By tuning in to shopper missions at different times of day, retailers can boost sales and make their stores easier to navigate. Sarah Britton reports

Retailers and suppliers across the nation have lived and breathed category management for decades. So when convenience shopper experts HIM declared last year that “category management is dead,” it sent ripples through the industry.

“If retailers can start to move away from category management and focus on ‘mission management’ [by merchandising items that are commonly purchased together] 79% of shoppers say this is what they want and 40% of shoppers say they will buy more,” says HIM client director Tara Benjamin.

The majority of suppliers agree that paying attention to shopper missions is vital to sales, although not at the expense of category management. “Category management and mission management complement each other,” says Amanda Kinder, customer marketing and national account executive at Carlsberg. “For retailers to fully understand the category they need to be able to understand the consumers within that category and what their needs are including their mission. By understanding the consumer mission, retailers can ensure they stock the relevant products in the correct places. If they also learn more about each category it will allow them to truly maximise their sales at the next level, not only stocking relevant products but products that are in good growth.”

retailer’s view

“We’ve got to know who’s coming in for what, when and why. Category management is still important, but mission management is taking it to the next level. We have baking, snacking and newspapers at the front of the store for people who are dashing in in the morning. They will only want to be in and out, whereas people shopping for food for later are more likely to spend longer in the store, so these products can be further back.

We’re very big on lunch time offerings. We do a sandwich, crisps and drink deal for £2.50. We have it sited in two places - in the food for now section, and also in the soft drinks section. We’ve been working with General Mills recently and we’re going to introduce a cereal bar option into the meal deal to give people more variety.

Our analysis has found that Mexican dishes are one of the most popular meals, so we have put together a Mexican meal deal with a fajita kit, peppers, chicken and a four-pack of Corona for £10. It’s doing well. We also offer a four pack of baked beans with a pack of jacket potatoes for £2.99. I’d advise all retailers to start doing it. Since we re-laid our store by missions last year, our sales are up 4.7%.”

Paul Cheema, Malcolm’s Store, Coventry

However, Country Choice marketing controller Stephen Clifford notes that it would be nigh-on impossible to merchandise your store for every single shopper mission. “Merchandising all the relevant products for an evening meal together sounds simple in theory, but the reality is somewhat different. Take a product like the humble potato for example. Where do you merchandise this? By the fresh chicken for people wanting to use potatoes as part of a roast dinner? Or perhaps adjacent to frozen fish for fish ‘n’ chips?”

So it seems that some careful thought is required for retailers to work out the most popular shopper missions for their stores and ensure that they have everything in place to make it as easy as possible to purchase products for these missions.

According to HIM, top-up is the biggest shopper mission for convenience stores, with 32% of customers looking to keep the kitchen stocked up in between their main shopping trip.

Sales of top-up items, such as bread and milk, can be driven by ensuring strong availability at peak shopping times. While bread is purchased throughout the day, having a full fixture between 7-9am is crucial as this is the busiest time for bakery shoppers, says Allied Bakeries. “A particularly effective technique for boosting top-up purchases during busy periods is to include point of sale merchandising at key shopper touchpoints, for example on the milk shelf, to remind customers about their need for bread,” adds category director Guy Shepherd.

Müller Dairy’s customer category controller Stephanie Green claims that products purchased on top-up missions do not need to be placed by the store entrance, as people are willing to go further into the store to find what they need. “Using milk as a destination point, for example, can drive footfall through the store, and placing everyday yogurts and desserts close to milk in the chiller can help capture impulse top-up purchases,” she says.

The newsagent shopper mission is the second biggest for convenience shoppers. “31% of c-store shoppers are on a newsagent mission, looking to buy newspapers and magazines, tobacco, and lottery tickets. If you manage these three categories in isolation, you’ll miss out on sales,” says Benjamin.

Mission management isn’t just a case of grouping items together - sales can also be increased by encouraging staff to upsell commonly-purchased items within a particular shopper mission, she adds. For example, she suggests that if someone is purchasing a newspaper, a cashier could say: ‘Did you know it’s a rollover day?’ to encourage a lottery ticket purchase.

Food to go is the third biggest shopper mission with 12% of customers entering c-stores for this reason. And this figure grows to 22% when you include treats, claims HIM.

Placing complementary baked treats alongside hot drinks to go can work wonders for increasing sales. “Retailers can capture the coffee purchase shopper mission within their outlet and at the same time create impulse purchase opportunities to drive incremental sales within the convenience channel,” says Cuisine de France brand communications manager Laura Smith.

To help c-stores make the most of this opportunity, the firm has introduced a coffee partnership which allows retailers to host a Nescafe Alegria machine alongside Cuisine de France’s Wrapped to Go range in-store. This comprises 13 products including a Blueberry Muffin, Triple Chocolate Muffin and Granola Bar. “For retailers, this is the perfect working example of capitalising on a shopper mission - the coffee and Wrapped to Go range complement each other and can be merchandised together as a permanent fixture,” says Smith.

Post-lunch planning

‘Something for tonight’ and ‘big night in’ shopper missions are important areas to target in the evening, and alcohol is a key component.
“Pre-mix is perfect for the something for tonight shopping mission,” says Roz Nash, senior category development manager at Diageo GB. She adds that having it merchandised in the fridge will improve chances of purchase.

It’s a similar story with beer, with 64% of shoppers picking up their lager and ale from the chiller for immediate consumption. “Utilise space in your store driven by the time of day for shopper missions - beer is key from post 5pm so use the sandwich chillers as these are likely to be empty,” says Amanda Kinder, customer marketing and national account executive, Carlsberg. “Key categories to site beer next to include crisps, snacks and ready meals.”

Wine sales also sit well within something for tonight and big night in fixtures. “Displaying wine alongside other relevant categories can boost impulse sales so retailers should group products together according to occasions, such as a meal for tonight or a girls’ night in,” says Clare Griffiths, European marketing director for Accolade Wines. “Often consumers looking for wine will also be tempted by snacks, so it’s a good idea to have adult crisps nearby.”

Sandy Sewell, commercial director at Florette, has a further suggestion: “To make the shopping experience easier for those consumers who are on the hunt for a complete meal solution, bagged salad works well grouped with items such as pizza and ready meals.”

PepsiCo has also linked up two commonly-purchased products to create an enticing on-the-go offering. “Breakfast on the go is a real opportunity for growth - out of home value growth is up 7% year- on-year with a third of shoppers saying they would buy a breakfast meal deal if available,” claims Kieran South, wholesale director PepsiCo UK&I. “Retailers can drive linked purchase by placing Quaker Oats single-serve pots and Quaker bars close to juices.”

The firm is launching a Quaker and Tropicana breakfast meal deal to further drive breakfast sales. This follows on from last October’s Fire and Ice, the firm’s first successful cross promotion, which encouraged consumers to buy Doritos and Pepsi Max. Linked purchases of the products doubled during the four-week promotion, with Doritos value sales increasing 16.2% and Pepsi Max value sales increasing 40.8%.

Country Choice has tapped into the opportunity of merchandising complementary items together too. “Our recent NPD has focused on ‘impulse’ food-to-go products such as cookies and cake bars,” says Clifford. “At the heart of this success has been display units sited either near the till or the coffee machine or a ‘parasite’ unit to be clipped onto the chilled sandwich fixture.”

Sandwiches are a key core item for consumers on the lunchtime shopper mission and can be used to signpost a lunch zone within the store. “Savouries and sandwiches are the key drivers for the eating on the move occasion,” says Ginsters head of brand marketing Andy Valentine. “They must be in a highly visible location and, if included in a meal deal, must be placed close to the other deal items, especially soft drinks, crisps and confectionery.”

HIM managing director Tom Fender notes that the success of each category within a set mission is reliant on strong ranging and availability of complementary categories. “If retailers have good sandwich and food-to-go ranges and good availability, then it will positively impact soft drink sales,” he says.

The sandwich, crisps and soft drink meal deal has become commonplace in c-stores, and can further drive the lunchtime mission. However, bear in mind that while a sandwich, crisps and soft drink is the most common combo, many consumers like to have a choice of the second food within a meal deal - it doesn’t have to be crisps. “If possible, then leave it open - consider crisps, yogurt, fruit or a chocolate bar,” says HIM’s Benjamin.

Müller’s Green agrees: “Food for now needs to be driven by offering a variety of meal deals to cater for different shopper needs. The health-conscious consumer is less likely to be attracted by a meal deal offering a sandwich, cola and packet of crisps, but would prefer the healthier option of a sandwich, choice of fruit juice or water and a fat-free yogurt such as Müllerlight.”

Including healthier options within your lunch fixture can also heighten its appeal to parents on lunchbox shopper missions. “Create a complete lunchbox to show parents how easy it is to select a healthy lunch cost-effectively and in just a few steps,” suggests Helen Cridge, trade marketing manager at FrieslandCampina. “Include a healthy sandwich or wrap, fruit, healthy snacks and a bottle of Yazoo. The easier it is for parents to find all the items together, the more sales will be generated.”

Ultimately, the trick is for retailers to hone into the shopper missions most relevant to their specific customer base. To aid with this, Accolade Wines has a tool on its website where store owners can enter their postcode to find out the type of shoppers in their area, allowing them to tailor their offerings accordingly. “For example, young women in their mid twenties tend to have lesser wine knowledge and are likely to be buying wine for a social occasion. These types of customers are more likely to purchase wine just before or on the way to a social event from a convenience store,” says marketing director Clare Griffiths. “Whereas an older shopper is more likely to be buying wine to enjoy at the end of the day and is likely to make a planned purchase from their convenience store.”

Müller concurs that strong knowledge of your customers is vital. “By understanding their shoppers and demographic location, retailers can tailor their range to cater for the shopper missions in their particular stores,” says Green. “City centre retailers, for example, will need to focus more on professional consumers who will be attracted by a variety of single pot yogurts and desserts to consume at lunch time or on morning/afternoon snacking occasions. Suburban retailers, on the other hand, will generally benefit more by focusing on mums on top-up shopping missions for whom multi-packs, lunchbox-size single pots and everyday desserts will be more appropriate.”

Mission management certainly doesn’t mean ditching everything you know about category management. Instead, it is about paying attention to shoppers’ needs and recognising that in order to meet them, it is necessary to focus on more than one category simultaneously.

Says Fender: “Retailers need to recognise that sales of one category can be affected by sales and availability of other categories - so we shouldn’t look at one category in isolation.”

It may be a tough assignment, but the shopper mission is one that all retailers must embrace, as doing so will improve your customers’ shopping experience and enable sales to soar.•

ones to watch…

Morning marvels

PepsiCo is encouraging retailers to tap in to the potential for breakfast meal deals. Consumers will be able to purchase a Quaker Oat So Simple Pot and Tropicana 330ml Orange Smooth, Orange with Juicy Bits, Orange and Mango or 330ml Copella apple juice for only £2.

tel: 0118 930 6666

Breakfast blitz

Cuisine de France is tapping into the out-of-home breakfast market - valued at £8.8bn - with a range of new breakfast offerings, including an apple & oat bread turnover, a scrambled egg & tomato bread turnover, and strawberry and blueberry fruit fantasy danish pastries.

tel: 0844 499 3344

Impulse offerings

To help drive food-for-now purchases, next month Müller Dairy is launching two limited edition single Crunch Corner pots (rrp 64p) orange chocolate Crunch Corner and cookies & cream. They are joined by a new limited edition Müller Rice pineapple & caramelised sugar (rrp 64p).

tel: 01630 692000

On the move

Microwaveable Stuffed Subs are the latest on-the-go snack from Ginsters. The products’ spicy fillings are sealed inside a bread dough, delivering oven-baked quality in 90 seconds. Stuffed Subs are available in chicken tikka, spicy meatball and all day breakfast styles.

rrp: £1.99

tel: 01579 386200

Meal solution

Mars has launched new pricemarked four-packs of Mars, Snickers and Twix Ice Cream. “Stocking multipacks in freezers alongside frozen food will provide an easy meal solution when paired with savoury frozen food,” says Mars Ice Cream general manager Tony Lorman.

rrp: £1.50

tel: 0845 045 0042