Grocery companies risk being left behind if they are too cautious about digital communications, says Andy Poole

Intense competition, shifting consumer purchasing trends and wavering brand loyalty are driving grocery retailers to adopt digital communications strategies as they look to win consumers. Spar has launched its online Shelf Sniper game, Aldi and TV chef Phil Vickery have created recipe podcasts and the Co-op produced its first podcast to update people on its activities.

Twitter is alive with supermarket tweeting and numerous supermarket fan pages can be found on Facebook. Tactics such as these are driving positive online conversations about brands and products that can quickly generate sales or protect the brand should it come under scrutiny.

However, digital comms shouldn't be limited to businesses marketing to consumers. There are endless opportunities for targeting other businesses. Last year's British Business Survey shows 56% of senior-level decision makers download podcasts and watch video online. Professional audiences are digitally savvy and, if targeted correctly, receptive to interacting with other brands online.

Many business-to-business opportunities are missed through apathy and a fear of the unknown. The world of digital is constantly evolving and peppered with a whole host of new terms and technologies, easily causing confusion about blogs, phlogs, widgets and wikis. This can leave businesses deciding it's safer to opt out rather than risk a mistake that immediately reverberates globally on the web.

Taking this cautious approach limits a business's competitive edge. Keeping pace with digital engagement doesn't have to be daunting. Businesses need to simply stop, look and listen to understand what motivates their audiences and how they can appropriately reach them.

Audience interests, attitudes and opinions can be tracked online to inform digital strategies. This knowledge should be used in line with wider marketing plans to ensure businesses are effectively reaching target audiences off and online.

Grocery companies can't afford to get left behind in a marketplace fast being shaped by digital communications.

Andy Poole is digital strategist, regions, at PR agency Weber Shandwick North.

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