As online grocery shopping becomes increasingly popular retailers need to find ways of generating traffic and attracting new customers.

Content marketing is one way of achieving this, though competition is fierce in the world of online food and recipe ideas.

You can probably see where this is going, and you’d be right – I’m going to look at how supermarkets use content marketing.

It’s now common for supermarkets to have their fingers in a lot of pies, offering services as diverse as broadband and credit cards.

For the purposes of this article I’m only interested in on-site content marketing relating to the grocery side of their businesses.

Though most grocery retailers offer recipe ideas, Waitrose and Tesco are perhaps ahead of the competition in terms of executing their content strategy.

Here’s a look at what they’re getting right, and for more on this topic read our posts on how SEO helps Tesco to dominate the online grocery market and 14 cracking UX features of online supermarkets.

Tesco Real Food

Tesco’s food-related content is hosted on a subdomain that opens in a new window when you click the ‘recipes’ tab on the homepage.

That seems slightly strange as it means there’s a disconnect between 'Real Food' and the ecommerce site.

Nonetheless, there’s a great range of high quality inspirational content hosted on the site.

Recipes

If we take a look at the recipes mega menu, there’s a huge number of different options to choose from including occasions, types of cuisines, courses or specific ingredients.

Some of the recipes have been uploaded by Tesco’s customers, though I’m not sure how you qualify for this honour.

Users can save their favourite recipes to a virtual ring binder, which also gives them the option to make notes relating to their personal preferences (e.g. alter the oven temperature).

Each of the recipe pages has an image of the food, ingredients, nutritional information and star rating, which is all fairly standard stuff.

But more impressive is the ability to text or email the ingredients list, add it to a meal plan, or buy all the ingredients.

Clicking the ‘Shop ingredients’ CTA opens a popup window with all the relevant items. 

Some of the more common ingredients are included in a list titled ‘you probably already have these’, so it’s up to the shopper to choose whether they need them.

Selecting ‘buy ingredients’ adds all the items to your shopping basket, though you have to already be a registered Tesco customer for it to work otherwise you need to create a new account.

Meal planner

Meal planners are a really useful tool for families on a budget and a great sales tool for Tesco.

If people take the time to create a weekly meal plan on the site they are more likely to then buy their items from Tesco.

Users can either create their own in a simple three-step process, or use a pre-populated template.

The pre-populated ones include suggestions from other users and seasonal menus. However there aren’t any from celebrity chefs or food bloggers, which would be a good way to get people to use the planner.

Overall it’s a really neat idea, although the execution does need to be improved as many of the recipes are unrealistic options for a busy family.

For example, my meal planner suggested that I should knock up a rib of beef for Monday lunch and a leftover lamb stir-fry on Tuesday night, assuming I’ve just got loads of old lamb in my fridge.

This issue aside, the planner is still useful as people can edit out the unrealistic suggestions and save the schedule to their online ring binder.

Videos

Another tab worth investigating further is ‘videos’, which is fairly self-explanatory. It includes recipes idea, cooking tips, skills tutorials, and promotional videos for Tesco product ranges.

The videos are all short and easy to follow with cheerful music in the background. 

Some of the more basic recipes even have children helping an adult to make the food to encourage kids to get involved in the kitchen.

There is also a range of videos from Tesco’s partnership with SORTEDfood, a popular YouTube foodie channel.

This is a very trendy tie up for Tesco to be involved with and one that has the potential to introduce the brand to a new audience, so it’s a bit surprising that these particular videos aren’t more prominent on Tesco’s site.

Waitrose

Waitrose has successfully built a reputation as the UK’s most upmarket grocery store, and its content strategy serves to reinforce this brand image.

The content is mostly hosted within three tabs in the top nav – Inspiration, Recipes and TV.

It’s the TV tab that interests me most, but I’ll look at the other content first.

Inspiration/recipes

A lot of it is fairly standard stuff (recipes, meal planners) and really could do with a facelift.

For example the ‘Inspiration’ tab hosts a broad range of content, including healthy eating advice, weight loss plans, corporate information, booking details for Waitrose cooking schools, advice on weaning a baby, and food inspiration for annual events (e.g. pancake day, Chinese New Year).

Some of this should be hosted elsewhere, as people wouldn’t come to this tab looking for information on where Waitrose sources its products.

Also, the meal planners aren’t particularly appealing or interactive, so I can’t imagine anyone spending much time browsing these pages.

The recipe ideas are excellent and provide a simple tutorial alongside nutritional information. I’ve noticed these come up in search results before, so they must provide at least some traffic for Waitrose.

But weirdly there’s little consistency in the ecommerce integration of the recipe pages.

For example, though most recipes don’t have a ‘buy ingredients’ CTA, I also found three different CTA designs.

CTA design one

 

CTA design two

CTA design three

These CTAs enable shoppers to quickly add all the required ingredients to their trolley. It’s a useful feature that would benefit from a more consistent user journey.

Overall I think the navigation needs to be improved in both of these tabs as although there’s a great range of recipes it’s too difficult to find what you’re looking for.

 

Videos

Waitrose’s video content is excellent and I got hugely distracted watching pancake tutorials while researching this post.

All the clips are under four minutes and feature a chef or presenter walking you through a recipe while some jaunty music plays in the background.

They’re hugely watchable and help to make the recipes more appealing.

Some are hosted by celebrity chefs Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal, with the former having a section of the site dedicated to her cooking school videos.

Alongside the tutorials there’s lifestyle content (e.g. gardening with Alan Titchmarsh) and a charity cooking competition between some famous cricketers.

The range and quality of the content is fantastic, but again Waitrose could be doing more to integrate the videos into its ecommerce site.

All of the videos are embedded on recipe pages that detail the ingredients and the method for cooking.

Some of these have a ‘Buy ingredients’ CTA but most of them don’t.

However all of these pages have a ‘Full recipe’ CTA at the bottom, but this just directs people to the same meal within the ‘Recipe’ section of the site.

It’s basically the same information just without a video embedded on the page.

In conclusion...

Though Waitrose and Tesco are clearly investing in content marketing, both could be doing more to integrate it into their ecommerce sites.

Tesco’s makes it quite easy for people to add products to their basket directly from the recipe pages, but for some reason Waitrose has a very inconsistent approach.

It has at least three different ‘add to basket’ CTAs deployed across the recipe pages, while most have no CTA at all.

Similarly, though Waitrose’s video content is excellent it needs to work on creating a more fluid and consistent user journey between the video tutorials and the shopping basket.

There will obviously be a proportion of people who use this content for inspiration before shopping elsewhere (me included), but it’s still an important brand-building exercise for both these retailers and can help with upselling and increasing loyalty among existing customers.

David Moth

Published 17 February, 2015 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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