Avocados from Mexico Brings Educational Chatbot to Walmart
Avocados from Mexico partnered with Walmart for a springtime educational program leveraging chatbot technology and the trade group’s research to drive sales across the category.
As the avocado memes making the rounds on the Internet suggest, the “superfood” is very popular but can seem a little bit finicky: remaining rock-hard for days, avocados can ripen to perfection for a very brief window and quickly slide into overripe territory, causing frustration, waste and hesitation toward future purchases. AFM spent more than a year analyzing proprietary research, conducting additional in-depth custom research, and testing various techniques for ripening and preserving to better understand the educational needs necessary to combat the biggest barriers to purchase after price and selection.
“We had found out that Walmart was interested in education when we were joint selling in the program to them … 83% of Walmart shoppers would be likely to buy more avocados if they had more avocado info and knowledge, with the top two educational barriers to purchase being not understanding ripening and preserving,” AFM associate director, shopper marketing Dianne Le told the Path to Purchase Institute. “That was the genesis of the program itself.”
The trade group found that while heavy avocado users buy at different stages of ripeness for all types of meals and can adjust meals accordingly, light/medium users abandon planned meals if ripeness is not optimal. Understanding this and other key insights, AFM developed a strategy for education and a playbook for importers and retailers that has direction on copy, creative, how to go to market, as well as a “Ready When You’re Ready” communication platform for consumer-facing materials designed to engender confidence in the avocado buying experience.
“Our new push is not to just buy ripe avocados, but to buy for now and buy for later,” Le said. “That’s one of the biggest insights that we had and we also shared that with Walmart, which they loved.”
At Walmart, AFM addressed common purchase barriers by educating consumers on how to properly choose, store, ripen and preserve the fruit right at the shelf through a Facebook Messenger chatbot developed by AFM’s digital team. The chatbot shares tricks of the trade including preserving leftover avocado by using lime juice or olive oil to coat the exposed surface, accelerating ripening by storing avocados in a paper bag, and recipes ideal for various stages of ripeness.
“Walmart was the first retailer that we worked with exclusively,” Le said. “It’s just great to know that their strategies and their objectives align with what we’re trying to push and help educate the category in general.”
The Walmart program has three components:
- The AFM-branded chatbot itself,
- A channel strip touting the chatbot in stores, and
- Out-of-store support via digital media including sponsored Facebook updates.
“This was the second year for the chatbot and the channel strip,” Le said. “We also put a stronger media plan behind the program.”
The channel strip was deployed to all Walmart stores and placed near avocado displays in the produce department. It prompted shoppers with a “ready to select the right avocados?” message and invited them to text “avoguru” to a designated number to gain confidence regarding their selection. The limited texting component was new this year and allowed shoppers to engage via text message before being directed to the chatbot on Facebook Messenger.
“Walmart was very happy with [the chatbot],” AFM regional director and Walmart lead Tanya Edwards told the Institute. “It’s just really an innovative way to get information, and the shelf strips were up during the length of the campaign.”
From a retailer standpoint, the program helped grow the category and from a produce standpoint, it was an innovative way to deliver education.
The shelf strips were scheduled to remain in place from March until Cinco de Mayo but AFM is leaving the chatbot up year-round in case any stores choose to leave the signage up beyond the program’s prescribed length — not unusual at Walmart.
Other retailer also are leveraging AFM's Ready When You're Ready communication platform: the Institute spotted an Avocados from Mexico dump bin outfitted with a header card and side panel showing shoppers how to select, ripen, preserve and serve the fruit at Ahold Delhaize's Food Lion.
For the first time, AFM this year also pulled in Clorox Co.'s Glad for a co-op component that extended the educational aspect of teaching shoppers how to preserve avocados by using Glad Press'n Seal plastic wrap.
The base of the inaugural partnership was formed by layering the key insights that consumers often don’t use a whole avocado at once and that they may not know how to save the remaining portion with the knowledge that avocados last longer in the wrap.
“Consumer feel anxious about wasting the unused portion, so there’s opportunity to drive value for shoppers by increasing their confidence with education to ultimately drive purchase intent,” Le said.
Running through the second week of June, the joint effort included 2,775 in-store sampling events at Walmart as well as Kroger, in-store signage (P2PI spotted a floor cling at Kroger's Smiths banner), robust social media activity and 1.49 million coupons distributed through DFSIs.
While AFM is still analyzing results, Le indicated that the program has been well received overall with the sampling events leading to at least a 40% lift in sales.
“We had some good learnings this year … and we’re trying to figure out how do we one-up ourselves for next year,” Le said.