What Are Food Retail Brands Doing About Promotions Right Now?
Category in: Ecommerce marketing

What Are Food Retail Brands Doing About Promotions Right Now?

By Aalap Shah, Founder of 1o8 Agency

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, across the globe, food (along with medicine) is one of the only products considered essential in even the hardest-hit communities. But, advertising and promotions aren’t particularly appealing right now. So, what are you supposed to do?

It’s a catch-22. On one hand, you don’t want people to forget about you. And, on the other, you’re not sure there’s a tasteful way to market to your customers at this time. To solve the dilemma, let’s explore what other food brands are doing about promotions. Then, you can take what you like and apply it to your operations.

Here, we’ll look at the following:

  • 5 food retail brands’ timely promotions
  • The general theme of promotions during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How you can partner with adjacent brands to help your customers

So, get ready to take notes.

5 Brand Messages From Food Retailers Amidst COVID-19

Over the past weeks, I’ve been monitoring food retailers’ email newsletters and websites to see what promotional messages brands are sharing. And, there seems to be a theme. More importantly, it seems to be effective.

First, let’s look at some individual food brand messages. Then, I’ll summarize the commonalities. By the end, you should see a way to apply these concepts to your brand promotions right away.

1. Pizza Hut

Late last month, Pizza Hut sent out an email with a pretty hefty promotion: 50% off all menu-priced pizzas, which is a decent promotion. However, they do this all the time. So, what has the brand changed about the way it promotes its offer?

Well, they’ve shown that they have respect for social distancing by enhancing their existing carryout and delivery offer. Now, customers can take advantage of contactless delivery. They simply pay in advance for their food online then request that the order be left on the doorstep so that there is no need to be in contact with the delivery person.

Both directly and indirectly, Pizza Hut’s offer shows that they are concerned about the health and well-being of their customers. And, they prove that they are adapting to the changing dining guidelines this pandemic has initiated.

2. Purity Organic

Online orders through Purity Organic’s website give their eco-conscious customers the opportunity to give back right now. During checkout, with a discount code, shoppers can opt to ask the brand to supply two cases of their drinks to a local food bank. Whether the brand would have otherwise sent the products to help their community is unknown.

Still, this kind of purchase incentive generates a sense of community and helps shoppers feel like they’re doing their part to help others in need. During a disaster, this type of support is more important than ever. So, this is definitely a smart move.

3. Taco Time

A northwest fast-food chain, Taco Time has made a drastic change to their operations. While traditionally dine-in or drive-thru, the brand now offers food delivery for select locations. Rather than hire new delivery drivers and cut through new red tape, they’ve partnered with DoorDash to make it possible.

This partnership promotion opens up business for both DoorDash and Taco Time. And, it shows customers that the people who need or want to stay home at this time are still taken care of.

4. Kroger

Kroger foods has made quite a few changes to their operations, including new sanitation standards and social distancing measures. Because of this, they aren’t able to share the same level of convenience shoppers are used to. So, they’re rolling with the punches and now offer a free pickup service at many locations.

The promotion solves the convenience problem and might make food handling safer.

Another move made by Kroger is a partnership with Home Chef. Krogers shoppers can get $80 off Home Chef subscriptions. While the partnership promotion may have been ongoing, it’s exceptionally relevant now.

If the company that you trust with your groceries backs a new food brand, you’re way more likely to trust it (and vise versa). So, in food promotions, strategic partnerships are a good idea right now.

5. McDonald’s

McDonald’s is onto the partnerships trend. So, they’ve partnered with Uber Eats and DoorDash. While they already had menu listings with both companies, they took their strategy a step further and paid for the delivery themselves.

Sure, customers that aren’t able to leave their homes will undoubtedly prefer delivery. But, they may not want to pay for it if they’re used to meals for less than $5. So, this promotion is especially relevant for the McDonald’s customer base.

So, What’s the Overall Theme Here?

Right now, the promotional theme for food brands looks a lot like what experts have been preaching for years: customer-centric messaging, transparency, and partnerships. Think more “PR” and less “advertising.”

These food retail brands are taking extra precautions to ensure that their food is prepared safely. They are giving customers more access to pick-up and delivery options. And, they are partnering with other food brands with adjacent products to expand their offering.

And, while they may be hurting at the moment, they will come out of this situation with a newfound relationship of respect with their customers. The decisions they are making today will have a lasting impact on loyalty and trust.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • So, what do my customers want and need right now?
  • And, what am I doing to deliver on their desires?
  • Should I partner with existing food delivery services or create my own?
  • Have I told my customers about the changes I’m making to operations?

The answers will provide you with pretty powerful insights and tell you exactly what you can be doing right now to appeal to your audience.

And, How Can You Partner With Delivery Services?

Above, we’ve mentioned a couple of food retail delivery services that you may be familiar with, but they’re not the only ones out there. Here, explore some of your options.

  • Uber Eats – Create a business account to offer your customers a new way to enjoy their favorite food.
  • DoorDash – Become a partner restaurant to generate more takeout orders.
  • Postmates – Add your restaurant to the directory for a new level of convenience.
  • Instacart – Reach out to see if you can get your store listed in the app for

Check to make sure the service is offered in your area before you sign up. Don’t waste your time if the technology isn’t going to work for potential delivery people. If you aren’t finding a service you can use from where you’re at (maybe your community is pretty rural), do some digging to see if anyone in your area is working on a grassroots effort that you can get in on.

CAUTION: Above all, make sure that any delivery strategy you implement right now is in alignment with the CDC’s food kit and meal delivery safety standards.

Final Thoughts

The promotional decisions that you make today will have a lasting impact on your food retail brand, for better or worse. So, choose your messaging wisely. More than ever, transparency, honesty, and respect are crucial. If I can help your food retail business make it through this slump, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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