The events of the past year have cemented the role of supermarkets as a force for good in local communities. From collection and distribution points for foodbanks, to makeshift vaccination and testing centres, they’ve shown how their sheer size and reach can improve the world around us.

With the continuing rise of online shopping and social media engagement, retailers can now create positive social and environmental impacts through their online communities, too. And some leading retailers are already using this ability to great effect.

Keeping People Active and Healthy Through Online Engagement

For many, sports clubs are an essential part of physical wellbeing – but they also provide an important social outlet for those who may otherwise face being isolated. In fact, 63% of UK sports club members join purely for the social opportunity and to be active with friends.

When the pandemic struck, thousands of clubs, swimming pools, leisure centres and gyms were forced to shut. These closures were felt worldwide – in Germany, over 90,000 sports clubs were forced to close, leaving people without access to the hubs that help them to keep active, healthy and socially engaged.

So, German retailer and CGF member, Rewe, decided to use its online presence to help fill this gap. The retailer created a huge buzz on social media around staying active and healthy during lockdown – creating more than 23,000 of their own posts and some 7,000 promotional videos across Instagram and Facebook. The activity encouraged people to share their own videos and images and in doing so create an online community that was highly connected – all in all, the campaign received over 41.2 million social media engagements.

Through this activity, Rewe has laid down a marker for how retailers can leverage their online community to be a force for good and step in when they’re needed most.

Creating an Environmental Buzz on Social Media

Supermarkets can also encourage shoppers to create positive environmental impacts using their online communities. Belgian retailer, Delhaize, recently partnered with fellow CGF member tcc to create their ‘Unbeelievables’ campaign. The campaign aimed to raise shopper awareness of the challenges that bees face through the use of both online and offline rewards and content.

Delhaize gave seeds to shoppers and asked them to plant them at home to create bee-friendly gardens. Shoppers then posted pictures of their gardens to social media, creating a sense of community among those who wished to raise awareness for bees. Delhaize also released mobile games to keep children engaged and learning with the chance to win further prizes.

By raising awareness for bees, Delhaize has successfully created a scenario in which online community filters into real-world impact. And its partnership which sits at the heart of what makes this possible.

The Value of Partnership in Creating Social and Environmental Impact

When retailers join forces with partners such as charities and loyalty marketers to create social and environmental impact, these partnerships only serve to bring more people together to support common causes. Retailers also benefit from the skills and experience that these partners bring – which, in tandem with a retailer’s large audience, creates campaigns that effect lasting, positive change across both social and environmental issues.

Nurturing online communities can be a difficult task. Yet in some cases, leveraging online communities can have more of an impact than local communities – reaching a far wider and more diverse audience to create movements that spread across countries.