DURHAM, N.C. — With the new school year in full swing, retailers can drive more sales this year with point-of-sale innovation, bringing products right to the checkout counter. Here are some ways to improve store sales.
Making Food Brands a Priority
The average convenience store visit lasts only three to four minutes, according to NACS. That means most customers select their purchase of choice in just 71 seconds. Couple that with unparalleled innovation in transactions and it’s not surprising that themajority of merchandising and foodservice sales for c-stores are generated from items located at the front of the store. This means that retailers need to nail the products they're offering at the checkout counter.
Traditionally, these checkout choices aren’t that varied. C-stores offer candy, gum and nicotine products. Yet consumers are now demanding more variety at checkout. Shoppers are starting to embrace fresh-food options and healthy snacks, not to mention fun grab-and-go or single-serve treats that offer unique experiences.
This presents an opportunity for those food retailers offering fresh and frozen foods, which have historically seen their products shackled to the back aisles of the store. By leveraging refrigeration and freezing technology that allows for more dynamic product placement, brands such as Unilever are challenging checkout line staples by placing ice cream and other frozen treats directly in front of consumers.
This taps into existing consumer trends as shoppers are looking to grab-and-go, and it also benefits food brands by helping them differentiate. Ice cream, for example, is a competitive category. Placement is a way these food brands can make their products stand out more effectively. If one retailer offers single-serve, homemade ice cream sandwiches at the counter when other brands are still stuck in the back of the store, it’s a true competitive differentiator because consumers look to choose their snack choices quickly.
Today’s consumers are seeking true shopping experiences. Shoppers, especially younger generations, want to “try before they buy,” making it imperative for retailers to bring in activities such as tastings and samplings, where consumers have the chance to interact directly with products. Such an environment eliminates the possibility for buyer’s remorse, incentivizing consumers to participate in these “trials” and, ultimately, come back for more.
Also, with school back in session and more kids and parents in and out of stores, this is the time to test out fun activities that add value to a shopper’s experience. Experiential sampling helps drive more loyal customers who remember the positive experience they had in-store. For example, try out single-serve ice cream sampling on a hot day, or offer a wine tasting.
The School Year Opportunity
Back-to-school shopping typically conjures images of clothing sales and office supplies from retail behemoths such as Target, Walmart and Macy’s. But behind the new sweaters and binders are hungry high schoolers searching for their next snack.
As the final bell rings, convenience stores are often their first stop on the way to sports games, club meetings or tutoring sessions, meaning these retailers have to be prepared with diverse options to capitalize on this influx of foot traffic. Being prepared with a selection of grab-and-go items, such as frozen and refrigerated treats (especially in warm weather), or fun retail experiences will help c-stores cement themselves as the “go-to” spot.
Food, beverages and groceries are already the most common impulse buys for shoppers, with 67% of consumers purchasing on a whim, according to Phononic data.
Ice cream and other desserts (especially single-serve options) tend to be some of the most popular items within that category, but when you have to tether freezers to the back of the store, it’s not always easy for consumers to find those high-margin items. That translates into losses for both brands and retailers who aren’t able to offer products in the locations today’s shoppers prefer.
This year, we just went through the hottest months of June and July ever recorded, meaning demand for ice cream has been high. Savvy retailers such as Circle K are realizing this and experimenting with new technologies that allow for more single-serve frozen options at checkout. One location we work with even sold out of six cases of ice cream in a single day.
High-margin items benefit c-stores because they offer more value per product sold. For example, a single-serve ice cream sandwich can sell for the same amount as an entire gallon of ice cream.
With advanced refrigeration technology, convenience stores now have the opportunity to capitalize on these types of sales like never before. With increased visibility, point-of-sale placement of high-margin treats allows retailers to drive more sales at a high price point, ultimately increasing ROI.
Dana Krug is the vice president and general manager of the food and beverage division for Durham, N.C.-based Phononic, a company that is using semiconductor chips to deliver sustainable cooling solutions across industries.