From curbside pickup to delivery, today’s chicken consumer expects a seamless shopping experience offline and online. Brands will need to rethink their strategy to drive engagement beyond just in-store and effectively connect with these consumers. To help drive this, the 2022 Chicken Marketing Summit will showcase multiple ways that companies can digitally connect with their consumers.
“The digital-forward consumer is becoming more and more the average consumer today," Joe Conte, vice president of sales at IRI's Media Center of Excellence, said. "While there are certainly differences versus the average, more and more average consumers are becoming digital-forward."
“Consumers aren’t thinking about digital or ecommerce as a separate or unique channel. They are regular considerations for commerce and purchasing today.”
The digital-forward consumer existed before COVID-19 but worries about health and safety during the pandemic accelerated the shift toward ecommerce, delivery, ordering kiosks and other online shopping behaviors.
“What was expected to be a five- or ten-year trend has now collapsed to two,” he said.
Capitalizing on digital
Now is the time for chicken brands to reassess their current marketing plans.
“It is just becoming a hyper competitive marketplace where the consumer is even more in charge than they have been,” Conte said. “If you aren’t presenting your brand to them on a regular basis and in a compelling manner, they’re going to choose other proteins and they’re going to choose other outlets.”
It can be easy to lose the bigger picture when focusing on the details of the nitty-gritty, such as finding ways to engage and connect with the digital-forward consumer, Conte said. Chicken marketing and sales professionals need to remember to occasionally take a step back to ask what makes sense.
“I think it’s important that while we dig into the technology and the data and work with our retail and channel partners is not to forget that we’re consumers too," he said. "What is the experience that we want? What is the experience we’ll find compelling?”
“If an idea doesn’t make sense to you or you think it’s stupid or confusing, then it is no matter how clever or how innovative or how bleeding edge it is.”
Embracing new technology
Several popular chicken quick service brands recently announced digital-centric restaurant redesigns that allow them to focus on delivery and carryout food orders. These innovations include ordering kiosks, ghost and virtual kitchens and even artificial intelligence in the drive-through.
“If you’re trying to attract a younger consumer, digital is going to be a way to create excitement,” Kelley Bailie Fechner, director of customer solutions at Datassential, said.
Other restaurant chains have also embraced digital-forward designs. In early 2022, Wingstop launched the prototype of its restaurant of the future in Dallas, which allows the chicken-focused fast casual to focus solely on delivery and carryout orders, while Buffalo Wild Wings plans to open more than 100 of its takeout- and delivery-focused GO format by the end of the year.
Another foodservice concept that gained major traction during the global pandemic are ghost and virtual kitchens. They operate inside already existing restaurants and help optimize search engine optimization for a brand, since many consumers search for a particular menu item when ordering delivery.
“As the pandemic was occurring, wings blew up with the ghost kitchens. I think it will be interesting to see what that looks like post-COVID,” Fechner added.
Connecting with online retail
The emergence of online grocery shopping through websites and ordering apps offers chicken brands in retail a unique opportunity, Jennifer Bartashus, senior analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said.
For example, choice is currently one of the biggest barriers when it comes to purchasing chicken and other food items online. Many consumers still want the chance to select the products they buy because it helps them ensure that it’s the right weight, the right price and it’s not too close to the expiration date.
“How do we get customers comfortable with someone else selecting their chicken?” she said. “I think there are ideas that we can talk about to help give the consumer empowerment and confidence in continuing to bring chicken into what they’re doing at a greater scale so that it’s no longer just in store where you focus on protein.”
The best way to connect with digital consumers is to reach them before they’ve fully formed their online shopping habits.
“They say that it takes three to five times of ordering online to become a regular customer," Bartashus said. "If your product is a part of that basket, it will continue to be a part of that basket.”
Attend the 2022 Chicken Marketing Summit