Monitoring disruption in U.S. supermarket advertising

After many months of running online recruitment ads, global discount supermarket chain Lidl is opening its first U.S. locations this summer. According to Kantar Retail, the first stores are set to open in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. With a new competitor to take into account, how will the retail landscape change in these markets?


Kantar Retail reports that Lidl will have a rapid and significant impact from a sales perspective when it officially begins operations. Consequently, competing retailers have been strategically shifting their advertising tactics in these markets. Indeed, Kantar Media’s preliminary advertising spend estimates for Food Stores and Supermarkets (including chain and independent) for January-March 2017 versus January-March 2016 indicate the scale of the potential shifts in retailer advertising activity in Lidl’s initial markets.

Our analysis of Food Store and Supermarket expenditures includes 14 markets across Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina – primary regions for Lidl. We found that 11 of these markets had increases in spend versus 2016, with overall expenditures increasing 29% during the measured period. Of the markets analyzed Raleigh had the greatest gains, reaching $1.2 million of expenditures, an increase of 123 percent.

Messaging on the mark

Creating incentives for shoppers to remain loyal including digital coupons, retailer apps and reward programs may be an effective retailer tactic to blunt a new player in town. Additionally, reinforcing existing brand equity and commitment to local community may also provide differentiation.

An analysis of 2017 ad messaging by Lidl’s main competitors reveals some of their current strategies to strengthen and differentiate their brand position in advance of Lidl’s arrival.

Food Lion has been emphasizing “raising our standards without raising our prices” and savings through its “Shop and Earn” app:


Bi-Lo however has been focused on promoting its Plenti rewards program with ads featuring celebrity spokesperson Wayne Brady:


Other retailers have remained committed to their marketing messages in anticipation of Lidl’s market entry. Kroger continues to stress the message of fresh and affordable, Publix has been emphasizing community and Aldi has been busy promoting several grand openings of its own, as well as remodels in various markets.

Lidl’s entry into these U.S. markets will indeed have an impact on business at these and other competing retailers. Kantar Media will be closely monitoring weekly share of voice at the total store and category levels to understand how overall share of market and share of trip missions may change in response to this new competitive dynamic.

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