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Recognizing that c-stores need round-the-clock access to region-specific market data to thrive in today’s quickly evolving retail arena, ConAgra Foods launched its new, customer-focused website (ConAgraFoodsConvenience.com) just before the 2014 NACS Show in October.
The site—developed by the company’s category management team—delivers everything from best-in-class plan-o-gram recommendations to category insights to regional ranking reports of top-selling items for the growing and increasingly important meat snacks and seeds categories.
“In a class of trade where the majority of outlets are independents, manufacturers and distributors may not have the opportunity to provide all convenience store retailers with the hands-on service, resources and recommendations needed for these stores to win in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace,” says Mark Sumner, ConAgra Foods’ director of category planning. “However, with technology, we now have the opportunity to reach ALL retailers. Our website provides chains and independents alike 24-hour access every day to category recommendations and consumer insights that will allow them to make the best decisions to drive category sales and profit growth.”
Specifics of the Site
Because customers’ snacking preferences vary by state and by region, ConAgra tailored the website to address the specific needs of stores in various parts of the country. It presents the kind of targeted information not readily available to c-stores, and especially not to independent operators.
“Not all markets or regions of the country are created equal. The assortment mix in the Sunflower Seed category, for instance, needs to be much different in California than it is in the Northeast,” Sumner explains. “Our website provides market specific recommendations for assortment and schematics based on dollar sales and trends, all incrementally specific to the eight IRI regions in the U.S.”
The site also takes space constraints c-store retailers typically face into consideration by offering recommendations for the most common schematic sizes seen in the marketplace today. “This is an objective recommendation for all retailers to carry proven sellers in their specific market,” Sumner says.
Other perks include an email that connects retailers with a ConAgra Foods’ category management expert, plus access to ConAgra’s existing product portfolio and to new items (such as DAVID Sweet & Salty and Sweet & Spicy Sunflower Seeds, and Slim Jim in Giant Crack’d Pepper, Giant Sweet & Hot, Monster Savage Salsa, and Monster Roadhouse Chili flavors).
“This ensures the retailers have the products shoppers want and expect from their local c-stores,” Sumner notes.
A Positive Response
In the four months since ConAgraFoodsConvenience.com went live, c-store operators have been accessing the site in ways that have pleased the ConAgra Foods team.
“We’ve been happy with the usage of the site so far. Even more encouraging is that the users who have signed up for our site are exploring the entire site!” Sumner reports.
Merchandising Solutions, CAG Product Portfolio, and Market Specific Assortment recommendations in the Category Management section are pages users most frequently visit, according to Sumner. Combined, those pages provide insights that can increase holding power, reduce clutter, expose greater variety of products, and give operators the ability to manage variety snacks in a way that will generate growth and efficiency and prevent losing sales to other channels.
“Input has been very positive so far, but we know that to continue to meet our customers’ expectations, we must maintain our website and update it consistently with the most current data and recommendations to maintain relevant in today’s dynamic environment,” Sumner says.
To offer retailers the most up-to-date assortment and schematic recommendations, as well as to provide c-store customers information about new ConAgra Foods products, the company plans to update the site at least once every 6 months. The timing, Sumner says, will allow ConAgra to measure and take into account marketplace trends, and to coordinate site updates with standard New Item launch windows.
Ultimately, the company plans to expand ConAgraFoodsConvenience.com beyond Meat Snacks and Seeds by adding information about Salty Snacks, and possibly even Grocery and Frozen categories–areas in which ConAgra Foods is also a major vendor. In addition, input from c-store operators will help drive future content.
Says Sumner: “We encourage users of the site to proactively use our site and suggest areas of improvement, or to share how they have used the site so that we can continue to improve and deliver to our customers the best information possible to drive sustainable category growth!”