As many have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, bakeries need to have an active and authentic online presence to stay on the minds of customers. With new platforms like TikTok emerging, there have never been more opportunities to reach a customer base.

As part of the IBIE 2022’s education platform, Alexis Gilbert, Senior Director, Global Brand and Communication at Dawn Foods, shared how bakers can leverage these tools and platforms to drive traffic and sales on Saturday, September 17 during a session titled “Breaking Through the Digital Noise: Strategies, Tactics and Tools to Get Your Bakery Noticed Online.”

Gilbert recently discussed how bakers can drive their business forward in this digital age.

How have consumers changed in how they find and engage with businesses?

Alexis Gilbert: Throughout the pandemic, we’ve witnessed a rise in consumers leaning more heavily into online channels, engaging with businesses digitally through social media and visiting websites to learn more, all while prioritizing efficiency and convenience. In a recent Salesforce survey, 85% of consumers conduct research before they make a purchase online, and among the most used channels for research are websites (74%) and social media (38%).

Because of this, bakeries had to pivot toward these online tools to better reach and engage customers. Many bakers have made significant progress throughout the pandemic, adapting to a more digitized experience and incorporating services like online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery to better serve their customers, all while still maintaining and promoting a desirable in-store experience.

We’ve also seen consumer appetite grow in terms of understanding what a business stands for – what their values are, what sets them apart from other businesses, and even how they are sourcing their ingredients. Having a clear understanding of this as a business and communicating each of these on your channels is becoming more and more important.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic push bakeries to have an active online presence?

We anticipate many consumer habits that were created during the pandemic to stick around. For example, customers still prefer the convenience that comes through options such as online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup.

As more customers rely on online channels, bakeries will have to adapt to stay ahead. Starting with the basics, this means maintaining a website so customers can easily find the bakery online and ensuring digital tools are in place such as online ordering to offer added convenience to customers.

What platforms work best for reaching today’s consumers?

Your business’s website is your ownable space online and where you’re driving consumers to from any social media channel you’re activating on. Ensuring everything your customer needs to know about your business and information on how to purchase your products are up to date is critical. Your website is your digital storefront and should be updated on a regular basis.

Once your website is in a good spot, claiming your Google Business listing, using Google My Business to update your offers and images regularly, as well as claiming and updating your Yelp profile are also ways that make it easier for customers to engage with and buy from you.

For social media, different channels can provide a better business return over others. The good thing is, anything can be content – preparing for the day’s bake, sharing limited-time offers, showcasing your incredible staff – can all be used across all channels. To avoid becoming overwhelmed with options, set goals and benchmarks for the results you want to get out of each channel, and test out content options for each. If you do not have a dedicated marketing or social media team, having an updated profile and account on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tik Tok is great from a searchability standpoint. Ensuring your website and contact information is accurate is a minimum requirement. From there, it’s about testing out which content is producing the results you’re looking for like driving traffic to your store and website, sign-ups for loyalty programs, or coupon redemption.

How can bakeries use those platforms to drive traffic and increase sales?

The goal of any tool or social media account is to make finding and ordering from a business easier for the customer. Making sure your location, hours and menus are up to date are the most important things to keep updated on a regular basis. If you use third-party delivery tools or partners, keeping your profile for those tools accurate ensures customers get the information they need to make an informed purchase. For social media, linking to where customers can get more information and learn about your products is critical. Sites to create unique links or QR codes are helpful when measuring actions against your efforts. On your business’s Facebook page, for example, customizing your call-to-action button to be ‘shop now’ or ‘learn more’ are simple ways to drive traffic to the point of purchase.