Spotlight on the Shopper

Research council focuses on upping sales.

Erin Pressley, Vice President, Publishing, NACS

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Want to learn the secrets of selling more in an increasingly competitive world of convenience retailing? NACS State of the Industry attendees were privy to the answer when Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes senior executive vice president Fran Duskiewicz unveiled the most recent NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) report, “C-Growth: Using Shopper Research to Grow C-Store Sales.”

This research “is the great opportunity that exists within the industry,” Duskiewicz said as he introduced the concept of shopper research. While consumer data is readily available, detailing the age, gender and income of people who buy products in our stores, he said, how do we approach learning more about the shopper and the opportunities that research can present?

The objectives of shopper research and consumer research are very different, he explained. Most notable is the shift in focus from demographic and customer research (scan and transactional data)to shopper research (an exploration of motivations and prejudices).

Shopper research is about understanding the shopping occasion. What do shoppers want/need/desire as they approach a shopping occasion (i.e., the door to your store)? How well does their current shopping experience satisfy those wants/needs/desires? The goal of shopper research is to identify ways to drive retail growth.

Alternatively, consumer research is about understanding product usage. What do consumers want from the product? How well does the product satisfy those wants and needs? The goal of consumer research is to find ways to drive brand growth.

Consumer research is far more common today, but shopper research is growing as retailers begin to understand how it can help them organize and implement business-building plans around the shopping experience.

“We wanted something that could change the industry,” Duskiewicz said, pointing out that shopper research is game changing for our industry today in the same way that category management altered the course of history for retailers in the late 1990s.

On-the-Go Insights

In his role as chair of the NACS/CCRRC, Duskiewicz helped ideate and refine the latest CCRRC report, which uses indepth qualitative research to identify five growth platforms for retailers.

The study debuted this past February and is based on research conducted by TNS Landis, part of a global insight, information and consultancy group. Building on past studies conducted by the NACS/CCRRC Council, the updated research is meant to guide c-store executives into a new era of competitive differentiation.

The shopper research that was conducted for this project indicated a strong opportunity for convenience retailers to play a key role in helping shoppers manage their life on the go—and to use this specialty to differentiate themselves from competing channels. C-stores already possess assets that align well with shoppers ‘busy lives: convenient locations and often fuel, a must-stop need.

If convenience retailers can think beyond the narrow definition of convenience(snacks, drinks and fuel, fast),and think more broadly about the needs shoppers bring to convenience shopping occasions, there’s a good chance they can find room to grow.

Two key life-on-the-go needs were identified through NACS/CCRRC shopper research. The report revealed that retailers can set themselves apart from competitors by creating engaging experiences and understanding that contemporary shoppers seek more control during their visits, as well as rewards—or a little of both. In addition to understanding the framework of products and services, it’s important to know how today’s on-the go individuals spend time in convenience stores. This kind of thinking adds a new dimension to marketing efforts.

High Five

The report also identifies five compelling platforms for retailers to explore and the reasons why people make purchases at convenience stores.

John Essigan, executive vice president of TDS Landis, the firm that conducted the shopper research, took to the stage after Duskiewicz and explained to the crowd the five platforms, which are based on the perceived strengths of convenience stores and what was learned about where shoppers would like to see improvement. Each platform addresses an element of control, reward or escape.

  • My Time: These shoppers seek stores where they can relax and browse. They don’t want to feel rushed, but once they’ve made their selections, they want on check out and depart quickly. Store layout and service are paramount to these shoppers.
  • Fresh Value Fast: Want to compete more effectively to satisfy shoppers ‘immediate hunger needs? Although busy, fresh-value-fast shoppers want to feel as if they are taking care of themselves and are not forced to sacrifice food quality. They desire fresh, made-to-order items, with toppings they personally select.
  • Female Friendly: C-stores with an interest in appealing to female shoppers can create an environment that feels comfortable and safe with professional staff who don’t infringe on personal space. This group of shoppers also is motivated by the reward of having a break in their day: time to look at magazines or enjoy a cup of coffee
  • Family Time: Money is tight for many families these days, yet they still seek affordable destinations. Set up your stores to offer reasonably priced treats the whole family can enjoy; include a clean, safe relaxing atmosphere with seating. It’s all about creating an attractive value proposition with emotional rewards for parents.
  • My Place: C-stores can turn up the heat with one of their primary targets —blue-collar males—by creating a place where they feel welcome and can connect with friends. Service, seating and that all important cup of coffee are primary components that address this shopper’s needs.

Building on past studies conducted by the council, the current report focuses on guiding c-store executives into a new era of competitive differentiation through study and exploitation of these five platforms.

Shopper research has the potential to alter the course of history for convenience retailers. Any company can examine the recommendations from the NACS/CCRRC study and find ways to grow, but the deeper effects are yet to come.

Engage in discussions about this topic by joining the NACS/CCRRC LinkedIngroup or follow the Council on [email protected]. In addition, read blogsabout the report at For more information visit


The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council conducts studies on issues that help retailers respond to the changing marketplace. The value of these studies rests with the fact that retailers define the objective and the scope of each project and “own” the process through the release of the study and dissemination to the broader retail community.


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