Giant Eagle Partners With Braze to Keep Communities Informed in the Face of an Evolving COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Giant Eagle is the go-to neighborhood food, fuel and pharmacy retailer for customers across five midwestern states. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 474-store retailer has striven to be a helpful resource, building out an SMS campaign to help customers schedule vaccine appointments and driving 73,000 subscriber actions in the first three weeks.

Founded in 1918 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Giant Eagle has 474 stores across Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, and Maryland. Giant Eagle sees itself as the local neighborhood grocery store—where shoppers are treated like family.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Giant Eagle has used SMS to keep customers informed about fast-changing store operating activities and product availability. When the time came to help customers schedule COVID-19 vaccinations in Ohio and Pennsylvania Giant Eagle in-store pharmacies and at mass vaccination clinics, the company worked with Braze to scale out its SMS program, using Braze Canvas, our customer journey builder.

Building Trust and Community through Vaccine Notifications

As a trusted food, fuel and pharmacy retailer, Giant Eagle knew customers would be relying on the company to provide up-to-date information during the pandemic. Since this time-sensitive information can change rapidly, many traditional marketing tactics like weekly circulars would not suffice. Because SMS worked well in the early days of the pandemic, Giant Eagle saw SMS as the ideal vehicle for keeping Ohio and Pennsylvania customers informed about vaccine availability and requirements—especially since vaccine doses were limited.

Giant Eagle kicked off the campaign by creating a Canvas that would customize and tailor each customers’ messages based on the information they were seeking. With 70,000 subscribers to start, including previous SMS subscribers plus customers who signed up via email and web channels, Giant Eagle was ready to create unique journeys for every SMS recipient.

To simulate conversations, the Braze Canvas can listen for keywords entered by customers, such as “vaccine” or “schedule,” and respond with relevant information. Using Canvas, Giant Eagle’s marketing operations team can easily change messages on the fly as needed—for example, in one Canvas setup, any user that responds with “OH” would receive Ohio specific information. As the information could change at any moment, the ability to quickly update the messages was crucial to Giant Eagle.

“Braze is such an effective marketing tool that we had no hesitation in using it to share critical information about COVID-19 vaccinations at our pharmacies,” said Katie Shire-Engleman, VP of Growth and Retention at Giant Eagle. “Braze Canvas and SMS were the perfect combination for this outreach because they’re fast, customizable, and can be updated instantly as situations change.”

Giant Eagle Results: Increase in SMS Subscriber Activity and Engagement

By designing a conversational SMS journey that gives every customer tailored experience, Giant Eagle kept customers informed about where and how to schedule their vital vaccine appointments. Within just two weeks of starting the outreach, Giant Eagle saw nearly 57,000 unique subscriber entries—that is, users who entered the keyword “vaccine”—and more than 96,000 in total to date. Of those users, 40% continued the journey by responding with the keyword “schedule.”

Final Thoughts

Food retailers build trust with customers by lending a helping hand during difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic defines “difficult times” like no other in recent history, so becoming a trusted resource is critical to strengthening bonds with customers. The combined power of Braze Canvas and SMS ensures that messages arrive not only quickly and conveniently, but that they are tailored for each customer’s need for essential public health information.


To learn more about engaging with customers via SMS, watch our video, “What's SMS Marketing?”

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