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How Supermarkets Can Leverage User-Generated Content

Social media has completely changed the way we buy food and eat. Instagram, in particular, is swarming with food pictures, with 539,808 posts tagged #avocadotoast alone, and the prevalence of this user-generated content is even higher among certain demographics. The annual Waitrose food and drink report cited that 18-to-24-year-olds are five times more likely to have shared a picture of their food in the past months (compared to over 55s), with 1 in 5 Britons posting a picture of their meals on social media every month. Jonathan Moore, Waitrose Executive Chef, said “a few years ago, you’d go into someone’s home and they’d have cookbooks. Now, we look for recipes online instead.The report also noted that consumers are enjoying eating-in more often, rather than going out for meals. This means that more shoppers are opting to purchase dine-in deals from supermarkets or ingredients to cook a meal at home.

The Benefits of User-Generated Content

With more shoppers opting to take to their local supermarket to produce something that’s Instagram worthy (typically more complex than standard sausage and mash and requiring more ingredients), there is a huge opportunity for said supermarkets to leverage their own customers’ food pictures with unparalleled benefits. For example, if someone purchases a range of ingredients at Sainsbury’s and cooks an aesthetically-pleasing dish they’re proud of, it’s likely to end up on their social media. If Sainsbury’s reshares this image, crediting the user and giving the information needed for others to replicate this dish, it further validates that sense of pride for the customer and also results in an inexpensive and authentic content marketing ploy for Sainsbury’s.   

Indeed, leveraging user-generated content is a vital way of positively impacting supermarket sales. Chicken dishes, burgers and salads are amongst some of the most-shared food dishes online and they’re all meals that can be simple or elaborate, depending on what the customer desires. If a customer has created a burger that consists of 5 or 6 different elements, totalling around £10.00 in ingredients, resharing this image on the supermarket’s account can help tempt shoppers to create something that’s more than just a standard cheese burger, thus resulting in more sales of those particular ingredients. Should shoppers be on more of a budget or picky about their likes and dislikes, it’s simple to downgrade meals by removing some of the ingredients to fit with personal taste.

The Influence of User-Generated Content

Supermarket customers are, in their own right, influencers. Bringing in a celebrity to promote your supermarket is an expensive and somewhat counterfeit offering. Does Jamie Oliver really buy all his ingredients from your local supermarket? Probably not. In 2016, Iceland cut ties with ‘brand-damaging celebrities’, opting to use ‘real’ mothers instead to represent what the supermarket has to offer. As a supermarket that has previously enlisted Kerry Katona, Michael Buble, Stacey Solomon and Peter Andre to promote its products, this was a dramatic change for the brand. On the subject, Channel Mum founder Siobhan Freegard said, “mum vloggers recommend, demonstrate and bring you into their family, so consumers feel that warmth and know they’re getting a truthful assessment, not just marketing spin.They are trusted above words as viewers can see them and know they are authentic.”

Your shoppers don’t need to boast thousands of followers to be influential for your brand. A customer with 20 Instagram followers might post a pleasing picture of a dish made solely with ingredients from your store, perhaps a recipe from your website or print magazine. Sharing this to your larger audience on the corporate supermarket account can bring that image in front of more people, and resonate with your shoppers. If a ‘normal’ person can produce something tasty with things offered at the supermarket, why can’t I? Customers are most influenced by content they judge as authentic and real, and there’s nothing more legitimate than a typical shopper.

Putting User-Generated Content to Use

Pulling user-generated content can be as simple as re-posting an image a customer tagged your supermarket in on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. In some circumstances, customers even directly contact the supermarkets, asking what they think of their home-cooked meal:

How Supermarkets Can Leverage User-Generated Content | mporium

User-generated content can also play a part in a bigger supermarket marketing campaign, such as Co-Op’s collaboration with SORTEDfood, an internet cooking show that provides recipes and tutorials. The result of this collaboration was Now Cook It, a simple online cooking course that encouraged shoppers to learn new cooking skills and post their results with the #nowcookit hashtag on social media.

How Supermarkets Can Leverage User-Generated Content | mporium

By using the #nowcookit hashtag, the images and videos were automatically pulled into and presented on the campaign’s homepage. Encouraging Co-Op customers to use the hashtag allowed the supermarket to effortlessly depict a collage of dishes that could be made with ingredients from its stores, acting as a catalogue of food inspiration. More importantly, these images and dishes were created by run-of-the-mill customers, not professional chefs, meaning any one of Co-Op’s customers could feel capable of replicating the meals.

Tesco’s latest campaign – Tesco Food Love Stories – follows a narrative of individuals completing their shopping at Tesco and producing a home-cooked meal that usually has a personal twist or touch. One example is ‘Nana’s Magic Soup’, a grandmother’s recipe for soup that fixes up her unwell grandson – a story that’s relatable and empathetic for many shoppers out there:

Whilst this may be an acted and directed advertisement, the sentiment is still the same. The ‘nana’ in this narrative is Tesco’s shopper; the soup recipe is her content. The difference between the soup in the advert and a can of mass-produced Heinz soup could be minimal, but it’s the authenticity and relatability behind the story that resonates with shoppers. It begs the question, if this nan is making it for her grandson, maybe I should too?


Using user-generated content can offer a number of benefits to both supermarkets and customers. For the customer, having their content reshared to thousands of followers on their supermarket’s corporate account can instill a sense of satisfaction and pride, consequently building the loyalty between the shopper and brand. For supermarkets, it can add a human touch to its online persona and demonstrate an appreciation for its online community.

Leveraging user-generated content can be a cost-effective and simple way to boost sales and marketing. Have you seen positive effects from it in your company? Let us know by Tweeting us, @mporiumgroup

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