The c-store: A microcosm of retail marketing

Interested in recent findings on the in-store shopping experience?

Here is an article published by DDI, a Nielsen Media Company.  Author George Wishart analyzes a study conducted by Wesley Partners in-store intelligence partners Bill Dupre and Linda Brennan of In-Store Insights.

Here’s George’s article…

In-store marketing gets increasingly difficult when the entire shopping experience is only 103 seconds. How would you have to think about your environment differently, if that was the entire time a person was in the store, including walking in, shopping for desired items, paying the cashier and leaving?

In a recent study by In-Store Insights, a consultancy run by in-store veterans Bill Dupre and Linda Brennan, results confirmed that the average shopping experience in a convenience store is a mere 103 seconds. This is not surprising, given the definition of a channel where shoppers want to get in, purchase what they need and get out of the store quickly. Two things become clear. First, impressions are vital in convenience stores. The first instore destination visited is critical, because there is a very good chance that it will be the only destination visited (other than the checkout). The second critical issue is the stopping power of the marketing/display.

In-Store Insights data demonstrates the split-second decision making that consumers make when they are shopping. Most of the items are only shopped for about 1 second to 4 seconds—not much time. The coffee zone has longer dwell time, but stopping power is not very strong. The coffee items jump up to 9 seconds, only because the customer is actually making his coffee. On the other hand, hot dogs have high stopping power, but the average dwell is quite low, strongly suggesting either poor in-stock conditions or that the hot dog offerings are not meeting shopper expectations.

Unique Stop Unique Pass Stopping Power % Total Stop % Total Pass Avg. Dwell
Checkout 4,482 4,742 95% 95% 100% 44.12
Front-End 2,161 4,757 45% 46% 100% 13.36
Coffee 556 1,743 32% 12% 37% 9.00
Middle Aisle 492 1,358 36% 10% 29% 4.82
Refrigerator 439 882 50% 9% 19% 4.62
Soda 574 1,002 57% 12% 21% 4.23
Lotto 127 651 20% 3% 14% 2.56
Front Aisle 302 1,260 24% 6% 27% 2.42
ATM 112 581 19% 2% 12% 2.00
Back Aisle 265 1,421 19% 6% 30% 1.76
Fountain Drinks 241 788 31% 5% 17% 1.57
Hot Dogs 206 293 70% 4% 6% 1.29
Water 129 524 25% 3% 11% 0.81
Soda-Floor 54 501 11% 1% 11% 0.28

Source: Sapphiresky Image Marketing Inc./In-Store Insights Inc.

New questions arise with this data. In fact, further research is needed to determine if longer dwell time is the result of out-of-stocks, assortment issues, poor execution of signage/tags, confusing shelf set, etc.

According to Dupre, 71 percent of shoppers purchase two items or less per c-store trip. “One difference between c-stores and other retailers is, in c-stores, few customers go to the display. This is for two reasons. First, the categories that the customer wants are all close at hand, and secondly, cstore retailers use display space to inventory products, usually drinks, that the consumer would prefer to get cold from the refrigerated case,” Dupre says. “The c-store shopper is a shopper on steroids compared to other channels. They are prepared to spend just a couple of minutes in the store, and anything that jeopardizes this quick-trip mentality will result in an extremely frustrating experience.” The convenience store is a microcosm of retailing in general. If shoppers can’t find what they want, they leave the store. In other retailing channels, the customer could move on to the next aisle or department and buy nothing from your category—in addition to leaving the store.

Brennan, a partner at In-Store Insights, cites research that it takes about 7 seconds to shop an aisle in a grocery store.

c-store Digital Media

Therefore, just like in convenience stores, the marketing in an aisle must have stopping power, and the message must be clear and quickly communicated.

Brennan and Dupre have done research into displays in various channels. “We have done extensive research in the use of digital displays in-store, and too many clients want to have 15- and 30-second commercials on the digital sign,” Brennan says. “That is way too long for shoppers.” Recent research was conducted on a category where shoppers dwell for an average of 30 seconds before purchasing. Even with digital media planted squarely in that category, with shoppers’ faces 9 in. or less from the stimuli, shoppers will only engage with the media if it has a relevant message, and if it has the ability to getshoppers out of their “shopping mode.”

The research insights that Dupre and Brennan refer to are not new. For years, basic Marketing 101 says that the marketing message must have stopping power, clearly communicate the brand message, and provide the consumer with a way to get more information and have a dialog. The trouble is we keep forgetting these lessons. We need to keep reminding our teams, including the new recruits to marketing and the TV-trained art director who thinks he (or she) knows better, and help them get focused on the only thing that really matters—making those 103 seconds of shopping a productive, enjoyable experience.

A pioneer and consultant in the shopper marketing industry, George Wishart is the president and CEO of Edgewood Industries LLC. He shares his shopper marketing insights with DDI in this regularly appearing column.

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