green.

A simple tagline conveys the value proposition (“Your groceries delivered. Just like that.”) and ties in elegantly to the brand name. “Voila” is a French word meaning “there it is,” and Merriam-Webster notes that it suggests “an appearance as if by magic.” Isn’t that exactly how shoppers would like to acquire their weekly groceries? Choosing a name that captures the value proposition in a single word and is common to the English- and French-speakers in Canada was a brilliant choice.

Widespread Multi-Channel Coverage

As a new brand, one of the biggest challenges is creating customer awareness. Voila has done an excellent job of building awareness among consumers.

From online banners and social media, to TV and radio commercials, Voila ads have been appearing everywhere. The TV spots are quirky and relentlessly upbeat in a Glee-like fashion and—most importantly—highly memorable. Even the delivery trucks that seem to be almost everywhere now carry unique and unmistakeable Voila branding, for an added boost of mobile outdoor advertising.

This widespread exposure has helped inform as many people as possible about Voila and kept the brand top of mind.

Robust Customer Engagement Campaigns

Right out of the gate, the company nailed shopper communications, too.

Registering is super easy. I signed up using my Apple ID with just a tap, and new customers can also use Facebook or enter their name and create a password. From there, I received a new customer confirmation, completed my order and began receiving promotional emails. Operational notifications were clear and informative, with plenty of key information such as cut-off time for order changes, delivery time confirmations and how much I saved on my order.

Voila has also set up an impressive email relationship campaign that encourages return trips to the online store. Content is relevant to time of year, with thematic tie-ins to long weekends or back-to-school season, for example. They also focus on Voila's differentiators, such as seamless delivery (fast delivery times), reliable orders (no out-of-stocks) and transparent pricing (same as in-store). I also received deals to encourage return visits at an increased spend with an attractive discount.

Opportunities to Exploit

As with any service, there are areas for improvement. Two in particular that I recommend Voila focus on: personalization and cart abandonment.

While the cadence and content of the Voila emails I received were good, ramping up relevancy through personalization would help increase conversion rates. Personalized product recommendations, offers on previously purchased items and special deals to encourage trial would allow shoppers to build their basket faster while saving on their weekly shop. This would provide an opportunity for Voila to convert more shoppers into loyal customers.

Another area for improvement is how cart abandonment is handled. When I tested the Voila site, on one transaction I deliberately built a cart and left it. But I didn’t receive an email alerting me to the abandoned cart. We know based on research by the Baynard Institute that, on average, more than 40% shoppers who receive cart abandonment emails open them, 50% of those opened emails are clicked, and 50% of those who clicked ultimately purchased. Using email automation to send abandoned cart notifications would be a low-effort way for Voila to increase loyalty and return visits. It’s a best practice for all grocers, one which results in potential revenue gains.

Promotion Is Key to E-Grocery Success

Overall, Voila offers a solid online shopping experience, and it’s clear why their solution has been widely adopted by Canadians, especially with the surge in e-commerce shopping caused by the pandemic. Whether grocery retailers are expanding their e-commerce services or starting from scratch, it is vital that they invest equally in promoting their new solutions, so they can increase ROI and increase the flow of this revenue stream.

Sylvain Perrier is president and CEO of Mercatus. 


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