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Gaining local customers can be difficult for both new or established grocery stores, especially when those customers have to be won from the competition. Awareness of your brand is key, especially if you are a new business or expanding. You need potential customers to think of your grocery store first as they leave the house with a shopping list in hand.

Digital advertising is an efficient option for stores large and small, especially if you are still building a full online presence. There are many options for the form of digital ads you can run, but they all have one thing in common: you can target them based on geography and demographics to get the most out of your budget and reach the people most important to your business.

How to Work Within a Budget

There are two common misconceptions when it comes to digital advertising; the first is that you need a massive budget, and the second is that you have to do everything.

While you do need to set aside some budget for digital advertising, you don’t need thousands a month. Start small and test ads to see the results and raise your budget accordingly. Doing so can help you learn what works and what doesn’t work before investing more money.

It’s better to focus a limited budget into one form of digital advertising than multiple channels. It’s ok to only advertise on Facebook, or in Google searches. Focus on the channels you know are relevant to your audience.

Geographic Targeting

Relevance is key to effective digital advertising. Geographic targeting allows you to only show your ads to a given location, zip code or an area you’ve chosen around your store. You should be focusing your digital advertising on the local geographies that make the most sense. Focus on quick drives since many shoppers expect convenience and want a fast trip.

Demographic Targeting

If you know your best type of customers, you can further target your ads by using their demographics. For example, if you know that most of your customers are 34-55 years old, you can focus your advertising based on those parameters. By doing so, you are getting the most value out of your budget and increasing the chance of winning new customers by showing them relevant content. You’re also ignoring those that aren’t likely to become customers.

Demographic + Geographic

If at all possible, you should be targeting both geographically and demographically to create the most relevant audience for your ads possible. This helps you create content that better speaks to their needs and is more likely to convert them to customers.

Digital Advertising Channels

One of the hardest parts of starting digital advertising is choosing which channel makes the most sense for you. Below, we break down some of the most common channels we recommend:

  • Facebook — A great way to target both geographically and demographically. Facebook ads can show up in your audience’s feed if you already have a Facebook page for your company, or you can display ads along the sidebar. Facebook is a great channel if you participate in your local communities and maintain your Facebook page regularly.
  • Paid Search — We’ve all seen the ads at the top of a search results page. Paid search through Google Adwords is effective for raising awareness as people are searching for terms that show an intent to purchase. Try targeting “grocery stores near me” or “local grocery stores” to start, and add geographical targeting. Search advertising is great for capturing potential customers ready to shop.
  • Display Ads — Google’s Display Network shows ads on any site your targeted geography and demographics are viewing. It’s a great way to cast a wide net of awareness but may lead to fewer results per dollar spent. It’s best used when you have a larger budget or are focused on brand awareness over sales.

Tip: Each channel offers guides and instructions on how to use each platform. Utilize these to get started and navigate through best practices if you aren’t working with a marketing partner.

Relevant Content

Once you’ve picked your digital advertising channel, it’s time to create the content for the ads, whether that’s the ad copy or a fully designed banner ad. If you don’t have the support staff to write or design ads, some of your vendors may offer marketing support.

When creating content, these are a few easy categories of content.

  1. Focus on a feature — Give a concrete reason to come to your store that differentiates you from the competition. Maybe that’s online ordering and curbside pickup, a brand new foodservice program or a full-service pharmacy.
  2. Offer a deal — A sale or a special deal are great ways to draw in new customers, and then while they are in your store you can win them over as recurring customers. Offer deals for products your customers want, without hurting your profit margins too much.
  3. Tell them what you do — If you are raising awareness of your store, you can simply let people know what you do. That you are a local grocery store with a personal touch and you hope to see them soon. These type of ads are best for new stores and those with enough budget to reach most of your local geography.

Testing Content

It’s important to make sure that you watch the analytics and results that come back from your ads. You can track what’s effective and being seen through any channel you choose. However, this won’t always give you a full picture of who takes action based on seeing your ad.

One easy way to find out if your ads are leading to customers is to have your cashiers ask how the customer heard of your business. Another is to run a deal with coupon or code unique to your digital ad, and whenever it’s redeemed, you know exactly where they came from.

Raising Awareness to Compete

Focusing on digital advertising offers efficient ways to spend a limited budget that reaches the audience most relevant to you. Raising awareness means more potential customers will stop by your store, and becoming more competitive with big box grocery stores, but the efforts do take time. Be patient, focus on testing content and find the right channel for you.

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