Customers are shopping for their Christmas Day food and drink right up until the last minute, with 60% still shopping between 22-24 December last year, writes HIM’s Elyse Charvin. Busy lifestyles drive this eleventh-hour shopping; it is also what makes it difficult to influence these time-strapped shoppers’ purchases in store.

On a typical day, almost three-quarters of convenience store shoppers would like to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible, never mind their need for speed in the lead up to Christmas! Many shoppers manage to do so as they are experts in switching to autopilot on entry. In fact, shoppers visit their local c-store so regularly (200 times per year!) that they have a good idea of what to expect in terms of products available, merchandising and store layout.

So, how can we interrupt c-store shoppers during this notoriously busy and inevitably stressful time?
Promotions are the most effective mechanism. Almost half of those who bought on impulse did so because the items were on offer. But signage can also be influential, particularly to those on gifting/entertaining missions. Gifting options, eye-catching displays and signage should be located at the front of store for maximum shopper inspiration. This will drive impulse purchases, currently at a five-year high.

Magnetic categories can also be used to pull shoppers into more aisles and thus open up more hot spots of influence. Over the Christmas period in 2014, shoppers relied on the convenience sector for festive staples, 5% bought alcohol for gifts and 4% bought food for gifts. Use signage related 
to these items to direct the shopper’s path once 
in store.

Finally, don’t forget to maximise outdoor space! As many as 36% of shopping visits are not planned – they are “just passing by” – therefore offering an incentive to step in is key for generating sales this holiday. C-store shoppers have told us that they feel it is important to support their local store, they expect to find the products they want in stock, and promotions are key for them. Therefore, the ‘must-haves’ of effective communication this Christmas should include local signage, core top-up range and strong adverts for the best deals.