Gluten-free and allergy-friendly packaged foods manufacturer Enjoy Life Foods understands the particular importance of word of mouth when it comes to its customers, and the firm has embraced the next generation of this through its investments in social media and mobile-focused technology.
“We’re unique in that we’re both gluten-free and free of the top eight food allergens,” Enjoy Life chief sales and marketing officer Joel Warady told FoodNavigator-USA. “Our business grows from peer to peer, so our marketing has to be very consumer centric, providing multiple platforms to share information.”
While taste is what drives word of mouth marketing and repeat purchases for all food brands, trust is equally important for one whose primary market is free-from consumers.
“We know that 74% consumers don’t trust what companies say, but 90% of people who buy consumer products do so based on peer-to-peer recommendations. In our case, that means customers’ friends or others in their support groups tell them a product is safe. That’s how we build trust. It takes time.”
Mobile is everything for a GF, allergen-friendly brand
Like any small business, Enjoy Life has grappled with the challenge of determining which social media channels and digital marketing efforts are going to survive, and—more importantly—provide return on investment. But being small also enables the company to be “nimble enough that if something doesn’t work, we can end it,” Warady added.
One area the company has homed in on is the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), a web-driven class of brand interaction that’s defined as the moment a shopper goes online to research a product and decides whether to make a purchase.
“We’ve narrowed what’s working for us by looking at the consumer’s path to purchase—more specifically the ZMOT,” Warady said. “We want to capture the consumer when they’re doing research online before going to the store, making sure our communication is there when they’re researching a product and its nutritional facts—ensuring they can find all that on their mobile device. Mobile is everything. That’s how we communicate to the shopper in the aisle.”
In an effort to facilitate buying, the company built a Where to Buy tab into its website, which has both an online store and a store locator that enables consumers to find which retailers carry which SKUs. It's updated daily by Whole Foods and Walmart, and typically monthly or quarterly at other participating retailers. “Consumers can search by product and see what the store has, based on real-time information and sales through the cash register, which is always updating.”
The company has also partnered with an app called Ibotta, which enables consumers who sign up on their mobile phone to earn money by purchasing listed brands at participating retailers.“The appeal for consumers is that instead of getting coupons, you get a check,” Warady noted. “We know our best asset is a happy consumer.”
The only product offers shown are for those available in the particular store the consumer is in, which is manually updated. Ibotta users can earn additional money by sharing their stories with others via social media—and Enjoy Life has seen a lot of traction in this area via Instagram and Pinterest in particular. And while the brand still markets products through traditional couponing in weekly circulars, Ibotta is currently earning the highest ROI, Warady noted.
Facebook still the leader in digital, but the future is in other platforms
While Facebook has long been the leading social media platform among most CPGs, Enjoy Life has seen engagement drop as consumers turn to other platforms like Twitter and Instagram. “Facebook is still important—we have 200,000 followers—but we’re finding less engagement there. We are seeing that people want to engage with our brand, but Facebook might not be platform to do that long term.”
In order to get the most out of its digital sharing platforms, Enjoy Life launched a loyalty program through the fan engagement tool SocialToaster. The tool enables brand superfans (which Enjoy Life affectionately calls “free-from agents”) to share company-sourced content on their active social media platforms. Each post contains links and calls to action (which thus drive more site traffic and impressions), and in turn the superfans get rewarded via points and gift cards. In the two months since launch, the platform has 7,869 members with a total reach of 2.66 million people.
The brand also tries to maintain a dialogue with consumers through social media, rather than using digital as a “megaphone,” Warady said. “We respond to all consumers within four hours of every post—and we’re on social media 24/7,” he said. “We’re focused on building that dialogue as a way to help build trust and transparency.”
Plus, more digital engagement means fewer employees handling in-bound customer service calls. “The more consumers are able to find online, the happier they are. That’s another reason the future is in mobile, because they need answers immediately while they’re in the supermarket aisle.”