General Merchandise/HBC

16 Ways Retailers Are Getting Creative With Merchandising & Marketing

C-store retailers unlock the secrets behind some of their most successful ideas

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- From new ways to pair products; to new demographics to woo; to testing the waters of delivery; to new and unusual menu items, beverages and general merchandise categories to consider, Convenience Store Products presents a plethora of ideas that convenience-store retailers are experimenting with and finding success.

the general

1.  A two-for that drives health and indulgence. Kum & Go has a new approach for enticing customers to sample its selection of healthy bars and chips. Last January, the West Des Moines, Iowa-based chain launched a two-for promotion that lets customers pair good-for-you items with those that are simply good-tasting.

The chain has seen various results depending on the combination. “If they buy a traditional candy item (standard or king), they can select a better-for-you or salty item within the ‘mix-and-match’ offer,” said Stephanie Poitry, category manager of candy, snacks and dairy. “We have seen higher lift on the new secondary item than on candy items.

“With bars, it was very much either two candy or two nutrition bars,” she continued. “With a salty item, we have seen more customers choosing one of each (healthy and traditional).”

One winning combination was a nutrition bar paired with Bigs seeds. Price points vary depending on the everyday retail of items, but a recent promotion allowed customers to pick two for $2.25.

The promotion has also helped bring healthy items to the checkout counter, and the chain will keep learning from the program, said Poitry: “We plan to continue to test various combinations in the future.”

2.  How the cleanest restrooms stay so darn clean. Each week, approximately three million people visit the restroom at a Kwik Trip store. And chances are, they’ll find it squeaky clean.

That might be a tough claim for many retailers to prove, but not for La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc. For one, Kwik Trip finished first in the Winsight/Service Intelligence 2015 Mystery Shop, clinching a score of 96.1% in a ranking of clean restrooms including some of the industry’s best chains.

For another, CEO Don Zietlow personally receives and responds to every restroom complaint; his name is posted, along with a special hotline number, in every restroom.

“When you go out to eat and the floor isn’t clean, or you go into the restroom and the restroom’s not clean, or the outside’s not clean, your perception may be: ‘How clean is the kitchen? How good is the food?’ ” said Zietlow.

Every Monday, Zietlow spends an hour speaking to customers who have called the dirty-restroom hotline, getting details of the problem and trying to leave them satisfied. “I call them up and try to turn the negative into a positive,” he said.

3.  Dealing with a new law? Ask for customers’ sympathy. Convenience-store retailers have enough pressure from local competition. Restrictive regulations only compound that pressure.

Just ask Andrea Myers, president of Seymour, Ind.-based Kocolene Marketing, who went into fire-drill mode in June to lock up her tobacco stock in 10 Fast Max c-stores. On July 1, a law took effect restricting self-serve tobacco/nicotine sales in “non-adult-only” Indiana stores.

Up until May, Myers and other retailers had lobbied to mitigate the law so that cigarettes and cigars might be spared, but that effort was quashed. So Myers rushed to make the store modifications in a month’s time.

To mollify customers during the conversion, Kocolene turned to education.

“We put up signs explaining the law and emphasizing that it’s out of our control, and that they should contact their state legislator to ask about why it was imposed,” said Myers.

Meanwhile, the chain installed aesthetically pleasing fixtures and other user-friendly components. “Customers can now get as close to tobacco as possible without breaking the law,” said Myers.

So what did they learn when the long arm of the law encroached on their business?

“Pay attention in advance … and be proactive,” she said.

4.  Delivering on delivery. Considering delivery but don’t want to deal with the infrastructure? Now’s your time. The tech world is teeming with third-party delivery startups aiming to bring fast, digital-based delivery to restaurants and retailers. Dallas-based 7-Eleven has signed on with two such services: DoorDash will begin offering delivery in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston, while Postmates is testing delivery with the retailer in San Francisco and Austin, Texas.

The DoorDash partnership includes in-store marketing, local promotions and the availability of Convenience Packs—groups of commonly purchased 7-Eleven products for added convenience.

5.  Catering to the right fuel buyer. Superior Petroleum Co. has created segmented messaging on its fuel dispensers using Wayne and GSTV’s inOvationTV Media Platform after determining that video content for female customers should focus on weather and news, while content aimed toward men is best targeted to in-store deals.

“Women are more likely to travel with children in the vehicle and more likely to pay at the pump,” said Milo Ritton, CEO of the Pittsburgh-based brand. “Men, on the other hand, are convenience-store shoppers who are more likely to buy products.” The videos shown at the pump reflect as much, “providing a better fueling experience for women, as well as using media to drive men into the store."

For the full list of 16 ideas, click here to read the full story on Convenience Store Products’ new website.

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