CMO Recounts The Fresh Market’s Live Shopping Journey at GroceryTech
by Bridget Goldschmidt, Managing Editor, Progressive Grocer
The Fresh Market Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Miller takes the stage at GroceryTech to discuss his company's adoption of shoppable video.
A highlight of the final day of GroceryTech, a three-day event presented by sister publications RIS News and Progressive Grocer, was a presentation by The Fresh Market’s chief marketing officer, Kevin Miller, in which the ebullient executive discussed how the Greensboro, N.C.-based grocer has deployed live shopping to deepen its connection with consumers. During “Live Commerce: The Fresh Market Stakes Its Flag in the Live Shopping Wars,” Miller kept attendees engaged with the story of how the grocer not only successfully leveraged this cutting-edge tech, but also had plenty of fun doing it.
First, however, The Fresh Market needed to turn things around after having been voted the worst company to work for in America on Glassdoor by its own employees in 2018. After onboarding a new executive team, The Fresh Market set to work doubling down on its fresh proposition, starting a magazine to bring the in-store experience to customers stuck at home during the pandemic, reinventing its curbside service to be more fun and friendly, and implementing an award-winning loyalty program. As a result, the company has twice been voted the best supermarket in America by the readers of USA Today.
Not content to rest on its laurels, though, The Fresh Market decided to enter an emerging area of business where China had been the undisputed leader for several years, with $600 billion in sales projected by the end of this year. “We knew that our digital experience was not the same as our immersive in-store experience,” Miller recounted to his rapt audience. “Well, what we were going to do about that? … One of the things we tested when we were testing everything was shoppable video and live commerce in 2022.”
Teaming up with San Francisco-based Firework, the grocer went all in with shoppable video that year, deploying the solution across its website, emails and social channels. “It was amazing what happened,” noted Miller, adding that “we expect[ed] our customers to somewhat reject this, and they embraced it in an unbelievable way.” This led The Fresh Market to ask, “Okay, can we go further with this live shopping opportunity?”
Buoyed by this early success, the company “created over 800 new videos in 2022 on everything, our daily deals, our monthly deals, our promotions, our new products, our grand openings – everything became a shoppable video,” Miller noted. “We found that we got over 130 million views of this content, and our customers now, as of today, they’ve spent over 1,000 days’ time watching these videos. Think about that. If … your customers [are spending] that much time embracing your advertising … as they’re being entertained and informed, their engagement rate goes way up.”
Miller went on to show what livestream shopping looks like at The Fresh Market. “We have a host or an influencer do cooking demonstrations with recipes during mainly special occasions or [for] new products,” he explained. “On the left-hand side of the screen you'll see a chat. In that chat are literally thousands of customers of ours watching this live in the afternoon, and they’re commenting about the products and the recipes, and they're talking with each other. The average livestream gets 27 views. Our livestreams get 3,000 to 8,000 views. On the right-hand side you’ll see the product cards, and those are the actual products that are being shown, and customers are buying them on the spot. And then you’ll also see the e-com integration straight from the livestream.”
He added that “then we rerun the actual livestream on our social platforms, on our own assets, and actually push out some to paid media. So the average livestream, we’ll achieve anywhere from 400,000 to 1 million views, like a little mini Netflix show of our customers watching our celebrities and influencers and chefs talk about product. That’s just stunning in terms of the engagement, right?”
Miller further observed that while shoppers are “in the moment, watching those videos and all those livestreams, at that point, they're ready to buy. And so if you can shrink the path to purchase because [the items are] shoppable … then the conversion rate goes way up. … We found on even just the videos during the holiday seasons for our meals, that the conversion rate is 300% higher than someone that’s watched … one of those top videos in a traditional banner ad or search or even native. This is an amazing conversion rate. And that’s … because you’re developing a deeper relationship, a more personal relationship, a more loyal customer. It’s going to be more profitable long term.”
The company has also implemented an AI tool on the back end of the livestreams, “so when you do the replay now, instead of the live chat that happens where we’re answering questions [in] real time, when the vast majority of the viewership is happening, those other 400,000 to 600,000 views, now the customers can go on and ask that question. It's only been out for about a month, and the AI tool … answers in the voice of the host, the brand. [T]his has become a really immersive experience for literally thousands of customers who are spending time asking our chatbot questions about products when [they’re] on the livestream.”
Miller also talked about the rise of retail media networks, “the fastest-growing media ever,” which are set to outpace the dollars spent on TV ads by 2026, and his company’s unique take on the technology. “With this incredibly immersive environment universe we’re creating around shoppable video and live commerce, that’s what differentiates the Fresh Market’s retail media network from all the others out there,” he asserted. “We’re not trying to sell our retail partners search words and shelf tags and stuff like that. We’re selling them the opportunity to be in the most immersive marketing platform ever, which is our shoppable video platform, and to share the type of results that we get with our vendor partners.”
The chief marketer’s lively, well-attended session was a great way to help wrap things up on the final day of GroceryTech, which ran July 11-14 in Cincinnati.
Jody Kalmbach, Kroger’s group vice president, product experience, had the honor of opening up day two, the main day of the first ever GroceryTech event, and diving into the event's theme: Scaling With Personalization.