Niemann Foods Brings Stores to the Digital Age

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Niemann Foods operates a small chain of County Market grocery stores serving Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana. Like many other smaller retail chains, a major part of the company’s advertising and marketing strategy involved printed flyers, coupons, sales circulars, and related materials.

But that presented a problem, as people went online to get local and national news, advertised deals, and more, according to Avry Brown, Niemann Foods’ consumer engagement manager. The decline had been going on for a while but really became noticeable in the past year and a half or so. Only half of the people who had been receiving Niemann Foods’ flyers a few years ago were still receiving them by the second half of last year.

“Distribution was going down, but print costs were going up,” Brown says. “We were losing either way.”

So the Illinois-based company naturally wanted to increase its digital marketing and advertising. It had been doing some of that already, but the effort wasn’t producing the desired results.

The company had been working with Birdzi, a provider of customer intelligence and engagement services, for more than seven years, so it looked to the same company to help with its new digital outreach aspirations.

“From working with them, we knew this was definitely one of the things that they would be able to help us get where we need to go,” Brown recalls.

In December 2021, County Market launched its new digital Penny Pincher program to replace the paper Penny Pincher coupon book, beginning the transition by consistently offering a handful of digital coupons on the store’s app for two months. Additionally, the grocer used signage, flyers, and bag stuffers to educate and encourage customers to download the app. QR codes were placed next to select items. If scanned, these QR codes launched the app and took customers to the related coupon. Finally, all in-store associates were trained to use the platform so they could support customers.

It took some time for the full roll-out due to employee training and tweaks to ensure that the loyalty program worked as the grocery chain wanted. The company’s loyalty program uses a Max Card to link customers to offers, track redemptions, etc.

“We wanted to do things like make sure we had fixed price coupons, discounted coupons, and multiple redemptions,” Brown said. “We did a lot of work so that the digital program mimicked what we had in print.”

Another consideration was ensuring that digital coupons couldn’t be printed and used multiple times. Another challenge was getting the coupons and other materials out to customers without smartphones.

There was also an initial challenge to convince people to start using the digital coupons. Employees played a big role in that, helping customers download and use the myCountyMarket app.

“We were impressed by our shoppers’ willingness to switch to digital Penny Pincher,” Brown says. “With Birdzi, we witnessed an over 400 percent increase in digital coupon redemption rates compared to previous digital coupon trials in just the first month. Birdzi has been an essential partner for us as we enhance the customer journey for both our in-store and online customers.”

The chain also saw a more than 300 percent increase in the number of digitally engaged customers, a 500 percent jump in monthly app downloads and web registrations, and a 45 percent overall redemption rate for the digital coupons, which amounts to a 400 percent increase over previous digital coupon redemption rates. Eighty percent of shoppers who clipped and activated an offer redeemed it with a purchase.

The digital Penny Pincher program also provides a way for Niemann Foods to track customers—when and how often they visit, what they buy, and so on—and Niemann Foods can communicate more regularly with customers who opt in for such communications.

Brown is expecting Niemann Foods to continue to grow customer acceptance of the program over the next year.

The Payoff

Since implementing a digital marketing plan with Birdzi, Niemann Foods has seen the following results:

  • active membership rose from 17,221 in December to 61,888 in May;
  • the scan rate increased from 53 percent in December to 57 percent in May;
  • the overall redemption rate for the digital coupons rose 45 percent, a 400 percent increase from previous digital coupon redemption rates;
  • the number of digitally engaged customers increased 300 percent; and
  • monthly app downloads and web registrations jumped 500 percent.

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