How the Cold Vault Customer Shops at a Convenience Store

VideoMining gives insights into shopper's journey to buy beer
Rajeev Sharma, founder and CEO of VideoMining
Photograph by CSP Staff

What’s one of the most influential parts of a convenience store? For Rajeev Sharma, founder and CEO of VideoMining, it’s the cold vault.

“The cold vault has a huge impact on overall behavior; therefore, how the cold vault is located with respect to checkout, with respect to other areas of the store, actually does matter,” Sharma (pictured above) said during a presentation in May at CSP’sCold Vault Forum in Schaumburg, Illinois.

State College, Pennsylvania-based VideoMining provides in-store shopper behavior data and insights to CPG manufacturers and retailers, creating visibility into the complete in-store path-to-purchase to help drive return on investment from investments in shopper marketing, category management and store/brand innovation.

Sharma shared an average c-store consumer’s journey before, at and after they visit the cold vault, using a beer customer as an example. The journey starts at the pump. But once a potential customer enters the store, where do they go?


More Cold Vault Forum Coverage:

Before the Vault

When looking at a beer shopper, 59% will shop beer first in the c-store, Sharma said, using data from the 2023 Convenience Channel Shopper Insights (CSI) Program. But 41% shop one or more categories before beer.

The most-shopped segments before beer include salty snacks (21%), water (17%), carbonated soft drinks (14%), confection (12%) and wine (11%), Sharma said.

Side aisles with key impulse items, like salty snacks, may not be getting their fair share of exposure from shoppers en route to the vault—so thinking through a customer’s route and secondary moments of exposure matter, like placing a smaller cooler by checkout.

At the Vault

The next stage is when the shopper is at the cold vault. Within this phase, there are three stages of shopper interaction with the cold vault: navigating, deliberating and selecting, Sharma said. Both deliberating and selecting fall into VideoMining’s description of actively shopping.

Navigation involves finding the right door, and then also navigating within that door for a specific drink.

“The important thing for the first part is really making it possible for people to be not so confused that they just simply walk away,” Sharma said. “Unfortunately, we are noticing a lot of that.”

Retailers need to consider, “How do you make it easy for shoppers?” he said.

When it comes to beer, the average c-store consumer spends about 7 seconds navigating the cold vault and 15 seconds actively shopping.

The average beer shopping time for those who actually buy the beer is 15 seconds, while the time for non-buyers is 14 seconds, Sharma said. Only about 4% of beer buyers read packaging labels at the shelf, he said.

After the Vault

After a beer shopper leaves the cold vault, here’s what happens: 50% shop one or more categories after beer, 30% go directly to checkout and 11% leave the store, CSI data shows.

The most common segments shopped after beer is fresh food (24%), salty snacks (13%), carbonated soft drinks (9%), energy drinks (7%) and confection (5%).

Tips to Take Home

Sharma gave three ways for category managers to leverage behavioral insights to win the cold vault:

  • Leverage trusted industry benchmarking and shopper behavioral data to galvanize data-driven decisions.
  • Build an ongoing cycle of testing and learning into your strategy development.
  • Collaborate across retailer/supplier lines to build innovative partnerships and co-create the future store.


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