—by Jesse Winsell
As we look forward to the annual meeting on October 27, I am thinking about two seemingly different things that are connected by a common theme: customer engagement.
The first is the power of social media. The second is store equipment upgrades. The co-op must engage in both in order to stay relevant and to create value for members.
During the summer, I sat in the co-op entryway one Saturday morning and talked to people about plans for the annual meeting and anything else early morning shoppers wanted to discuss.
Even though I have been on Facebook and Twitter for a few years, this was the first time that I saw great opportunity in being social online. I posted on Twitter and Facebook that I was sitting in the entryway, and within two minutes, a high school friend posted back announcing having become a member a few weeks prior.
Social media can be a great way to stay connected to people, and can help make connections in the community that might not otherwise be made.
The power of social media to help make community connections was a lesson that I believe the co-op learned this summer, when it was fortunate to have access to two great marketing interns. Along with their in-store activities, they focused much of their attention on boosting the co-op’s social media presence.
By most accounts, getting active on social media paid off. July had great sales, and disruption from Raymond Avenue construction was much less than anticipated in August. Of course, there are always many other factors that affect sales, but being engaged in the online space cannot have hurt.
But stepped-up efforts in social media will not matter if the physical store space does not deliver on the expectation set by the social media presence. This is the connection that was made for me while talking to customers as they entered the store earlier this summer. Maintaining social connections with members online is meaningless unless there is a store to deliver nutritious food in an environmentally and financially sustainable manner.
Store equipment upgrades
This leads me to the second thing I am thinking about leading up to the annual meeting: upgrades to the refrigerator and freezer units.
One of the many reasons people shop at the co-op is that food is sourced from producers who care about the environment. And yet, the co-op realized that it could do even better by the environment by presenting the food in more efficient, upgraded equipment that uses less energy.
That is why the co-op has worked hard over the last couple of months to procure financing to replace the current refrigerator and freezer units. The upgrades will likely be scheduled for just after the holiday season, and the lower energy bills will start shortly after installation.
Only by keeping store facilities up-to-date will the co-op capitalize on advances made in the social media space. An online and social media presence sets certain expectations. Investing in sound equipment is one way the co-op can meet the expectations.
So, next time you are on Facebook or Twitter, check out what is happening in the co-op. And next time you are in the store, check out some of the big and small changes the co-op is making and share your thoughts on the co-op’s social media pages. (Facebook: www.facebook.com/hampdenparkcoop ; Twitter: @hampdenparkcoop).
[Jesse Winsell is chair of the Hampden Park Co-op board of directors.]