Best Practice – Social Media Marketing

Marketing campaigns can be hit-or-miss. One may compel a customer to drive right to your doorstep. Another may send them diving for a remote to change the channel!

In the past, most advertisements focused on the immediate recipient of a message, the person passing a billboard or hearing a jingle on the radio. With the explosive growth of the social Web, marketing efforts across the globe are being retooled to consider how customers will both hear and share information about a brand.

The goal of social media marketing is to create a story enticing enough to be shared. As a message is passed from user to user, it gains credibility and extends your reach to a potentially globe spanning audience.

Download our Best Practice – Social Media Marketing article to learn more about installing social tagging tools (you can see such buttons right below!) and optimizing your site content to be “share-ready.” Included are links to Facebook, Twitter, and Google resources, as well as the Aisle7 Social Sharing Integration Guide.

And of course, if you have any questions, or would like some more suggestions about getting the most from our products, please don’t hesitate to write our support team (

Provide the Answers Shoppers Want

Consumers are being diagnosed with major health conditions at alarming rates which leads to concerns, questions and the pursuit for information.

Though many people trust their pharmacists as a source of health information, recent Catalina Marketing research suggest that they are still not getting all the advice they need on medicines, much less diet, lifestyle, and supplements. This creates what they’ve named the Opportunity Zone. We see it as an opportunity to consider tools and other solutions to better position your store as a health and wellness destination.

Connecting shoppers with relevant product information is critical to addressing their needs, building customer loyalty, and increasing store sales.

Implement Vitamin Advisor on your site to recommend the right nutrients based on your customers’ profiles.

Custom Advisors at Your Service

This past February we released Vitamin Advisor, an online tool that provides personalized supplement recommendations for consumers. It was the first online decision tool we made available to retailers. As we know, the vitamin aisle can be difficult to navigate. There are a lot of factors for consumers to consider to determine which supplements to take: health history, diet, lifestyle choices, even the medicines you take. Taking these factors into consideration can be very confusing. And when a customer is confused, a poor retail experience ensues. In the end, both parties lose: consumers and retailers. Fortunately, the remedy is straightforward.  Through a simple questionnaire we are able to ask a consumer a handful of pertinent questions to identify which nutrients or products are most helpful.

The latest data indicates consumers (and retailers) are getting a lot of value from this type of analysis. After 3 months and numerous customer implementations, the survey completion rate for Vitamin Advisor has consistently hovered around 70%. In other words, for every 10 surveys started, 7 are completed. That’s extremely high for this type of tool. Upon survey completion consumers receive a personalized report, of which 25% print to take into the store for a purchase activity. In the case of an e-commerce site, 12-15% add a supplement to the shopping cart.

No matter how you slice it the data is clear. Consumers find tools that aid in decision making helpful.

It’s why we’ve decided to expand the underlying Vitamin Advisor product and create an Advisor Questionnaire platform. Now you can create unique question based surveys on virtually any topic or product category. Consumers need help in more places than just the vitamin aisle. Have you ever had a consumer ask which skin cleanser was best for dry skin?  How about which pain medication is best for a tension headache? Advisors can be created for any self-care topic to address a specific product category. Advisors can also be created for specific customer segments. For example, if you are interested in targeting the endurance athlete you could create a nutrition advisor that takes extra caloric and protein needs into consideration. Surveys can be short and sweet or more involved depending upon the complexity of the product set. They can also be set up to recommend a single product, cross-sell complementary products and even up-sell to support the merchandising strategy. There are numerous possibilities.

We want to make it easy for shoppers to find the right products for them. In the past, we’ve talked about how shoppers are hungry for information. Its’ clear that digital media is changing behavior. Shoppers have more power to look up information anywhere at anytime. It’s important to provide them with the tools to help them make the best decisions. The data above indicates that shoppers find decision tools valuable, which has a direct impact to your bottom line.

Changing Habits is the Key to Winning Health and Wellness

I recently had the good fortune to attend and speak at the FMI Health and Wellness Conference. I always look forward to attending FMI events. They are one of the best events I’m aware of that allow all corners of the supermarket industry to share their view of the world. The new health and wellness format of this show is particularly inspiring, as it demonstrates the industry’s increasing commitment towards health and wellness. At this stage, health and wellness is fairly well understood to be a strategic initiative for supermarket. The national debate over the health care crisis has raised the awareness level of all parties: retailers, suppliers, government agencies and most importantly consumers. It is now commonly known that 1 in 3 children are projected to have type 2 diabetes, a condition that is largely preventable, by the year 2050. As the keynote speaker Dr. Katz so poignantly stated, our country is on the verge of bankrupting itself in the name of overeating; and most of it is preventable. Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable; so is ninety percent of type 2 diabetes. The secret formula? Controlling our forks and our feet. By simply paying more attention to the foods we eat and the lifestyle choices we make (read: exercise), we can eat our way out of the same problem, eating got us into.  

This can seem like a simple equation. For some of us it is, but for many it isn’t. This was underscored by another presentation at the event that I really enjoyed; Cary Silvers presentation titled ”shopping for health”.  As you may know, Cary is a regular presenter at FMI events and for good reason. Not only is he a great presenter. His presentations are always packed with the latest consumer attitudes on health, foods and how those two topics intersect in the supermarket. I’ve seen Cary’s presentations from shows past. What strikes me every time is the huge gap between consumer intent and consumer action.


Rodale 2010 "Shoppers for Health Study"

Let’s face it. Despite our best intentions it’s hard to follow through. It’s hard to change our habits. Particularly in a store setting where the amount of options can be dizzying and the amount of time we tend to give ourselves, can set us up for rushing through the shopping trip. Combine that with trying to juggle the wants of a family and our incessant sweet tooth steering us towards sugary foods and it’s no wonder we’re in the mess we’re in.

So how do we turn the tide?  And how do we take advantage of the opportunity and serve our customers? Because in the heart of every problem lies an opportunity, and in this case the opportunity is huge. Billions of dollars huge. We know the need is there. The desire is there too. The real question is execution. More specifically, it’s about changing …. drum roll please… you guessed it… habits. In a recent Duke study, researchers found that the #1 factor to changing habits wasn’t willpower. It was the enviornment we find ourselves in. It turns out that when a shopper enters our stores, the sights, smells, sounds, people, signage, information, you name it is the greatest driver of future behavior. Despite our best intentions, there is a seemingly unconscious response that is repeating a long established pattern. 

Now, let me be clear. I’m not at all absolving any responsibility on the part of the shopper. We are all responsible for our own choices. Our society affords us a wonderful set of freedoms. However, placed in the context of the question at hand, namely why is it so hard for shoppers to make healthy choices, we can start to pull at the thread of the problem.

In order for us to help shoppers make healthy choices and truly differentiate our stores as a healthy destination, we need to change the environments we create for them to shop in. In short, health and wellness is more than a campaign. It’s more than offering nutrition classes or offering links to health resources. It’s more than adding a healthy living department or providing better nutriton information at the shelf. It’s re-thinking how we go to market from top to bottom. It’s re-constructing an environment that for the most part has been constructed to get shoppers to eat more of the stuff they don’t need. And it’s walking in the shoes of our shoppers and holding their hand as they navigate the aisles of our stores and the pages of our websites for recommendations on healthy options. Most of all, it’s changing habits. The habits of our shoppers and our own habits too.

Health and Wellness Content for Retail Customers

Aisle7 was started because there was (and still is) a lot of confusion and misinformation about vitamins and herbs. I knew first-hand from working with retailers who sold supplements that it was really hard for them to get accurate and current information. As a doctor, I knew there were literally thousands of scientific studies in the dusty old journals. However, non-professionals were never going to dig through all those articles; and if they ever tried, they’d lack the expertise to interpret “cohorts” and “p-values.”

In order to make this somewhat dry scientific data interesting and useful, I hired a group of doctors, pharmacists, and dieticians and had them review every article they could find that had anything to do with human nutrition and supplements. I then chose writers who (a) actually saw patients, (b) were good writers, (c) and had teaching experience. I wanted all of our articles to be friendly, accurate, and useful.

Now, like any business, we have a few (not many) competitors. What I have noticed over the many years of doing this, is that our competitors have certain characteristics in common. First, they never write for the layperson. Their articles are almost always targeted to doctors, so they are very dry and not very useful for “Dr. Mom.” Second, they are almost always written by academics, so they aren’t very practical since the writers have usually never seen a patient. Third, they are very wordy, and average people don’t like wordy—they want crisp and concise. Fourth, they aren’t written by people with any understanding of the natural products industry, so they are not very supportive. Fifth, and finally, some competitors don’t update their information very often, we actually review about 100,000 articles every year and update each week.

The bottom line? When asked, we say some of our competitors are fantastic—if you are a government agency or law firm. However, when those who are asking are trying to engage with consumers, there’s only one good option. But, don’t take our word for it—check out the thousands of retailer stores and the hundreds of websites that have been using Aisle7 products for over a decade.

New Study Suggest Homeopathy on the Rise

Just last Friday, Hartman Group on behalf of Boiron, world leader in homeopathic medicines, issued the results of a multi-year consumer study at Expo West. The study surveyed 2055 women, ages 25-70 to understand desired OTC characteristics, interest and use of natural medicines and familiarity and usage of homeopathic medicines.

Coming off the heels of numerous product recalls, a sizeable number of shoppers cite purity and lack of chemicals and irritants (64 percent) to be important factors when choosing OTC products. A similar trend to what consumers are looking for in their food sources. A macro trend seems to be emerging in supermarket and drug consumables, where shoppers are being more mindful of the products they ingest, by reading labels and leaning towards natural product categories. This trend is supported by an increased familiarity with homeopathic medicines. 6 out of 10 (59 percent) of shoppers are familiar with homeopathics — a jump of 9 percent over the prevous year. These are sizeable trends, indicating consumers willingness to try new approaches and leaning towards natural product alternatives for answers.

So how do you feed the interest? And how do you help consumers make good choices, particularly with categories that may be new to them?

If you carry Boiron products or are considering carrying Boiron, we offer a new Decision Support Tool called the Homeopathic Medicine Finder. It’s a handy resource for anyone that may be standing in the aisle (it’s available with our in-store program) or on your website with Aisle7 ONLINE. It’s a great tool to feature on your homeopathic product category page as a widget. In just a few clicks, your shoppers are presented with the recommended set of homeopathic remedies for their symptoms. It’s that easy.

It’s clear that consumers are interested in trying new natural alternatives. It’s also clear that consumers are hungry for information and the retailers that are going to win in the information economy are going to provide consumers with content and tools that inform and make choices easier. We don’t have time for anything else.

See You at Natural Products Expo West 2011

We’re pretty excited around here about the upcoming event that is annual tradition for Aisle7: Natural Products Expo West. It’s an important event for our customers and partners, and we look forward to meeting new companies each year.

This year we have a lot to share with you. Just last week we announced the availability of Aisle7 ONLINE Decision Support Tools so we’ll be demonstrating our Vitamin Advisor, Supplement Finder, and Homeopathic Medicine Finder tools in our booth (#1816). Since Expo West 2010, we’ve launched and enhanced our Aisle7 ONLINE Widget Gallery, so you can see that in action when you visit.

Many of our customers have been talking with us about their Facebook efforts, so be sure to stop by for a sneak peak of the new programs that we’ve been working on to help build your Facebook communities. You can also learn more about Facebook Marketing in one of our two sessions this year:

Facebook Marketing in a Box: 5 Steps to Build a Thriving Community

Saturday March 12, 2p to 3p

Have you jumped into social media with a Facebook page or blog this year? Maybe you’ve already created a Facebook fan page and are posting content a few times a week (good for you!).  But you’re probably thinking, “there’s got to be more possibilities than just posting status updates –what else can I do to grow my network?”.  This seminar will boil it down to 5 important steps to make Facebook work for you, so you can grow your base and drive sales.

We’ve partnered with New Hope, and our client Ricardo Rabago at PCC Natural Markets for a panel discussion focused on mobile applications. If you’re considering a mobile presence, check out this session to better understand what you need to know before making decisions.

Retail Mobile Apps

Friday March 11, 2:45p to 4p

Many retailers are finding new ways to engage their customers through smartphone apps. If you are considering either building an app for your store or contracting with an existing platform, find out how forerunners in the industry are using the latest technology to drive sales and increase brand loyalty. Learn about the challenges, level of investment, and the payoff of mobile apps.

Hope to see you in Anaheim!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…..

We’ve all been there. Staring at a screen full of products, with too much or too little information, trying to decide which is the right product for me. It’s a common occurrence. Whether you are buying a new 3D Plasma TV or deciding on which supplements and foods to eat to reach your optimal health, there is a lot of information to process.  And it’s only going to get worse.  As the world continues to expand, more information makes itself available for a person to consider. With the Internet, mobile technology and social media markets continue to get more transparent. As we know from recent events, transparency can have dramatic effects (read: free Egypt).  It can also present a lot of additional information for a person to process. In the U.S. the average consumer processes over 16,000 product choices a day.  So how do you help your customers overcome the prospect of confusion and find the right products for them? We routinely ask ourselves this very question.

Working with leading retailers in food, mass, drug and specialty we are presented with many situations that challenge us to present health and wellness information most effectively in a retail environment. Making a product purchase is a complex undertaking, particularly for self-care health products. New science is regularly presented; and new product formulations are introduced to market. It’s a lot for a consumer to take in.

To help we just announced the availability of new decision support tools for supplements, homeopathy, OTC and whole food product categories. These tools are available with Aisle7 ONLINE, our web-based wellness program.  It’s a great complement to the retail focused articles we provide via our shopping guides.  Over the course of the last two years, we’ve introduced new capabilities to help retailers distribute wellness content throughout a website so they could support marketing and merchandising initiatives. We know that the most effective implementations are those that integrate health and wellness in their product and marketing pages.  The new tools include a questionnaire, filtering tools, widgets and content targeting. They can be placed anywhere on a website.  Featuring new page overlay technology, they present health recommendations directly on the page the consumer is on, so they don’t have to navigate away to a separate page, out of your shopping process. This is important to help improve website conversion.

You can read all about the new tools, here. Or better yet sign up for a demo and see them in action. We’re excited to hear your feedback. After all we are in the age of information transparency.

Customers Are Looking for Health Information Online

The question is, does your website answer the call? Are you providing the kind of helpful content that gives visitors to your site credible information on health conditions, self-care treatment, and tips to stay healthy that develops brand loyalty?

Just last week, eMarketer shared a Pew survey that looks at the top three most common activities online. In the #3 spot, was searching for health related information:

Most online health info seekers were looking to learn about specific health-related topics. About two-thirds searched for info about particular diseases or medical problems, and more than half researched specific treatments or procedures.

What People Are Searching For

Aisle7 has always provided science-based content for health conditions, vitamins and herbs that helps shoppers take action to better support their health goals. This research tells us how important it is for our retail customers to have information on their websites that answers the questions their customers have, while recommending actions they can take today to improve their health.

We’re pretty excited about an announcement we’re making very soon that enables retailers to help their shoppers move down the path to purchase. Stay tuned.