C-store retailers have welcomed millions of new customers through their doors as people adapt to life under lockdown, but how can retailers hang on to these shoppers in the long term?
Retailers are making “herculean efforts” to stay open, despite huge pressures on staff and the demand to keep basic items in stock, claims founder of Rice Marketing Ltd and convenience expert Stephanie Rice. “They are unsung heroes right now but can be richly rewarded in the future if they tune into new customer demands. This could well be the start of a new era of growth for the convenience sector and retailers should be planning now, despite the pressure, to what their new offer will look like.”
Here, she lists seven ways in which retailers can seek to convert new faces into loyal shoppers:
Provide healthier options
Customers are looking to self-care and wellness as ways of building positive habits once the crisis is over. Help your customers build these positive habits by providing them with a better range of healthier choices. Review each of your planograms and ensure that you have a healthier option in each category – multi-seeded breads, low fat options, priority to zero sugar drinks, a wider range of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein bars, nut bars, non-dairy milks, no added sugar cereals.
Customers have mastered digital technology to allow them to work effectively from home. This is going to lead to customers reviewing the way they live their lives after the crisis, by staying more local, reducing their carbon footprint and relieving stress levels. Review your prices so that customers are not penalised by staying local. Avoid any temptation to take advantage of shortages and increased prices. Make sure that you communicate effectively why prices are increasing from your wholesalers, especially fruit and vegetables. Customers want everyday, low prices on their core range of essentials as well as relevant promotions.
Shout about community work
There is a real sense of togetherness and solidarity as we come to support the NHS and the frontline workers, by staying at home. Convenience stores are naturally community minded and it is really important that you show what you are doing to new customers, who will be unaware. Post regularly on your Facebook pages. Get pictures of people you are helping, whether because they are vulnerable or elderly. Set up a free home delivery service and advertise details on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Support essential workers with free food, discounts and priority shopping.
Customers want to support local suppliers in the future, to be able to rely on local production. Find a range of new local suppliers in bakery, bacon, meats, fish, dairy, cakes, crisps, pies, sausages, beers and ice cream. Trial them during the next two months as they will stand out for their exceptional quality, whilst adding a point of difference.
Bringing the outside in – customers no longer take nature for granted. Do a deal with a wholesaler who would normally be supplying garden centres; agree to sell a core range of bedding, topsoil, compost and small trees, to allow customers to spend time in their gardens. Build up a reputation for a small range of seasonal plants/gardening.
Appeal to kitchen creatives
Many customers are seeing time at home to do more of the things they don’t always have time to. Millions are baking more and trying new food recipes so as to avoid delivery takeaways that are taking over an hour to arrive or to sample new world cuisines - as we won’t be able to travel there any time soon. Decide what ranges you are going to become known for outside of the core categories of crisps, confectionery and drinks.
Increase your range of home-baking, visit other independents for inspiration.
Increase your ranges of rice, pulses, beans, spices with authentic ranges.
Post new recipes on your social channels for customers to try.
Start a mailing list
Capture the names of your new customers. Agree a targeted set of key messages about what is going on in your area, what new ranges you are stocking, what services you provide, any helpful tips and hints for staying well.
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