Coke Brings Innovation to the Next Level

New Shopper Experience Innovation Center allows retailers to test concepts in mock stores with real customers.

By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

The Coca-Cola Co. has launched a Shopper Experience Innovation Center (SEIC) in Atlanta. The 15,000-square-foot facility opened last May and contains two retail environments that can be converted from a supermarket to a drug store, a restaurant or a convenience store to facilitate shopper insights research.

Convenience Store Decisions was given a personal tour of the impressive new facility last month. SEIC is meant to act as an incubator for new ideas, and a laboratory to test them with the intent of positioning the Coca-Cola Co. as an innovative leader in shopper marketing.

Shopper Insights
Market Place and Fresh Stop are two different working names used for the various mock stores, but they can also be converted to identically match a c-store brand right down to the store layout and logo on the outside. The mock stores can even scan products at the point of sale (POS), and can use any POS system requested.

The SEIC offers shopper insights development through focus groups, in-depth interviews, shop-alongs and shopper immersion; concept/solution reviews, including testing and validation for packaging, messaging, POS, fixtures, displays and store layouts; and operational testing encompassing a range of solutions, such as shelf set and space planning, as well as prototype installation, development and execution.

“The realistic retail settings enable in-environment learning and insight generation that will lead to more innovative designs, higher impact solutions and improved ways to work with our customers,” said Ron Hughes, director of shopper experience innovation for Coca-Cola. “Learnings from the SEIC can create truly unique and engaging in-store experiences that drive revenue. The SEIC also helps customers better identify and capture current and future opportunities.”

The facility features 21 cameras and 46 discreet nesting locations, making it possible to zoom in to read hand-held grocery lists used by test shoppers. Technicians monitor footage from a control room that offers all the capabilities of a modern television studio. Feeds are recorded and delivered in split-screen views to observers in an adjacent room, where an interactive white board can exhibit real-time displays of shoppers during testing that can be viewed by colleagues located thousands of miles away.

SEIC can also be used for employee training, or filming videos and commercials. “We’ve only begun to tap into the SEIC’s potential,” said Hughes.

New Innovations
Since its debut, the SEIC has played a role the in development and refinement of numerous innovations, including the Beverage Aisle Reinvention (BAR) system, to be piloted by a prominent regional supermarket chain, and solutions for c-stores, such as the new On The Road Again (OTRA) cross-category chilled merchandiser, currently in testing at Kum & Go.

“We nicknamed it On the Road Again because shoppers are rushed—they want to get in and out quickly. So they can come here and open the OTRA cooler and get their beverage and sandwich in one place. Then they take some chips and candy from an attached display,” Hughes said.  Nearby cardboard trays encourage bundling, while a 10-inch video screen built into the door, plays content and can advertise the bundled price.
The pilot started in September and is being conducted over a 24-week period in 37 stores in five markets.

“We believe OTRA will help Kum & Go meet multiple business objectives and enable us to serve our customers quickly,” said Richard Ginther, category manager of Kum & Go. “From our perspective, OTRA promotes combo sales, brings attention to our foodservice operations and provides a convenient, time-saving process for our shoppers, allowing them to get in and out of the store quickly with multiple purchases.” 

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