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A Look at the Digital Marketing of the UK’s Top 5 Supermarkets

There probably isn’t a day goes by where you don’t see some form of marketing by the traditional ‘big four’ supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons), and relative newcomer, Aldi. Supermarket marketing is just so dominant these days that it feels like it’s part of our everyday lives. The aforementioned five stores represent the biggest supermarkets in the UK by market share and in this article, we summarise how well they’re performing digitally as well as how they compare to one another.


Market Share: (27.8%)

Tesco has recovered remarkably well over the past couple of years after a period of bad publicity and controversy. The ‘horsemeat scandal’ and reports of large corporate fines hit national headlines and resulted in a growing negative public perception and a lull in sales. A new digital approach to marketing was swiftly crafted in order to reach new audiences and offer hesitant shoppers authenticity and relatable content. This was spearheaded by the successful ‘Food Love Stories’ campaign.

Tesco also has an innovative approach to social media. As mentioned by Fast Web Media, Tesco’s approach to customer service via social media is to have a humorous and quick-witted tone of voice; to calm potential disgruntled customers but also to have a resonant personality shoppers can relate to.

The supermarket giant has another effective approach to its social strategy. Below is an example of how Tesco implements reactive marketing. Knowing the popularity of Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off, Tesco’s social team, with the use of GIFs, pushed a recipe in an effort to drive sales with an authentic tone of voice. The tactic was part of a wider strategy and helps the brand look up to date on events important to its customers.


Market Share: (15.8%)

The marketing speciality for Sainsbury’s is undoubtedly TV ads, specifically Christmas ads. The company has rolled out some very famous Christmas adverts in recent years and last year beat iconic Christmas favourites such as John Lewis and M&S to the ‘Christmas advert of the year’ accolade. Featuring the voice of TV personality James Corden, the heartwarming animated ad titled ‘Tale of Father’ also topped YouTube‘s leaderboard for the highest number of UK views and has currently amassed an impressive 17.8 million views.

The video was followed up by a number of sequel videos and social media campaigns, further underlining the value of campaigns like this to a supermarket. Essentially, Sainsbury’s took this as its centrepiece, its hero piece of content, and built much more around it. It became something of a content engine in itself, as great adverts so often can.

Beyond this campaign has been Sainsbury’s core campaign, Food Dancing, which like the Tesco Food Love Stories activity, has sought to inspire people’s love of food with recipe-based content delivered digitally.


Market Share: (15.3%)

Asda’s approach to Digital Marketing is arguably the most unique out of all the top 5 UK supermarkets because there isn’t much of a focus on food. Instead, Asda has opted to go down the route of building a solid brand image that leads with strong ethics and values.

As the below example shows, the emphasis is firmly placed on its real-life staff who are depicted as heroic and helpful figures carrying out their daily tasks whilst assisting shoppers. It helps the brand build itself as ‘more than just a supermarket’.

Perhaps this dynamic approach has been pushed because we’re in a time where food retailers have faced very public bad press, thus leading to falling shopper confidence. As well as pricing, brand loyalty is one of the key factors that determine where a shopper will do their weekly shop, therefore Asda’s digital marketing approach is certainly geared for long-term success.

Asda customer Emma paid a special visit to our Hyde store to say a big thank you to our optician colleagues who spotted…

Posted by Asda on Sunday, October 15, 2017


Market Share: (10.4%)

Morrisons recorded the strongest growth (3.7pc), according to the latest research from Kantar Worldpanel. After a long process of rebranding and adapting to changing consumer behaviour, which led to them moving away from the celebrity-driven marketing tactics of the past (when Ant and Dec were brand ambassadors), Morrisons now prioritises its basic brand values – such as low prices and fresh food made on site.

Its latest TV ad features shoppers and 23 members of real-life Morrisons staff dancing to Elvis Presley’s Way Down. It celebrates the supermarket brand’s price-cutting strategy whilst also placing its staff at the heart of its advertising and giving shoppers an authentic brand image. This has undoubtedly aided its impressive growth rates.

Overall, Morrisons’ digital marketing carries the same theme. The ditching of the forced morals of celebrity partnerships in favour of sincerity is something that can seen across its entire digital marketing strategy; ‘Morrison’s makes it’, being the clearest indication. Also simple recipe marketing determined by seasonality is at the forefront of Morrisons’ digital marketing vision.


Market Share: (7%)

Aldi is the ‘newcomer’ – a European import that’s challenging the UK’s traditional ‘big four’ with rapid expansion nationwide accompanied by a series of bold marketing campaigns aiming to etch the brand ethos into the minds of Brits of all backgrounds. Aldi is best known for its no-frills comparative marketing campaigns, which really kickstarted its ascent.

A Comparison of the Digital Marketing Activity of the UK's Top 5 Supermarkets | mporium

After a handful of legal battles with fellow retailers such as Morrisons for potentially misleading ads that included competitor names, Aldi now opts for a more reserved and rustic approach to digital marketing, with recipe cooking and engaging, inclusive content being the main focus. This is all leveraged digitally, and its success is clearly seen through Aldi’s appearance on this list.

Overall Search Performance

Unsurprisingly considering it’s the current market leader, Tesco is the top performer in terms of search. It’s interesting to see each supermarket’s market share does not necessarily affect its overall search engine performance. Aldi is the prime example of this:  ranked fifth in terms of market share, it comes in at second place in terms of total volume of search traffic. This is unequivocal proof of how having a solid search marketing strategy is valuable for any brand.

Another key learning is that all supermarkets follow roughly the same trends throughout the year. The biggest spikes in search traffic are around Christmas and New Year, followed by smaller spikes around Easter and the British Summertime. These are the times of year supermarkets’ search marketing should be going into overdrive.

A Comparison of the Digital Marketing Activity of the UK's Top 5 Supermarkets | mporium


Although each of the top 5 UK supermarkets’ approach to digital marketing differ here and there, one common theme remains the same: digital marketing strategies and campaigns must be tailored to be adaptable and reactive to combat changing trends and consumer behaviours. Failure to do this will undoubtedly open the door for one of the other 11 food retailers outside the top 5 to take full advantage.

Get in touch with us today to see how you can reap the benefits of a solid and effective digital marketing strategy.  

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