Mapping the Path to Purchase

Heat maps reveal how c-store layout directs customers’ purchase behavior

By 
Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

VideoMining c-store heat-map results

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The path to purchase has never been clearer.

For the past six years, VideoMining Corp., State College, Pa., has harnessed heat-mapping technology to track convenience-store customers’ shopping behavior in its annual C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI) program. For the 2014 program, eight retail chains had one or more stores outfitted with ceiling-mounted cameras to follow their customers’ journey through the aisles. They included Circle K, Thorntons, BP America’s ampm, Holiday Stationstores, Maverik, RaceTrac, Giant Eagle’s GetGo and Cumberland Farms.

The retailers also shared point-of-sale (POS) data with VideoMining, which, with the help of proprietary software, correlated the store traffic with purchase behavior. Exit interviews with customers provided additional insight.

Click here for an exclusive look at the data results.

The heat maps provide an especially compelling demonstration of how much layout, merchandising and signage influence the path of customers through the store, as well as whether they make a purchase and how much they spend. With this knowledge, a retailer can tweak its approach said Gwen Forman, senior vice president of marketing at Cumberland Farms convenience stores, Framingham, Mass. One of its sites showed that customers were not venturing as deep into the store as they could.

“We need to look into why that might be,” said Forman. “Are there things we can do to make the backend of the store more exciting for customers? Our stores have a foodservice and non-foodservice side, and foodservice seems to get more traffic. We are challenging ourselves to make it more enticing on the other side.”

Through heat mapping in the VideoMining study, Maverik Inc. learned that customers were going to either one side of the store or the other, said Maria Correa, customer research analyst at the 260-convenience-store chain. “One of the main things we have accomplished was to have a better store [layout] for our customers, in a way that they can go through whole store and not be divided by one side or the other. We also have more meaningful promotions—we actually have less promotions—and have a cleaner store now that we know it’s not necessary to have a lot of promotions and POP in the store to call customers’ attention.”

Following are three common store layouts heat-mapped by VideoMining in its 2014 study, and how they influenced their shopper-to-buyer conversion and basket size.

Click here for more from the research.