The Moment of Truth

Two c-store industry programs provide timely, valuable shopper insights.

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On the final day of the summit, attendees learned even more about the value of understanding their consumers with an exclusive look at findings from two shopper insight programs: the NACS Convenience Tracking Program (CTP) and C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI).

“We know intuitively that we’re an impulse channel,” said Leroy Kelsey, NACS director of industry analytics, who oversees the NACS CTP. Eighty percent of the merchandise that c-store ssell is consumed within the first hour of purchase, he said. What’s important, however, is being able to quantify this key c-store characteristic. “Our battle isn’t fought in the future—it’s fought in the now. We’re an immediate channel, so we need moment-of-truth insights” gained through customer interviews and observations, he said.

Teeing up the insights, Kelsey explained that NACS CTP collects insights based on customer perception; experiential factors; opportunity gaps and conversion rates for specific categories; category drivers/destination categories; and effective forms of promotion that customers find most engaging. CSI collects metrics based on observations inside the store and the physical path to purchase.

Kelsey shared CTP data that shows difference between a customer’s intended spend and actual spend, known as “the gap.” This gap gets larger when drilled down to women vs. men. “What’s key is the incremental potential: 56 cents higher[female] compared to 36 cents higher[male],” and this metric speaks volumes for retailers who want to attract, retain and grow their female shopper base, he said. (See chart on p. 42.)

Rajeev Sharma, founder of VideoMining, explained how the technology-based, in-store analytics tool powers CSI data and “fills a blind spot in the industry” with results that show what shoppers actually do in the store.“That’s the behavior you’re trying to influence,” he said.

Sharma explained that the VideoMining software automates the process of watching hours upon hours of video of what shoppers are doing inside the store and measures aspects of behavior and demographics, which in turn creates a scalable and robust process for understanding the shopper decision process, as well as quantifying the effect of different marketing and merchandising elements. “Every trip tells a story—if you are watching carefully,” he said.

‘On a Mission’

Also, it’s not enough to observe isolated areas within the store.“You need to understand the entire journey” from when the customer comes into the store to the checkout, Sharma said, citing that that the data reveals opportunities for retailers to influence shopping behavior, as well as understand what’s going on during the customer’s shopping trip. Many c-store customers are clearly “on a mission” to reach their destination category, meaning that it’s often difficult to interrupt them.

“Don’t bother getting in their way,” Sharma said, suggesting that retailers could use other categories to reach these customers at “the moment they turn around” to drive incremental sales.

Both programs, Kelsey said, are designed to capture actionable shopper insights that help retailers increase brand equity and customer loyalty, and ultimately grow sales and gross profit dollars.

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