How Consumers Use Social Networks to Connect with Food Retailers: Expected Web Presence

Posted: June 18, 2012

A business has many Internet-based tools to choose from when connecting with customers. These include websites, email, and social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. In today's article you will learn what online or Internet tools survey respondents expect businesses to use.
(source: Microsoft Clip Art)

(source: Microsoft Clip Art)

Looking first at websites, nearly half of the survey participants responded that they felt it was mandatory for a food retailer to have a website that promoted food products while only 35% indicated that it was mandatory for the website to sell products through e-commerce (Table 1).  In regard to emails, 35% felt it was mandatory for the food retailer to have an email newsletter.  Meanwhile, only 26% felt it was mandatory for the business to send other types of emails, those not related to a newsletter.  As we looked at social media, we saw that about one in five indicated that they felt a Facebook Page or Profile was mandatory.  That figure falls to fewer than 10% for Twitter, blogs, and MySpace.

Table 1.  Components survey participants felt were mandatory for a food retailer.

Percent response
Website for promoting food products
Website for selling food products
Email newsletter
Email sent by the business
Facebook Page that consumers
may "like"
Facebook page
Twitter         8.5%
Blog         8.4%
MySpace page


As shown in Table 2, the expectations differed significantly across age groups.  The percent of those who felt that a website for selling products was mandatory increased with age while the percent of those who felt a Facebook page was mandatory decreased with age.  With respect to gender differences, more females (27.1%) were more likely than males (18.4%) expected a food retailer to have a Facebook Page.  Finally, those with a high school degree or less were significantly more likely than those with at least some college to believe that a Facebook Page was mandatory (Table 3).

Table 2.  Percent of participants, segmented by age group, who responded that they expected a food retailer to have a website for selling products and/or a Facebook Page.

Age group
Website for selling product
is mandatory
Facebook Page is mandatory
18 to 24
25 to 36
37 to 48
49 to 64
65 and older 
                 38.5%                        12.8%

 Table 3.  Percent of respondents by education level who thought a Facebook Page was mandatory for a food retailer.

Education level
Percent response
High school graduate or less
Some college
B.S. degree
M.S. degree or greater             
Some conclusions can be drawn from these results.  First, more participants expected a food retailer to have a website through which they could sell products than to have a Facebook Page.   As food retailers continue developing their online presence, they can search for updates on consumer social media participation and usage because we suspect that, over time, more people will expect a business to have a social media presence.  In our research, relatively few expected a food retailer to have a social media account.  However, for participants who expected a food retailer to have a social media presence, Facebook was the network they expected the retailer to use.  Therefore, Facebook should probably be the first tool to use if your business does not yet use social media.  Finally, results continue to indicate that younger people were more likely than older participants to expect a social media presence.  When designing a social media strategy for your business, the above findings along with your own research will help you reach your target audience.

In the next article, we will present data that discusses which tools respondents found useful in connecting with fruit and vegetable businesses.  To view the entire YouTube series, please visit



Contact Information

Jeffrey Hyde, Ph.D.
  • Associate Director of Programs
Phone: 814-865-5666
Kathy Kelley
  • Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Phone: 814-863-2196
Dana Ollendyke
  • Extension Associate
Phone: 814-863-5567