Should You Invest in Social Media For Your Web Site?

In this little story, you can put yourself in the driver seat of a real eCommerce business. And think through whether it makes sense for this business to invest into web 2.0 style, social media capabilities for its web site.

It turns out that the answer to this question may have a lot to do with good customer analytics.

But this post is just a teaser. The full article is planned to be published on in October. This teaser only describes the question really. The answer that is on my mind will be proposed in the full version of the article.

Hey, but maybe you can make a suggestion and help me shape that article with your opinion?

If you are a Manhattanite you will know Freshdirect, the online grocery. Their delivery trucks are seen throughout the residential areas of town. If you are not a New Yorker, then I am sorry that you are missing out on this most awesome of online grocery shopping experiences.

Freshdirect delivery truck

Most importantly, not just the web site but the end-to-end customer experience is terrific. Freshdirect delivers really good produce and even some of the best fresh fish in Manhattan. Their bananas come protected in bubble wrap. Should anything go wrong with a delivery, replacement arrives for free the next day.

As for Freshdirect’s web site, it has become really sophisticated over time. To minimize the time it takes to shop you can pull up your previous shopping carts and edit them. You can load the entire ingredients for recipes into your cart with a single click. There are suggestions of other items that you might also like.


Yet, one thing that you will not find on today is a Web 2.0 experience.

That is to say, there are no customer reviews, no recipes uploaded by customers, and no videos uploaded by customers to share their own take on Freshdirect’s recipes. Neither are there dinner clubs that allow home chefs to network with each other over Freshdirect meals.

Imagine now that you are a customer experience consultant brought in to advise Freshdirect’s CEO whether they should augment their web site with social media features vs. investing in other ways of growing the business (e.g., advertising, promotions, etc.) So should they do it?

A while back, I asked a room full of Manhattanites that question. And everybody agreed that the mentioned Web 2.0 features would be highly desirable for the customer experience. But then I asked the key question that Freshdirect’s CEO would probably want to know:

Would Freshdirect sell more groceries as a result of these Web 2.0 activities?

The room could not come up with an answer, and neither could I at that time.


Well, would more New Yorkers switch from shopping at brick & mortar groceries to shopping online because of the Web 2.0 capabilities?

Some probably. But it seems that most people’s preference would have a lot more to do with their life style, whether they have a car, or whether they prefer picking produce themselves. I could easily imagine some folks going to to participate in the social media while continuing to shop their groceries wherever they are used to doing.

Will Freshdirect’s existing customers buy more groceries because of the Web 2.0 features?

Probably not, we thought, because a person can only eat so much in any given day. So, how much more could they be shopping?

Therefore, to the room full of Manhattanites and me it seemed far from clear whether web 2.0 would offer a pay back to Freshdirect, besides offering a desirable customer experience.


Now since those days I have received an essential clue from a subject matter expert that shall be revealed in the next part. That insider information reshaped my recommendation to Freshdirect.

I didn’t just make up my mind on whether they should do it, but more importantly: How and Why.

But more shall not be revealed right now. Until the full version of this discussion appears on

Meanwhile, I’d be curious though: what do you think Freshdirect should do? 

4 Comments on “Should You Invest in Social Media For Your Web Site?

  1. Wholly cow! Thanks for sharing Bill. Very cool stuff that I hadn’t ever heard of. Looks like the D’Agustino stores are connected o the Ikan system to deliver on the shopping list.

    Do you happen to know people using this? I was wondering how their experience is. For stuff like Apples you wouldn’t scan anything when you run out but you would use the Ikan as a voice recorder and then manually put the apples onto the shopping cart online, if I understood correctly. So that part doesn’t sound like much of an improvement, but it is at least as good as anything else.

    It seem very conceivable even today that the Ikan would learn your preferences around produce over time and propose a shopping cart including the kind of apples that you tend to buy automatically.

    Wow. Halo!

  2. Wow! Internet and kitchen counter; that’s multichannel to the core!!

    We got an excellent online grocer here in Quebec, technically speaking. My wife and I (good incomes, no kids, spend a lot on food) tried it several times a few years ago. Although it was a flawless experience from online shopping to box content, it has always amazed me that it didn’t stick with us, even though I believe we were the target market. There are several reasons why that would take a long time to discuss.

    I am wondering if the Web 2.0 elements of the site would not encourage/stimulate **adoption**. You could argue that a simple customer feedback feature a la Bazaarvoice would do, and probably so. Maybe the Web 2.0 stuff would also help with customer retention, increasing the level of customer engagement (arrgh! that word again!) with the site.

    But I don’t know. Looking forward to the article!

  3. Hey Jacques, that is precisely the kind of question I had. There seem many reasons why some people prefer online grocery shopping while others don’t. Bill has pointed me to an article in the NY Times that observes the same.

    I still somehow doubt that the web 2.0 and feedback is sufficient to change that inclination in one direction or other. But that is just pure speculation.

    Instead of me guessing around, it would be awesome to learn from the D’Agustino store chain in Manhattan whether for example the IKAN thing has brought them many customers that weren’t doing delivery before. But some diligence would have to be applied to account for side effects that could skew their numbers. (e.g. people switching from getting delivery from Freshdirect to now getting delivery from D’Agustino because of their IKAN connection)


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