HIM think tank

New year, new starts

Posted by: HIM Wed, 10 Jan 2018

Entering the new year, the months of preparing for Christmas and stocking the store high with boxes of chocolates and bottles of Champagne are long gone. So as it’s 
out with old and in with the new, it’s helpful to know that 32% of men and 42% of women are 
this year making a new year’s resolution. As a result, retailers may need to think about changing their strategy and helping out shoppers with their resolutions, write’s HIM’s Chloe Kent.

With 33% of people saying their resolution this year is to eat healthier, retailers could consider offering healthier alternatives in their store for their shoppers.

For example, when shoppers were asked what they would like to see offered in a meal deal as an alternative to crisps, 35% answered bagged fruit and 26% answered veg and dip pots. Evidently, a focus for January needs to be skewed towards fresh and healthier options for shoppers and 
away from confectionery, unhealthy snacks and alcohol.

As well as healthier eating, 17% of people claim to be going dry for January. Given the rise in choice of non-alcoholic beers and alcohol-free alternatives, such as those from the likes of Heineken and Kopparberg, retailers can avoid losing out on sales from shoppers usually buying alcohol, while also helping out those who struggle to stick to their new year’s resolution. As 15% of people only stick to their resolutions for less than a week, alcohol-free options could help those struggling to quit.

Lastly, the new year is a prime time for smokers to decide to quit; 8% say they are planning on quitting or cutting down in the new year, and cigarettes and tobacco are continuing to be a declining footfall driver. This January could be an opportunity for retailers to embrace changing trends and switch their focus to e-cigarettes and smoking alternatives.

While not all shoppers will be making new year’s resolutions to be healthier, retailers undoubtedly need to move away from focusing solely on unhealthy options for shoppers this January.

The art and science of displays

Posted by: HIM Fri, 1 Dec 2017

There are more than 40,000 convenience stores in the UK, attracting 46 million UK adults every week. But shoppers behave differently in the convenience channel compared with grocery, spending much less time in store, writes HIM’s Blake Gladman. On top of this, the sector is fragmented and complex and there is no data available to validate the return on investment you get within shopper marketing. That’s why HIM has partnered with the leading point-of-purchase experts POPAI to bring together extensive shopper expertise and vision tracking technology to provide the first-of-its-kind review of the display effectiveness in convenience.

Over the past six months HIM and POPAI have been capturing shopper interactions and analysing nearly half a million point-of-purchase (POP) display interactions, meaning for the first time we can help retailers and suppliers challenge the conventional practices around shopper marketing.

Finding the perfect POP communication will always be a fine balancing act between a science and an art. What our research does show, though, is some helpful signposts as to the types of POP combinations that are best at communicating to shoppers, and the most efficient and effective at driving impact, engagement and conversion by key categories.

The main shelf still plays a pivotal role in influencing the shopper with six of the top 10 POP types featuring those located on the shelf, and with the best performer being simple product price communication. However, only three of the top 10 most effective displays contain a promotion, and our research would suggest that creating an atmosphere message and display is more powerful for engaging with a shopper who is typically in a ‘solution’ mindset when in store, and thus more driven by satisfying this need than by deals.

Dump bins with wraps are the most effective off-shelf solution to drive shopper engagement. With high impact given that they are in typically high-footfall location, they encourage strong engagement and conversion ratios, meaning these are fantastic tools to drive incremental sales while shoppers navigate the store.

Make the most of Christmas

Posted by: HIM Fri, 3 Nov 2017

It is becoming increasingly important to provide shoppers with an outstanding in-store experience. According to HIM Research & Consulting studies, shoppers who have a great in-store experience are likely to spend more in store, have a larger basket size, visit more frequently and recommend a store to a friend, writes HIM’s Alice Dolling.

While getting the basics right is fundamental to achieving high satisfaction, outstanding levels will only be met when retailers and suppliers go beyond the norm. One way of doing this is by playing to the seasons.

A great opportunity to leverage this is Christmas. According to c-store retailers, Christmas is the most effective seasonal event of the year in terms of driving sales – and it is just around the corner. Standout Christmas displays, clear communication regarding seasonal promotions and even staff dress-up days are just some ways to enhance the in-store experience.

Retailers and suppliers will need to keep on top of which seasonal events are trending in order to truly understand what will get the most engagement. For example, the number of consumers who searched for ‘Halloween’ in Google in 2006 was almost half of the number who did in 2016. Understanding when shoppers tend to start purchasing for a season is also important in order to know when to put up displays and so on – more than two-fifths of shoppers purchasing for Easter this year did so more than two weeks in advance.

While seasonal events are great at improving the in-store experience if cleverly planned, preparation needs to go beyond in-store experience factors. Understanding what shoppers will be demanding will be imperative to get the right range. For example, at Christmas-time nearly two in five shoppers are more inclined to purchase premium products from a c-store, and more than one in 10 will use their local c-store to purchase roast dinner items for their Christmas meal.

Retailers and suppliers should make the most of seasons; they should look at shoppers’ importances, needs and reasons for purchasing in order to get the right seasonal range. Executing this range with excellence will further drive value.

Tap into ethical values

Posted by: HIM Wed, 4 Oct 2017

With the cost of living continuing to increase while wages remain stagnant, shoppers – particularly generation z and young millennials – are choosing to spend their money differently from older generations. They are choosing to purchase experiences over material items.

This shift in behaviour has come hand in hand with the movement towards social consciousness, sustainability and a more mainstream appreciation for the ethical values of the items people are using and consuming.

One way to differentiate yourself is by being more socially conscious as a business and appeal to shoppers’ growing ethical and sustainable values. To gain a greater understanding of the topic, HIM spoke to more than 1,000 shoppers in July 2017 and found out that more than half feel that ethical food and drink products are important – 65% also considered food traceability important.

Furthermore, the results identified that the majority of consumers view brand transparency as important. In fact, this is so important to shoppers that nearly one-third of consumers have switched away from one brand to another because it was more environmentally or socially responsible.

Consumers are becoming more demanding about information on sourcing, production and values to determine whether they can trust a brand and whether a brand’s values match up with their own. Being completely transparent and upfront about this will prevent consumers hunting for information from third-party sources, but most importantly help to gain trust and build customer loyalty.

To tap into this movement, retailers should look to sell products from local suppliers and clearly communicate it when they do so. In addition, introducing campaigns that support the local community will also work well. Shoppers want to see brands and retailers supporting their local community.

If retailers are able to support local suppliers, build trust with local residents and be seen as a positive pillar in the community, then it’s highly likely that they will attract a wider range of shoppers and see positive returns as a result.

Clarity on policy

Posted by: HIM Mon, 25 Sep 2017

For almost every law, regulation and item of best practice that a retailer follows, there is the potential for an enforcement officer to have a differing opinion. 

For example, many retailers follow Challenge 25 when dealing with underage sales. If you get a visit from an enforcement officer and they want you to change that to challenge everyone, or those under 30, you may be forced to do so unless you’re covered under something called a Primary Authority partnership.

These partnerships are set up between either businesses or trade associations and local councils to provide one set of rules that all stores (or members of an association) can follow, regardless of where they are in England and Wales. This ‘Assured Advice’, if followed, means that all enforcement officers cannot force you to change procedures.

One of the major benefits is that you can get clarification on what’s acceptable quickly, especially when regulations are new and untested. For example, when the tobacco display ban came into force, government guidance stated that all price lists and labels had to be in Helvetica font, which is something that most computers don’t come pre-loaded with. However, through Assured Advice, we confirmed with Government that the Arial font was also acceptable.

At the start of October, there are big changes coming into force around Assured Advice, and from October the laborious form-filling process to sign up to a scheme will also be gone. We’re signing up thousands of retailers to Assured Advice in advance, and you can find out more at www.acs.org.uk/advice.

How to boost beer and cider

Posted by: HIM Fri, 22 Sep 2017

Across the convenience sector beer and cider suppliers increasingly compete with one another for prime in-store locations, with seemingly conflicting messages. Therefore, emphasis is on the retailer to understand their shoppers’ needs and expectations, writes HIM’s Matt Smith.

As the experts in shopper behaviour, HIM spoke to more than 1,000 beer and cider shoppers and retailers as part of a deep dive into the category. The data suggests that the percentage of alcohol drinkers within the convenience base is declining, with younger and older generations least likely to consume. As a result, retailers need to figure out solutions that offset these declines.

One way to do this is to place your beer and cider in the chiller. Shoppers prefer to purchase products cold. They also expect to find beer and cider products located in the chiller, more than any other category including soft drinks, and retailers need to consider this when allocating space in-store. If retailers fail to range in the chiller then they risk losing sales.

Ensure your range is suitable for your target customer, as beer and cider shoppers are very particular about what brands they purchase. Cider shoppers, in particular, are very brand loyal, with more than a third switching out of the category or leaving the store without buying if their preferred brand is unavailable.

Retailers should focus on everyday events to drive engagement with shoppers. It is unlikely, for instance, that shoppers will visit a convenience store to do their main Christmas shop unless it’s a distress mission. However, everyday events such as summer BBQs, family nights in and sports events fit perfectly with a c-store’s offering, so drive engagement with promotional mechanics, in-store signage and activity on social media.

If retailers can bundle categories together to create an occasion-based solution (eg beer, crisps and dip) then shoppers will be more inclined to purchase items outside of their traditional pattern.
Everyday events are a great way to drive engagement, and the use of cross-category promotions can play a key role in driving impulsivity and increasing spend. Ultimately, it’s about driving interest in-store, satisfying shoppers and becoming a point of difference.

Know your shopper Ys and Zs

Posted by: HIM Wed, 30 Aug 2017

What’s the difference between millennials (Generation Y) and Generation Z? This is a question that I get asked a lot and the answer is much more than just a date of birth. Broadly speaking, a millennial can be defined as those born in the early 80s, who came into adulthood in the early noughties; Generation Z are the natural successors, being born in the mid to late 90s and even early noughties, writes HIM’s Blake Gladman.

Millennials, by their very nature, are early adopters of technology. Born in an era of overwhelming technological advances, they have lived their formative years in a world which has been constantly changing. They know where they are, but they also understand how we got here.

This sets them apart from Generation Z, who  view technology as the everyday, along with the fluid movement of information, services and money across devices, between friends and around the world. They want to have ‘things’, they want to touch ‘things’ (is it any wonder that vinyl sales hit a 25-year high in 2017?). This is also a generation with a conscious. They genuinely want to save the world, and want to be associated with brands that they believe in.

So how can retailers satisfy these generations? First, it’s about delivering an experience. Whether this comes from the look and feel of the store (Instagram-worthy!), staff that truly engage and have knowledge about products, or in-store theatre that captures the imagination. Our latest UK shopper research suggests that delivering an exceptional in-store shopper experience can lead to significant increases in footfall, basket size, spend and advocacy.

Second, it’s about having a brand that they want to be associated with. Convenience retail has a lot of positives going for it that resonate with the Generation Z shopper – namely being local, independently run, supporting local communities, providing unique products not available in the mainstream stores. Shout about your independent roots and the products you source; be as open as you can with your food wastage, your environment and local community initiatives.

Look after Generations Y and Z as they will ultimately look after you.

Get ready for back-to-school

Posted by: HIM Wed, 26 Jul 2017

Summer is here, and with it comes the six-week holidays. While many parents are concerned with how to keep their kids entertained without school, retailers need to be considering how to prepare for that back-to-school season. If your store is within close proximity to a school you will well know that keeping mums and dads on the school run happy is key to better sales, writes Louise McWhirter.

So how can we make parents’ lives easier during those mad pre- and post-school rushes? The basics are key. Making sure that restocking and admin tasks are taken care of outside of school drop-off and pick-up times is essential, to allow shelves to be stocked and staff to be on hand to answer questions or serve at the tills. Meanwhile, clutter has to be avoided. Dump bins placed to interrupt the shopper’s flow down your aisles can cause more irritation than inspiration for those with young children and pushchairs.

When it comes to ‘right store, right range’, retailers with stores near to a school should be considering what items are most likely picked up for an after-school treat or found in the typical lunch box. One-third of children take a packed lunch to school every day. While the majority of parents say they source most of their packed lunch ingredients from supermarkets, there is a wealth of opportunity for small store retailers to be providing solutions from the top-up shop.

As many as seven out of 10 of parents with school-age children say that they make a conscious decision to ensure their children eat healthily at school lunch time. Three in four of children’s lunch boxes contain fruit, compared with just 17% which have chocolate included. While the priority of ensuring children enjoy a healthy diet away from home has been present arguably since Jamie’s School Dinners campaign back in 2005, the subject of health is ever-evolving. Ensuring you are catering to these changing demands is paramount. Retailers should be keeping up to date with relevant categories in growth at a national level and also speaking to local shoppers about their needs.

Adhering to these measures should play well in keeping mums and dads on the school run happy and helping ensure you are unlocking more sales.

Enhance the shopper's experience

Posted by: HIM Mon, 3 Jul 2017

June 21 was officially the first day of summer and retailers have their fingers crossed for good weather and a successful season. However, as the industry becomes increasingly impacted by legislation changes, consolidation and pricing pressures, c-stores need to find ways to stand out from the pack.

One way to differentiate yourself is by providing fantastic customer service and a great in-store experience, writes HIM’s Matt Smith. Traditionally, expectation for the in-store experience revolved around staff – namely friendliness and helpfulness, driven by the local nature of convenience stores. However, the modern shopper’s expectation has been buoyed by their experience in other channels and by the proliferation of the supermarkets.

Therefore, retailers have to look towards less tangible factors, such as staff friendliness, cleanliness of store, speed of service and flow of store to ensure they make the customer’s trip as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Providing a great in-store experience will demand investment, but getting the basics right can mean huge benefits for both retailers and suppliers.

HIM spoke to 20,000+ shoppers as part of our annual Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) and for the first time ease of shop has emerged as the priority importance for UK convenience shoppers. This was closely followed by staff friendliness and cleanliness of store, highlighting the importance of providing an in-store experience that fulfils shopper expectations.

CTP data also revealed that the more satisfied shoppers are with an in-store experience, the higher their visit frequencies. Shoppers who rate their in-store experience as nine or 10 (out of 10) visit 44% more frequently than the shopper who rates their experience as seven or eight. Positive effects are also seen on basket size and spend.

In short, retailers can no longer view customer service and in-store experience related factors as a ‘nice to do’, but as an important business opportunity.  If retailers can put systems in place to deliver against growing expectations then they will find themselves in a better position to offset external political, economic and social impacts.

Make easy shopping a priority

Posted by: HIM Mon, 12 Jun 2017

The demands of shoppers have never been greater. Traditionally, good customer service lay at the heart of a good in-store experience. However, a customised range, easy-to-navigate layout and contactless payment options are now seen as essential features for the average convenience store. Shoppers are seeking more inspiration and it is now more important than ever to get the in-store experience right, writes HIM’s Laura Solomon.

The task of crafting the ultimate in-store experience is not a simple one. However, HIM has identified five top factors that shoppers value the most. These are: ease of shop; staff friendliness and helpfulness; speed of service; clear signage; and cleanliness of store.

For the first time ever, ease of shop has been voted of priority importance by shoppers. Enhancing ease of shop can encourage upselling opportunities for a range of missions. For example, 88% of breakfast-to-go shoppers do not buy a hot drink to go, while more than half of lunch-to-go shoppers do not buy soft drinks. Retailers should direct personal messaging to shoppers and inspire with displays to interrupt and tempt. It is also key to maximise space by creating secondary locations that feature multiple categories such as a Big Night In location with alcohol, crisps and snacks and confectionery. Placing alcohol in secondary locations can also drive category penetration by 5%.

The blurring of retail, food to go and dining channels is now on the rise and offers optimum convenience. Exciting examples are emerging of retailers modifying the store environment to create theatre and make shoppers’ visits more memorable. Eat 17, a family-run Spar in Hackney, East London, features a florist, burger bar and refillable wine station, and even screens movies in store. Premier Whitstone Village Stores in Cornwall has recently incorporated a café and lounge bar to serve the local community.

With shoppers expecting more, retailers should enhance their store environment to inform, interrupt and inspire. Creating an experience that is unique to their neighbourhood should prevent shoppers going elsewhere.

The healthy eating trend

Posted by: HIM Tue, 2 May 2017

Healthy eating in the UK is on the rise. With the increase in social media exposure from Instagram to Twitter, shoppers – particularly millennials – are more aware of what is considered healthy and the importance of healthy eating. At the same time, government legislation such as the sugar tax are playing a part in educating shoppers, writes HIM’s Chloe Kent.

Currently 31% of shoppers believe convenience stores don’t offer enough healthy products to satisfy their needs for an evening meal, while 25% say they don’t offer enough healthy options for lunch. With the increase in health food stores offering organic, natural, vegan and vegetarian foods such as Wholefoods and Planet Organic in London to Real Foods in Edinburgh, as well as the rise of healthy food outlets such as Veggie Pret and Tossed, retailers are facing more competition and innovation from other channels. As a result, a third of retailers are planning to stock more healthy products in their store over the next 12 months in order to keep up with changing shopper trends and needs.

Retailers are beginning to understand the importance in stocking more healthy products in their store, as shoppers understand healthy products are generally more expensive and as a result are willing to pay premium prices to eat healthily. For example, almost half of shoppers say a 20% price increase due to the sugar tax won’t deter them from buying sugary products, and understand the move towards healthier soft drinks comes at a price.

All retailers need to start following the trend by providing healthy products shoppers are expecting to be able to purchase in store. However, due to the fact social media plays a large part in this rise in healthy eating, what exactly shoppers consider ‘healthy’ differs considerably by age group. When shoppers are asked what they consider when looking for a healthy snack, 36% of over-55s say ‘fat content’, compared with only 22% of 18- to 34-year-olds. As a result, retailers need to understand the specific demographics of their store and what type of products their shoppers are looking to purchase when deciding what products should be available in their store.

Trust leads to loyalty

Posted by: HIM Wed, 5 Apr 2017

For both grocery retailers and suppliers, securing the trust of shoppers must be a priority. The convenience sector is no exception, as almost two-thirds of shoppers in c-stores agree that trust in a retailer brand is very important, writes HIM’s Alice Dolling. Without trust, shoppers are unlikely to visit a store or purchase a product unless they are in a distress situation. And at a time of growing competition, securing shopper loyalty in convenience is vital.

Primarily, retailers need to get the basics right to gain shoppers’ trust, drive them into store and retain their custom. One element is making sure their store delivers on key shopper importances such as product availability and store cleanliness. For example, a ‘clean and tidy store’ actually ranks as more important than range and locally-sourced produce when it comes to a shopper’s opinion on what represents a credible fresh food offer.

Excluding convenience, friendly and helpful staff is the main driver to store for almost one-third of shoppers. If staff members are fully trained about the store and product knowledge, while also offering a smile, it will build the store’s credibility and shoppers’ trust in it to a greater extent.

Transparency and trust go hand in hand, and so it will be essential that retailers and suppliers are entirely transparent about supply chains and product ingredients. Clear labelling is an obvious starting point; suppliers must ensure their products are labelled with the correct information, informing shoppers about ingredients and product origins, as well as Free-from information, as 16% of consumers now identify as having a food intolerance.

Food origin is becoming increasingly important to shoppers, with one in five now looking to buy more locally-grown products. Independent retailers are in a strong position to build relationships with local suppliers, and retailers should clearly signpost when a product is local, not just because shoppers want transparency, but also because it can act as a point of difference in a competitive market.
A combination of achieving the basics, being open and honest with customers and driving provenance will build trust and secure loyalty.

Tobacco challenges

Posted by: HIM Fri, 10 Mar 2017

Tobacco products have long been a main driver to convenience stores for shoppers. Indeed, one in seven symbol shoppers at any given time say their main reason for being in store is to buy cigarettes and tobacco. Not only does tobacco pull a wide range of shoppers in store, but it’s a category that also drives frequent repeat visits.

However, the industry is facing challenges from all sides, what with declining usage and waves of incoming legislation, writes HIM’s Louise McWhirter.

On average, a cigarette and tobacco shopper will buy from the category 14 times a month from the same convenience store. But with smoking rates on the decrease overall, there is risk to this regular footfall so it’s important to understand which other categories see similar levels of loyalty.
Interestingly, beer & cider, energy drinks, milk and hot drinks-to-go are the next most frequently bought products. Getting the range in these categories right is imperative to maintaining loyal footfall.
Now we are just a few months away from TPD2’s plain packaging and pack size legislation coming into full effect and, with May’s sell-through deadline looming near, the difficulties that come with plain packaging also pose a risk to service levels at stores.

Some retailers installed automated gantries following the tobacco display ban in 2015 and, after an initial upfront investment, retailers have reaped the rewards of a more efficient system. Automated gantries also offer the benefit of using the space behind the till more effectively. This area of the store is extremely valuable – after all, 100% of customers visit the till area. There is opportunity to use this space for advertising, or the siting of big-margin categories.

As we say goodbye to pricemarked packs, there will be a temptation to up the price of cigarette packets in order to gain margin. However, shoppers are like elephants: they never forget. Price increases risk annoying loyal customers and could push shoppers into the hands of the multiples, especially those who are relatively light smokers and can afford to wait between trips to larger supermarkets.

Get the basics right

Posted by: HIM Fri, 10 Feb 2017

With the modern shopper having more choice than ever before as to where to do their grocery shopping, it is increasingly important to ensure that convenience stores are providing the best possible shopping experience so shoppers continue to choose this channel as often as they are doing so now, writes HIM’s Gary Shaw.

In terms of what shoppers are looking for from their c-store, it is very much a case of getting the basics right. Looking at our research, carried out across almost all types of stores and all groups of shoppers, cleanliness of store is cited consistently as one of the most important areas that stores need to deliver on if shoppers are to choose them over a competitor.

Ease of shop is another key element that shoppers say is important when they are making the decision about which store to shop in. So making sure the store is easily navigable with wide, uncluttered aisles will encourage shoppers to spend more time in the store and potentially shop more categories as they’re able to move through the store more easily.

Investing in keeping the store clean and tidy and making the shopping experience more pleasant with modern, attractive fittings goes a long way to reassuring shoppers that they can trust the store standards generally. This in turn means shoppers are more likely to buy into margin-building categories such as fresh and chilled products where shoppers need to be confident that the food is handled well.

When they have these basics in place, retailers can also think about how they can invest to take advantage of growing trends such as food to go and the increasing desire for shoppers to eat out. Beyond just investment in cooking and serving equipment, there also opportunities to drive spend by investing in a seating area for shoppers to eat if space allows, for example.

Shoppers who take a seat in-store spend on average 40% more than those who don’t. Look to supplement this with charging stations for mobile phones to encourage shoppers to stay in store even longer.

How to gain from Free from

Posted by: HIM Wed, 11 Jan 2017

As we see each and every January, those laden with Christmas guilt vow to be the healthiest versions of themselves, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins. However, as health trends continue to widen we may see shoppers straying away from the traditional fresh fruit and veg options. At HIM we’ve been taking a look at the rise of the Free-from trend and the rapidly increasing number of shoppers that consider themselves to have food intolerances.

In a recent study we found that 30% of 18- to 34- year-olds consider themselves to have some sort of food intolerance, half of these were self-diagnosed. The proportion significantly drops for older age groups. There is little to suggest that younger generations are more susceptible to food intolerances, therefore this is likely to be due to the increased availability of information sources such as the internet.

So how can convenience store retailers maximise the opportunity that comes with the rise of Free from? With a great influx of products entering the market it is not feasible for you to stock them all. Our research has shown that the biggest opportunity in Free from comes from milk products as one in 10 shoppers told us that they have a dairy intolerance.

Retailers should be looking to stock soya and nut milks as a minimum. Stock fresh options, but also consider long-life as often fewer people in a household will be drinking dairy-free milks compared with dairy.

So far, convenience retailers aren’t doing badly at catering for the Free-from shopper. One-third of shoppers said that they’d noticed a designated Free-from section in their local c-store. If there is space available, a designated Free-from area will attract those with food intolerances into a store (over a store without).

Such an initiative means shoppers will be able to find items quicker, and it will build their trust that the shop provides products they can tolerate. The best-designated sections will be clearly signed in store so shoppers can find them easily.

So if you’re not doing so already, why not try something new for 2017 and see if you can’t gain something from the Free-from craze

Leaflets still have a role to play

Posted by: HIM Fri, 2 Dec 2016

An age-old debate among convenience retailers is how effective leaflets can be to a store. While the majority of stores don’t send out leaflets, the retailers who do believe they have a positive effect on attracting customers, writes HIM’s Cameron Thorp. To make the most out of them, it is important for retailers to target the right types of shoppers while including the information shoppers want to hear about to ultimately help drive footfall.

Our latest research shows that, despite all of the technology at their fingertips, surprisingly it’s younger shoppers who respond most positively to leaflets and, while couples with young children are less likely to receive leaflets than other life stage groups, they are the most likely to be encouraged to visit a store (61%) once receiving them. Retailers who are aware of a high concentration of young shoppers and couples with young children in their area should be focusing on utilising leaflets to target these groups effectively.

However, simply distributing leaflets for the sake of it will not drive sales; getting the content of the leaflet right is crucial. Our research tells us that while most shoppers want to hear about promotions (66%), there is also demand to find out about loyalty schemes and news or events.
That said, leaflets won’t be the best form of communication for every retailer. Raaj Chandarana, a member of the HIM retail panel, explained: “Retailers are split on [the] success of leaflets. We deliver 1,000 [leaflets per month] and still get people coming in circling products and asking for them. A balance of social media and traditional leaflets ensures a greater hit success.”

In a world where shoppers are using social media to get inspiration for meals and find out about brand innovations, it is important for retailers to increase their online presence. Why not communicate with shoppers who would otherwise miss out on leaflets by experimenting with these mediums?
While leaflets clearly have a positive impact on shoppers, it is important to consider whether they have a future in the physical form. As retailers seek to reduce costs and improve their green credentials, digital leaflets and emails could eventually replace their paper counterparts.

The magic of Christmas planning

Posted by: HIM Fri, 4 Nov 2016

While convenience stores may not usually be the most popular choice of channel when it comes to shopping for Christmas, the biggest national event on the calendar, there is still plenty of cheer to be spread around for 2016. So here’s some quick wins to ensure you’re making the most out of the festive footfall driving occasion, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins.

Our research tells us that the percentage of shoppers heading to convenience stores for their gifting mission doubles from 3% in November to 6% in December. Stock merchandise that makes for attractive displays and shout loudly about your gifting options among shoppers. A quarter of convenience shoppers visit the same store every day so they need surprising when it comes to turning them off autopilot – if they don’t see it, they won’t buy it!

Focusing on local initiatives and community involvement is a fantastic USP for convenience stores to tap into. The main competition (supermarkets and discounters) will find it harder to offer the same level of community interaction that local retailers can. Running promotions that will see a share of the profits going to a local charity and simple events such as a raffles will not only help the less fortunate during a time of giving, but will also encourage your local shoppers to keep visiting your store.

And, finally, the best gift you can offer your customers this Christmas is the gift of convenience. Christmas is notoriously a time for last-minute shopping and shoppers will be looking to their trusty local convenience store in times of need. One-fifth of shoppers we spoke to said that they started their Christmas Day food and drink shopping between 21 and 24 December. Therefore, highlighting that you can cater for this last-minute Christmas mentality can act as yet another USP for your store. Make sure there is clear signage about your opening hours and promotions so that shoppers think of your store when they need to grab something.

So for a holiday that is all about tradition, 
why not try warming things up by experimenting with something different in your store this year?

Ready, steady, food to go

Posted by: HIM Fri, 7 Oct 2016

With the food-to-go market set to increase by an average of 4.4% over the next three years, this is the time for retailers to cement their offering to their shoppers.

As the demand for this mission increases, so does the competition - and it’s coming from not just traditional food-to-go outlets, but also some new players, writes HIM’s Belle Nairac.

Shoppers don’t even have to leave their desk to get their favourite lunch these days; it is now a mere two taps away through the innovative Deliveroo and Uber Eats apps. This trend is being spearheaded by millennials who continue to demand easy access and quick service from any outlet.

So how can convenience stores compete with this? It’s about finding your USP and from our 2016 Food to Go study we know that soft drinks and sandwiches are just that. These categories are the ones driving shoppers to convenience stores, so ensure there is enough space to hold a suitable selection to suit your shoppers.

We know for sandwich shoppers that taste, price and range are most important, so think about this when delivering both in-store and, essentially, out-of-store communications. It’s safe to assume that if a shopper doesn’t know you offer food-to-go products then they will go somewhere that they know does. This is linked to the increase in branded concessions such as Greggs and Subway located in convenience stores to encourage first-time shoppers away from traditional food-to-go outlets.

The most valuable of the food-to-go shoppers are those buying both food and drink, with three items being the most common basket size. The two most commonly-purchased items are soft drinks and sandwiches, but what about the third item? Shoppers are demanding more variety, with 41% of shoppers wanting yogurt to be offered as part of a meal deal.

But don’t forget, outside of the shopper’s spend on food to go this mission will drive additional shop spend, too. In fact, only 57% of shoppers’ spend is on food to go so a whopping 43% is coming from other additional purchases.

The value of trust

Posted by: HIM Thu, 8 Sep 2016

Shopper trust is not something that is gained easily. In fact, it has been a shopper need that convenience stores have struggled to champion over the years, writes HIM’s Ruth Cousins.

Keeping consumers happy is now that bit trickier as c-store shoppers have come to expect wider ranges of fresh produce and own-label brands to mimic the offerings found in supermarkets. But trust can be gained in a number of ways and, once achieved, you’ll find loyal customers coming back time and again.

Our research shows that a significant proportion of shoppers are not confident in their local c-store’s ability to stock basic meal solution provisions. More than half (53%) of shoppers did not believe they would be able buy all the ingredients to make a roast dinner in their local store. More basic meals such as spaghetti bolognese, stir fries and curries instilled more faith, but still near to a third of shoppers didn’t believe they would be able to find ingredients needed.

The key for convenience here is to be known for selling solutions and not all the products needed for these meals. Rather than stocking all of the herbs, spices, veg and meat needed to cook a curry from scratch, why not simply stock the key ingredients that busy shoppers will often opt for when looking for quick meal-time solutions – chicken, microwavable rice and a pre-made sauce.

When it comes to building trust with your shoppers, it is integral to understand who they are and what they find important when shopping in your store. There is no such thing as the ‘average’ shopper, so understanding your local demographic is key to keeping them happy and to getting them revisiting your store.

One particular group we’ve been putting a 
focus on is the ‘last of the millennials’ (16- to 24-year-olds). The areas that are most important to these shoppers are availability, cleanliness of store and ease of shop. We spoke to a focus group from this age group and it appears they have high standards when it comes to c-stores. “If it’s dark and dingy I won’t buy fresh from there. I’d maybe go in and buy branded products,” was a common comment.

So, make your store a place that people want to be, and the rest will follow.

Trust is the key for success in fresh

Posted by: HIM Tue, 9 Aug 2016

When it comes to fresh food, gaining a shopper’s trust is essential to secure their custom, writes HIM’s Alice Dolling. HIM data shows a significant and direct relationship between trust in a retailer brand and the quality of their fresh produce, meats and bakery. With one-quarter of c-store shoppers saying they would go elsewhere to buy fresh produce and meats, it is clear many shoppers lack confidence in c-stores’ fresh offerings.

In order to gain shoppers’ trust, retailers must first get the basics right, making sure their store is clean, tidy and brightly lit. In a recent millennial focus group, participants said that if a store was “dark and dingy” they wouldn’t buy fresh from it.

When it comes sales, though, retired greys is the group to be focusing on. This group is buying more fresh food than any other group and places the most importance on the quality of fresh produce, meats, baked goods and dairy. Therefore, retailers must ensure this group trusts the quality of their fresh range.

Locally sourcing items provides transparency to customers about where their produce has come from, in turn building confidence in the retailer’s range and increasing their fresh food penetration. Fresh produce, meat and dairy are the top three categories in which shoppers want to see a larger amount of local items. More than half believe locally-sourced products are better than branded and this is where independents, whose fresh food ratings are particularly struggling, could outshine super c-stores.

We know 52% of retailers consider fresh fruit and veg very important for the success of their store, and similarly 39% believe fresh meat and fish to be very important. Data shows an obvious correlation between shoppers’ rating of fresh and their likelihood to recommend the store to their family and friends, supporting the importance retailers place on the category.

Recently, we have seen increased competition from trustworthy retailers providing fresh food, such as Amazon Fresh and Sainsbury’s one-hour delivery. Shoppers now have more options to receive fresh food fast from other retailers they have confidence in - if there was ever a reason to step up your game on fresh, this is it!

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