Snacks & Candy

Evolved Category Management Helps Create Loyalty for C-Stores

Photograph: Shutterstock

Conversations about the pace of change at retail is often focused on grocery and large-format retailers, but understanding the scope of convenience-store shoppers’ needs is important, too.

Because shoppers spend less than three minutes inside c-stores, it’s important that retailers have the latest and most sought-after snacking products available in order to stay relevant and top of mind with consumers. Knowing where the opportunities lie for merchandising and how to maximize touch points, as well as how to communicate with customers—sometimes digitally—is equally complex.

That’s why the evolution of category management into retail shopper management is so important for c-stores. It’s expanding the role of category manager beyond overseeing consumers’ aisle experience to include leveraging deeper shopper insights. And when retailers partner with manufacturers to understand the total retail experience, they can unlock growth for their stores.

Category advisers, by their nature, tend to have a broad view of what’s happening outside of the store as well as what’s working within the aisle. Those are valuable insights that they’re able to share with retailers to help them offer convenience and improve customer experiences, which can help build shopper loyalty.

Retailers have valuable real-time data about their consumers’ shopping behaviors and purchases. When they opt to share that information with manufacturers, the insights can be powerful in driving more profitable growth.

Take the front end of the store, for example. At grocery and large-format stores, there’s been a point-of-sale evolution from traditional checkout to self-checkout. Many retailers don’t realize that when they transition to self-checkout, they often overlook a number of merchandising touch points near the checkout lanes. The shopper is still looking for a reward for the end of their trip, no matter what the point of sale looks like. When retailers and category managers work together to plan for these transitions, they can improve the shopper experience and create new areas of sales growth.

For c-stores, a deeper understanding of shoppers can inform strategies that boost sales, such as adding smartly stocked queueing lanes. By offering top-selling items in a queue, it saves the customer a trip down the aisle, putting an array of choices at their fingertips. Merchandising based on shopper data and insights, including providing bundling options (such as offering confection items alongside coffee or carbonated beverages), can also help increase basket sizes per trip. Strategies such as these grow not only from working from a well-designed plan-o-gram but also from working with category managers and partners to look at the performance of the total store instead of just the snack aisle.

Understanding the shopper as a whole isn’t just good for sales—it’s also good for business. It helps consumers find what they want and feel good about their experience, and that’s the best kind of loyalty program.

Understanding shopper insights and consumer digital behavior can be overwhelming, which is why The Hershey Co.’s Category Insights Management Team developedHershey Solutions for small-format retailers. The online portal is a one-step resource for data, merchandising tools, new product information and retailer rewards designed to help c-stores achieve category success. Visit HersheySolutions.com to discover the latest product releases, download optimized plan-o-grams, tap into channel insights and order new products.

This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company

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