I swear I’m not crazy.
My go-to icebreaker fun fact when I first came to college was, “I work in the Wegmans Bakery!” I was under the impression that everyone understood my love for Wegmans, because that’s the culture I grew up in. I was wrong. People outside the radius of Wegmans’ 92 stores don’t quite understand the hype. They all think I’m crazy.
As a lifelong resident of Rochester, New York, and a frequenter and employee of the flagship Wegmans Food Markets in Pittsford, I’ve grown up alongside a cult-like devotion to this grocery store. In Western New York, it’s almost blasphemous to shop anywhere other than Wegmans. It’s not just a supermarket, it’s a lifestyle. When you need to meet up with a friend, you meet in Wegmans café. When tourists come to Rochester, one of their first stops is Wegmans.
Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen. He was #1. So is Wegmans.
Now, this crazy devotion is based on real reasons. Wegmans has been voted the #1 grocery store in America, the #1 best place to work in America, the #1 pharmacy in America, #1 corporate reputation in America, and the #1 overall retailer in America. That’s wild.
Each location is sprawling—about the size of 8-10 supermarkets combined. It’s designed like an open-air European market, which makes the shopping experience enjoyable. Some customers experience a sensory overload, but many love the overwhelming possibilities. Employees are meticulously recruited and intensively trained to provide exceptional customer service. And while Wegmans stocks mountains of organic food and are the largest gluten-free seller, their prices are 10-15% lower than competitors.
Wegmans is mostly vertically integrated, and they own their distribution warehouses. They’ve been investing heavily in internal digital improvements, such as a 2006 data synchronization improvement which increased productivity by 7% and saved $1 million in labor costs yearly.
So, what has Wegmans been up to lately in the digital world? How is their social media presence? Actually, not so great. I found some areas for real improvement, so let’s dig in.
When people don’t know how to contact Wegmans, they go to Twitter. Wegmans has amassed 169K followers, and keep in mind they only have 92 stores. Of their 60.6K tweets, most are responses to customers. Recently, they’ve only been tweeting new content about once a week. They have been very responsive to compliments and complaints. Wegmans’ responses are always professional and understanding, often forwarding the customer to another link for further help on their issue. Responding to and resolving issues quickly ensures that Wegmans doesn’t lose loyal customers because of one bad experience.
One downside to Wegmans’ responsiveness is the very nature of Twitter’s mobile interface. While on desktop, tweets are sorted by original tweets vs tweets and replies, the mobile interface groups them all together. This means that if a customer is exploring Wegmans’ Twitter account on their phone, they will have to wade through a sea of responses in order to discover the few content gems. While Wegmans cannot change Twitter’s mobile structure, they can attempt to combat this by putting out more content. Tweeting once a week is not sufficient to drive real engagement.
Although this data is from 2015, it shows that Wegmans is really struggling with engagement. To improve engagement, Wegmans needs to produce content that customers care about more frequently, while using high quality images and linking to more information.
Interestingly, while I searching for the official Wegmans Twitter account, I found an abundance of fan accounts, such as @weggysbible, @LuvWegmans, and @WegmansHoe. These fan accounts are great examples of customers’ extreme devotion to Wegmans. They can leverage a social media fan base like this. By putting out more fun, cultish Wegmans content, they will digitally connect with all the Wegamaniacs.
Hold on, let me take a picture for the gram.
Instagram is a treasure trove for #FoodPorn. One might think that supermarkets would jump at the opportunity to engage customers on Instagram, but in 2015, supermarkets had a relatively low presence on Instagram, Wegmans included. As of today, Wegmans a shockingly low 2,176 followers, and it appears as if they restarted their account from scratch, as their first post was mere 2 weeks ago.
Wegmans has huge potential for engagement on Instagram. As Ulker mentioned in her blog, Starbucks gamifies the Instagram experience by reposting user-generated content. Wegmans could use this same strategy to incentivize customers to post the perfect photo of their food in the hopes of being featured. There are already so many Wegmans fan accounts, such as @weggies_subs, @WegmansDoesItAgain, @WegmansFanClub, and @WegmansWhatsGood. This shows that users are excited about Wegmans and want to post pictures about it.
Like us on Facebook
The Wegmans Facebook has over 355,000 likes, and they share content somewhat more frequently on Twitter. Content receives relatively high engagement rates, especially compared to Twitter. One problem is the visibility of negative comments. While deleting negative comments is usually a bad idea, strategically hiding these comments might be beneficial. There is no easy way for customers to submit complaints via Wegmans’ Facebook page, so many customers resort to voicing their concerns in the comments on Wegmans’ posts. Wegmans responds promptly and professionally, but Facebook’s structure ensures that these comments are immediately visible to anyone scrolling past that post. While Wegmans can’t change this feature, they can pin a post to make it clear where customers can submit complaints and requests. This won’t eliminate the problem of comment negativity, but it should diffuse it a bit.
Additionally, the CEO of Wegmans, Danny Wegman, does not have a social media presence. He is regarded as a celebrity in the Wegmans world. Despite not having a Twitter or Instagram, he is mentioned in hashtags such as #dannywegmanistheman #dannywegmanownsmybankaccount #dannywegmanftw #dannywegmanisbae and many more.
He stops by the flagship store every Saturday to do his shopping, and he is consistently flanked by a posse of star-struck customers dying for a chance to speak to Mr. Wegman. By developing a social media presence, Danny could become much more present representation of the family-owned Wegmans brand.
Supermarket with Supermedia
Wegmans also has a strong presence on YouTube and Pinterest, where they share videos and pictures of fun recipes. They also developed an app, which helps customers create a shopping list, find items in the store, and browse recipes. By harnessing these platforms, as well as sharing more universally enjoyable content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, Wegmans will not only please their loyal customers in the digital world, but will build brand awareness for non-customers who stumble across their posts.
With their strong fan base, there’s no question that Wegmans will maintain their #1 position. It’ll be difficult to reach quite that level of extreme loyalty without first stepping up their social media accounts, and letting the Wegamaniacs explore even more Wegmans content online.