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The importance of understanding the shopping missions happening in your store, and across channels, can make a big difference to sales.
Getting started can be as simple as spending some time thinking about what you see each day and then formulating key insights from these observations, which could help you unlock incremental sales and win further customer loyalty — or share of wallet, at the very least.
To determine which shopping missions are underdeveloped or missing from your convenience store, here are some simple questions that can pinpoint actions you may need to take to adjust your offer.
WHAT IS YOUR LOCATION?
This may seem overly simplistic, but can have significant implications for your choice of action. If you’re out of town on a major highway, then it’s likely the majority of your customers will be in transit, professional drivers, commuters or vacationers. If you’re in a more residential area, then commuters, tradespeople and local residents will make up the bulk of your customers.
Consider who your competitors are. What’s their offer and do they complement or compete with what you sell? Just because you’re next to a diner, that doesn’t preclude you from selling food and beverages to go. If you’re located within or very close to residential areas, this could have a big impact if you consider the shopping missions local residents may be willing to undertake in your store.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
The first question on location has partially answered this for you, but now focus on the percentage splits of those customers. How many professional drivers are passing through on a regular basis? Do you have a set of regular commuters who appear like clockwork? Have you got local residents who come in for things they’ve run out of and need on short notice? Knowing who buys from you and how frequently can help determine what categories should be present in your assortment choices.
WHAT ITEMS ARE FREQUENTLY BEING PURCHASED TOGETHER?
If you’re a convenience store that sells fuel, then you’ll be expecting a majority of baskets to contain a gas purchase, but it’s worth looking more closely at those that don’t. What categories of items are bringing people to your store even when they’re not buying fuel? How important is lottery, and which items are most frequently purchased alongside the ticket?
Tobacco is likely another major purchase, and not stocking the brands customers want is the fastest way to send them to your competitors. Not every category, though, is so heavily brand-reliant, and trying to be all things to all people is doomed to failure. Yet failing to provide some of the more obvious complementary product pairings can mean lost customers.
My local convenience store (in London) manages to carry nine varieties of tomato, 21 flavors of yogurt, 12 of fresh cream, and yet despite selling sponge puddings not a single line of fresh custard. I’m forced to drive to the next fuel station with a food outlet attached to buy this product I’m seeking.
WHAT TIME OF DAY DO CERTAIN CUSTOMER TYPES AND FREQUENTLY PURCHASED COMPLEMENTARY ITEMS COME TOGETHER?
This is where the “rubber hits the road” — when you identify patterns that start to indicate the key missions taking place in your store. For one of our European retail partners, we identified that across the stores that were in or within easy walking distance of residential areas, baskets were a very different composition than those in city centers or out of town. Customers were using the convenience store element of their local gas station to “top up” during the week, mostly in the early evenings. With some focus on the key categories appearing in baskets in those stores, the assortments were increased and tailored to cater toward this behavior.
U.K. fuel retailers over the last few years have focused on investing in time-sensitive food offers: fresh- baked pastries (bought in and finished in-store) and coffee in the mornings; fresh made-to-order sandwiches later in the day, again with fresh coffee or tea.
Coffee itself is an interesting one, as bad coffee is simply bad coffee, but good coffee can have a major influence on where people choose to stop. Even convenience stores that don’t have the space for a branded coffee concession, such as Starbucks, can opt for a branded dispenser to deliver the same or very similar barista-quality cup of joe.
So, even without getting deep into Big Data, thinking through these questions can help you spot the shopping missions taking place in your store and highlight clear opportunities for maximizing sales from these visits. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, but do identify where you can optimize your offer.
Talk to your major suppliers, or wholesaler if you are part of a wider franchise, to find out what analysis may have already been conducted. Don’t miss out on the dollars that may already have been invested to determine which shopping missions are happening in which stores.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.