Tracking Convenience Store Customers

MSA and Paradigm Sample, in partnership with Convenience Store Decisions, are drilling down with fine-grained questions to understand consumer shopping behavior.

By Alice Greene, Management Science Associates (MSA).

Grocery shopper purchase decisions are highly influenced by brand loyalty, just as price sensitivity prevails with warehouse club members. But what drives convenience-store shoppers’ decisions when it comes to immediate consumption and other channel categories?

For retailers and their suppliers, answers to this question have been hard to find and expensive to gather.

Another longstanding challenge lies in understanding the shopping behaviors of 18-34-year-olds, the segment most likely to shop the convenience channel, but one that is less prone to participate on panels or answer land-line surveys.

Enter the new Convenience Consumer Insights Panel (cciPanel), which tracks convenience shoppers via the smartphone and other platforms that have opened up access to younger consumers in particular.

Now, by recruiting and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with convenience consumers in particular, Paradigm Sample and Management Science Associates (MSA) have developed a syndicated service to keep retailers and suppliers in tune with immediate-consumption purchase decisions and how to influence them.

Convenience Store Decisions is the exclusive media sponsor of the cciPanel, supporting the service’s mission to deliver new levels of shopper insights to today’s convenience store operators and suppliers.

CSD’s National Advisory Group (NAG) of retailers will be tapped by the cciPanel to ensure its surveys’ ongoing relevance and creativity. Some exclusive findings will be delivered during the educational sessions at NAG conferences.

Extensive Customer DataBase
In contrast to traditional panel or survey techniques, the cciPanel maintains a robust database of known c-store shoppers with full demographic profiles and historical data. Moreover, the panel is engaged with Paradigm Sample in an ongoing way and has demonstrated 40-50% response rates and 90%-plus completion rates.

“Smartphones are an everyday part of our target audience’s life. Our panelists are invested in their smartphone activities and, as a result, show high levels of interest in engagement,” said Sima Vasa, CEO of Paradigm Sample. “This means we can accomplish many surveys quickly and efficiently.”

Paradigm Sample will host and administer the syndicated-service surveys and manage respondent incentives. MSA will perform quality assurance, cleanse the data and deliver analysis to end clients. CSD Editor John Lofstock will assist in developing targeted questions to identify emerging c-store trends on a category basis.

MSA has been at the forefront of panel data analysis since its inception, beginning with seminal work in the 1960s on learning theory, brand-mix shifting and new brand launches. The firm was the first to develop large-scale panels of retail-store scanner data and also the first to model the causal pricing and promotion data that these panels provided.
Over the past 15 years, MSA also has supported manufacturer trade programs for retailers and retail execution activities targeting consumers in a variety of ways, including tracking product movement data. This experience will make syndicated or custom applications of the panel more effective. For example, MSA can help its clients target high-volume stores for in-store activities and measure the impact of targeted campaigns.

“Convenience historically has been a hard-to-monitor channel due to the profile of the c-store shopper and the immediate-consumption nature of many purchases,” said Suzy Silliman, managing director of MSA’s Information Management Solutions division. “This new, affordable, syndicated offering gives CPG manufacturers the opportunity to gain new and valuable learnings about consumers of their products in convenience outlets and those shoppers’ purchase-decision processes.”

Spotting Opportunities

MSA client Cadbury, now part of the Kraft Foods Inc. organization, last fall leveraged Paradigm Sample panelists to discover where gum buyers make their purchases and to explore how heavily c-store shoppers’ purchasing patterns differed from others. Overall, Cadbury learned that convenience was the most named channel for respondents’ most recent gum purchases and was the channel of choice for gum among heavy c-store shoppers (see chart on right).

Cadbury also captured insights into why specific brands were chosen, which brands consumers were most likely to be picking for the first time, and how choices differed by age. One of the most helpful insights was determining where shoppers expect to find gum in the store, allowing Cadbury to make informed decisions about racks and other in-store investments.

For the custom Cadbury study, Paradigm fielded surveys among in-store shoppers—who were triggered to “text in” for a smartphone survey and earned realizable incentives such as electronic gift codes—and among its established panel of consumers. Cadbury performed follow-up surveys with the consumers who had been recruited in-store, illustrating the power of sustaining an ongoing dialogue with shoppers pertaining to their most recent purchases. Follow-up questions included, “Will you buy the item again?” and focused on their attitudes about convenience with questions such as, “What is important to you in the c-store where you shop?”

MSA’s role in the project was to use the distributor-shipments data it manages for Cadbury to target high-gum-volume stores for in-store solicitation. It also processed, cleansed and analyzed the Paradigm Sample respondent data.
The project’s outcomes, which were shared at MSA’s CPG Leaders RoundTable event for client manufacturers and trading partners in October 2010, affirmed the value of a targeted panel of convenience shoppers and contributed to the decision to launch the cciPanel, which can be used for similar custom studies or as a syndicated service.

The syndicated service guarantees quarterly insights gathered from the panel, made up of consumers that shop at convenience stores at least every 60 days. Each survey will comprise:
• Repeating questions about the channel such as“What categories do you purchase in convenience?”
• Topical questions like “What types of prepared foods do you buy in convenience?”
• Shopped-category questions such as,“Which is your favorite gum brand?”
• Select suggested subscriber questions.

All responses will be available to all clients of the service, including those associated with categories other than their own. Subscribers to the syndicated services may also ask proprietary omnibus questions, the results of which will be shared only with them.

Custom studies can leverage the panel and can be coordinated to ensure the respondent is engaged while in the shopping environment, at a sampling event or in other targeted settings. Subscribers will receive discounts on cciPanel-based custom-study rates.

Look for regular insights from the cciPanel in Convenience Store Decisions each quarter. The next panel update in March will focus on frequency and attitudes toward prepared, fresh and hot foods purchases, and how convenience store coffee stacks up against national and regional brands.

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