By John WilkinsÂ
Recently, in one focus group of conÂsumers gathered in Atlanta, a particiÂpant even commented, "I donâ€™t put those things together â€" convenience and eco-friendly are bookends."
But green is becoming increasingly important to consumers across all channels of trade. Many convenience retailers are keenly aware of this but donâ€™t seem to be connecting with conÂsumers over the issue. And many reÂtailers are simply not sure where to start.
To bridge this gap, the NACS Show workshop, "It IS Easy Being Green," generated green marketing ideas convenience retailers could execute easily, and with minimal investment.
The interactive session focused on two broad ideas: Get credit for what you are already doing and be part of the solution.
In general, many convenience reÂtailers are already doing things that are good for the environment, but they are not communicating their efforts to consumers.
And if youâ€™re not "green," some of the workshop attendees suggested acÂtivities to drive in-store traffic inÂcluding: placement of battery and ink recycling bins, fountain refill proÂgrams and joining or sponsoring local environmental groups. Investments in energy-efficient lighting, coolers and pump technology also demonÂstrate a positive environmental busiÂness model.
Much of the insight presented at the Show workshop stemmed from the survey results of the three focus groups in Atlanta (coordinated by MillerZell, which develops selling enÂvironments for retailers). ResponÂdents revealed a huge information gap between what they expect to be green and what they already know about green.
For example, focus group consumÂers want to know more about how alÂternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are developed, but they donâ€™t know where to buy the fuels, what the labels at the pump mean or how these fuels impact the environment.
For retailers who sell alternative fuels, this provides a huge opportuÂnity to provide information and build brand equity. One focus group particÂipant asked, "Why donâ€™t retailers put that information at the pump?" noting that the time spent filling up is a capÂtive time to be learning about alternaÂtive fuels.
However, survey participants reÂvealed that they find sustainability claims more credible in the fuel and energy categories than any other cateÂgory, such as cleaning products or apÂpliances, because the claims can be measured (i.e., carbon footprint).
For a claim to be credible to conÂsumers, retailers need to show the benefits in solid terms, such as sigÂnage highlighting the environmental savings of energy-efficient lighting and cooler investments, accompanied by specific metrics related to emisÂsions or electricity reduction.
If youâ€™re still foggy about the imporÂtance of green to your business, look to our focus group. They ranked green on a scale of attributes important for conÂvenience stores. Location, cleanliness, friendliness and price still came out on top. However, once those are near parÂity, green becomes a powerful influÂencer in whether a customer chooses to shop your store â€" or not.
John Wilkins is the vice president of retail strategy at MillerZell. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.