By Chris Blasinsky
CHICAGO - On the final day of the NACS State of the Industry Summit, attendees learned even more about the value of understanding their consumers with an exclusive look at findings from two shopper insight programs: the NACS Convenience Tracking Program (CTP) and C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI).
Leroy Kelsey, NACS director of industry analytics, oversees the NACS CTP and shared that the association launched the data-driven shopper intercept program in 2009 to provide convenience and fuel retailers and industry suppliers with reliable insights on their customers€™ intentions and behaviors.
"We know intuitively that we€™re an impulse channel," said Kelsey, noting that 80% of the merchandise that c-stores sell is consumed within the first hour of purchase. What€™s important, however, is being able to quantify this key c-store characteristic. "Our battle isn€™t fought in the future €" it€™s fought in the now. We€™re an immediate channel, so we need moment of truth insights" gained through customer interviews and observations, he said.
Teeing up the insights, Kelsey explained that NACS CTP collects insights based on: customer perception; experiential factors; opportunity gaps and conversion rates for specific categories; category drivers/destination categories; and effective forms of promotion that customers find most engaging. CSI collects metrics based on observations inside the store and the physical path to purchase.
Kelsey shared CTP data that shows a 38-cent difference between a customer€™s intended spend and actual spend, known as "the gap." This gap gets larger when drilled down to women versus men. "What€™s key is the incremental potential €" 56 cents higher [female] compared to 36 cents higher [male]," he said, adding that this metric speaks volumes for retailers to attract, retain and grow their female shopper base.
Dr. Rajeev Sharma, affectionately called a "paid stalker," is a founder of VideoMining, a technology-based in-store analytics tool that powers CSI data and "fills a blind spot in the industry" with results that show what shoppers actually do in the store. "That€™s the behavior you€™re trying to influence," he said.
Sharma advised Summit attendees that it€™s not enough to observe isolated areas within the store. "You need to understand the entire journey" from when the customer comes into the store to the checkout. He also noted that the data reveals opportunities for retailers to influence shopping behavior, as well as understand what€™s going on during the customer€™s shopping trip.
Sharma also shared that many c-store customers are clearly "on a mission" to reach their destination category and that it€™s difficult to interrupt them. "Don€™t bother getting in their way," he said, suggesting that retailers could use other categories to reach these customers at "the moment they turn around" to drive incremental sales.
Both programs, summarized Kelsey, are designed to capture actionable shopper insights that help retailers increase brand equity and customer loyalty, and ultimately grow sales and gross profit dollars.