The Power of Positive Interruption

Joe Vonder Haar, Co-Founder, iSee Store Innovations

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There are some nice benefits of working in today’s “virtual office.” A home office was the only viable option for a startup company such as mine, and the benefits are numerous. Bring­ing “casual” dress to a whole new level and minimizing the commute to the walk up the back stairs are at the top of my list. What I really like is having my perfect space to get focused. I have MLB Network on the TV, a little Sirius Radio on the Jam On or Real Jazz station, and my own coffee pot. I can get in the zone, in such a groove that soon every item on my to-do list will be crossed off.

Then it happens. The “home” part of the “home office” appears. The gentle voice of the love of my life calls from the base of the stairs, “Joe, when you get a chance …” (to be continued later). There goes the positive karma. Interrup­tion invariably derails momentum and draws silent scorn.

Info, not Irritation

Consider our convenience customers. More so than any retail channel, our customers abhor the interruption. We have all observed the customer entering the store, knowing exactly what he or she wants and hardly breaking stride on their daily quest for their favorite c-store product. Other channels pride themselves on show-stopping “power alleys” and “treasure hunts” to keep their customer entertained and intrigued dur­ing their “stay over” at the big-box store.

Published research via Anheuser- Busch’s Shopper Poll shows that 80% of c-store beer shoppers spend 10 seconds or less once they arrive at the beer doors before making a purchase. At that speed, you’d better get out of the way, or you risk getting run over by these thirsty cus­tomers. Who in their right mind would try to stop them on their mission and risk annoyance and scorn? If you are going to delay them, it darn well better be with good reason.

The dilemma is how to get value or new information to on-the-go custom­ers without irritating them. Merging proven merchandising techniques with new technology can ensure delivery of what’s new, and what values are avail­able that are outside of normal routine. Moving displays, in-store video, new racking, digital shelf tags and video at the pump all strive for that ever-elusive “positive interruption.” Successful solu­tions deliver messages on a customer-by-customer, need-to-know basis and leverage the multitasking tendencies of today’s society.

Attention, not Annoyance

So what’s new? Brad Call of Maverik Inc. in Utah recently shared the company’s new mobile app, which tracks specific customer purchase patterns and sends targeted, relevant product offers to their smartphones when they get within range of their favorite stores. It does it feel a bit “1984”-ish in that someone is tracking my location, but the app is a customer-initiated program.

Several high-tech companies recently announced modifications to their big-box loyalty programs by putting spe­cific value offers in c-store customers’ hands after their in-store missions are complete. That’s delivering value based on what the customer already wants or needs vs. delivering the same offer to everyone in the store.

At the NACS Show last year, multiple companies debuted a “digital door,” wherein the vault door is a video screen, with eye-popping visuals right at the point of purchase. While this is not an inexpensive proposition, it certainly has the potential to draw the customer to the vault door, then disappear to allow for the customer’s product selection.

These solutions get the attention of the customer without derailing the reason why they come to c-stores in the first place; they can provide immediate and relevant value. Anything else is an annoyance.

Meanwhile, back at the home office, the interruption proceeds … “Honey, can you check your email? I just sent you a link for free front-row seats for us to go to the Cardinals game tonight.” That is the kind of interruption that makes a good day even better! Making a customer’s good day a great day is what keeps them coming back.

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