Convenience stores have been pressured over the course of the last year and a half as consumers spent more time at home. Trips to c-stores were down, but baskets were bigger. Consumers became even more mission-based in their shopping as the options for click-and-collect and home delivery from other channels became more widely available.
But even as those options began to take hold, unplanned purchases continued to be an important part of the customer journey. From a trip mission perspective, chocolate candy remained the top unplanned category within c-stores, with instant consumables leading the way as shoppers looked to confection to treat themselves or find comfort. As the pandemic has worn on, a snacking occasion that has gained momentum is snacking at home with take-home sales up nearly $100 million within the c-store channel.
So how can retailers appeal to shoppers and trigger those unplanned purchases?
Start with the shopper
Shoppers take nearly 60 physical store trips in a typical month —nearly 2.5 trips per day, with nearly 68%of consumers making their unplanned purchases in physical stores. What’s interesting is that value is relative and changes with the mission of the shopping trip, along with the intent of the trip and categories being purchased.
Understanding how consumers shop is critical to inspiring unplanned purchases by getting shoppers to go beyond their list.
Optimizing the strike zone
To make the most of the candy category, product assortment, placement and pricing are critical. As retailers look at planograms, merchandising the inline set based on how consumers shop and ensuring the best items are in the “strike zone” will work to drive conversion.
Strike zone optimization accomplishes this and has proven its value in organizing by velocity and shopper intuition over any other variable. Located 15-30 degrees below eye level, the strike zone is where shoppers search first for brands and items of choice. Boasting a 95% visual penetration rating, with the top 15 velocity items accounting for 36% of everyday item sales, strike zone placement can translate to a 4-6% increase in IC sales. Stores that have implemented the strike zone or vertically merchandised sets have outperformed those without one by 8% since the start of the pandemic.
Take a category management approach
Understanding how consumers shop is closely followed by understanding what they are shopping for. With the variety of occasions—from instant consumables to take home options—having the right assortment of products ensures that shoppers can find what they are looking for. From Hershey’s perspective, the top three packtypes in the chocolate category are King Size, Standard Bar and Bagged Candy. While the onset of COVID-19 impacted shopper behavior, the top three packtypes still remain the same. King Size continues to be the predominate growth packtype in the channel, followed by Standard Size candy bars. Convenience store retailers and distributors should continue to focus on these two growing packtypes and optimize space to sales by segment.
Innovation plays a part in the strategy, too, as consumers continue to look for new products to try alongside their core favorites. Much of the “new” in the market delivers different flavors and inclusions. For example, retailers have seen success behind new flavors of Kit Kat with Kit Kat Duos and other Kit Kat limited edition flavors, and there is shopper energy around Reese’s stuffed with pretzels which offers a sweet-and-salty combo and a new textural element.
Merchandising builds baskets
Another way to maximize sales for the category is through bundling. Manufacturers know that there is an affinity between their core items and other categories and trip drivers within the store. By cross-merchandising iconic brands and items with these trip drivers like fountain drinks, coffee and food service, retailers can work to build shoppers’ baskets and drive overall store sales.
This post is sponsored by The Hershey Company