In the proposed business model, a new Twitter post process was suggested. Part of the new workflow emphasized using Twitter to engage more substantively with current and potential customers through the use of trending topics. Additionally, the data resulting from the effort can inform marketing strategy. This analysis will focus on this part of the workflow by constructing a discrete event simulation flowchart and offering a sales strategy given the new business process.
As background, the meal kit industry faces many challenges including an inefficient supply chain, high unit costs, high customer acquisition costs, and low customer retention (Ladd, 2018). The novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the associated (and often state-mandated) social distancing has driven higher demand for meal kits which pushed Blue Apron stock to surge more than 70% to $6.55 (Cheng, 2020). The upward trend continued but appears to have leveled out around $11 as of mid-April 2020, which is still much lower than the stock’s peak of $140.10 in 2017.
Additionally, there’s no way of knowing whether the American appetite for meal kits will remain when social distancing regulations eventually ease. Problems like high customer acquisition costs and low customer retention will likely remain in the industry so therefore, it’s imperative that Blue Apron leverage the uptick in success into more profitable and scalable business processes that also cultivate brand loyalty. The best way to do this is in the specialty diet meal kit market, which is on the rise (Scalco, 2018). Since meal kits are so susceptible to customers leaving due to budget, targeting higher-income individuals through online marketing about specialty diets on social media could be very effective.
Emphasizing specialty diets could support substantial revisions to all the areas Ladd (2018) suggested by focusing the supply chain, marketing, and customer retention on the needs of people who are willing to spend more money on products and services that serve their nutrition/allergen needs and will be more loyal to companies that can serve those needs. This analysis will use discrete event simulation to help Blue Apron strategize its communications on Twitter, which is among the lowest cost changes that it can pursue to seed additional sales.
Figure 1 shows a detailed flowchart for the proposed new process.
Figure 1. Discrete event simulation for Blue Apron’s Twitter post process on specialty diets.
The image reveals a process that incorporates some key elements outlined by the Twitter analytics company Sprout Social (n.d.):
- Find your Twitter voice: What does Blue Apron have to say about food? What value can Blue Apron add to the discussion? For example, what tips could Blue Apron give that help those committed to a Mediterranean diet to leverage typical pantry ingredients since trips to the store are fewer and farther between?
- Use Twitter hashtags and trends: Explore popular hashtags. Ritetag.com is a good source for exploring hashtags along with metrics on tweets per hour, retweets per hour, and hashtag exposure per hour. A few popular food-related hashtags are #goodfood, #vegan, #recipes, and #getfood (“Food hashtags,” n.d.).
- Engage with your followers: Respond to comments and retweets in a timely fashion. Asking a question as a post can also be a good way to get engagement and get valuable insights for further marketing efforts.
The current sales strategy on Twitter of just posting attractive pictures of current recipes isn’t the best way to do new posts. Instead, a process that is more thoughtful about what’s happening today and what’s important to customers and potential customers is more profitable. People shouldn’t have to buy from a brand to benefit from a post. The post should give value in and of itself. This supports sales in multiple ways:
- Current customers feel heard and taken care of because online responses are more thorough, which prevents stopped subscriptions.
- Potential customers see that Blue Apron cares about its customer base and wants to give good service and listen to what the community needs, which lures new subscriptions.
- Increasing the virality of a post because it’s highly targeted and helpful expands a tweet’s exposure through retweets, which is free advertising that lures new subscriptions.
- Focusing on the specialty diet market allows Blue Apron to tap into a passionate food niche and that translates to passion for brands that deliver good products and services, which cultivates brand loyalty and reduces subscription cancellations.
The probability of success for this strategy is likely high as long as Blue Apron commits to making data-driven decisions. Engagement metrics that are watched closely will reveal patterns that, if incorporated, will lead to more engagement and loyalty among customers over time.