What’s the most positive sign for private brands’ future?
There’s no one right answer, but in my opinion it’s the special relationship with Millennials. Some 14 percent of this generation are heavy buyers of private brand products. That compares to 10 percent for Generation X, 9 percent Boomers, and 5 percent Matures.
This is exciting data from Information Resources Inc., presented in The Power of Private Brands 2017 report from Food Marketing Institute. The numbers are important because Millennials represent the future of food retail.
Just as exciting, the FMI report showed that younger generations are buzzing about private brands on social media. Some 47 percent of Millennials and 44 percent of Gen Xers share information about grocery store brand experiences on social media. In many cases they have become private brand advocates.
Not to spoil the party, but there is a downside for grocery retailers.
“Traditional grocery private brands command fewer social mentions than mass, club or other channels, the data shows,” read the FMI report. “Club brands lead in average positivity of mentions, while grocery channel lags. The supermarket channel should give thought to how to increase consumer advocacy on social media.”
Why is traditional grocery facing this hurdle, given that younger consumers, typically the biggest social media users, show more interest in private brands? Or even more to the point, how can traditional retailers get more attention on social media?
One solution is for retailers to get more involved with online influencers. One such case was highlighted at the recent FMI Private Brands D.C. Summit in Washington D.C. Michael Rahbek, head of private label at Danish retailer Dagrofa, said retailers can benefit by connecting with bloggers. Rahbek said his company developed a relationship with an influential Danish blogger who has an extensive following. That relationship led to having this blogger provide input for testing new products.
Another retailer solution is to understand what’s behind consumer social comments about private brands. The IRI research found Millennials are more likely to advocate for individual private brand items on social media, as opposed to touting an entire private brand range. That indicates retailers need to win with each product every day if they want more social advocates.
The FMI report advised retailers to “put more recipes and deals on social media to attract Millennials and other heavy private brand buyers.” It also urged retailers,
“Closely monitor what people are saying on social media about your private brand and products -- and those of competitors. Adapt products and social media outreach based on the findings.”
It’s logical to assume that negative consumer feedback will get the most attention from retailers wanting to improve products. However, retailers should not miss the opportunity to further improve items based on positive comments as well. It’s not unusual for a consumer to praise an item while adding that it could be made even better with a specific adaption. This is a crucial insight for retailers to consider and share with suppliers. Acting on this type of feedback can take a product to a higher level.
Social media is just one of the areas to track for consumer insights. Other key areas include feedback from product returns, call centers, online reviews, and product testing. The insights gained should be shared with suppliers to drive product enhancements that better meet consumer needs. That’s a winning approach likely to keep younger consumers in the private brand advocacy camp.