By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
The NACS/Coca Cola Retailing Research Council (NACS/CCRC) has introduced a powerful new tool for c-store retailers: “Playbook for Success: A Three-Step Guide to Growing the C-Store Business.”
“Operators of any size will find this guide to be an essential business resource,” said Bill Bishop, research director for NACS/CCRRC. “To our knowledge, there’s never been a practical, yet comprehensive blueprint like this available to c-stores.”
The 25-page Playbook combines three reports and 17,000 shopper interviews from 10 different retail channels in 29 cities and eight months of analysis. The council’s work in reducing the research down to a comprehensive Playbook was, in large measure, done by a work group that included retailers from major c-store chains, such as 7-Eleven, Wawa, Speedway and Circle K.
“The council distilled hundreds of pages of research to create a document people can put to work right away in their c-store businesses,” Bishop said.
Not only does the study combine a tremendous amount of original data, but it also looks at convenience shopping in a larger context, taking into account other channels, such as drug and dollar store, where convenience shopping also takes place. “This study not only is based on big numbers data, but it is also based on looking at the shoppers’ choices for the things c-stores provide and the full range of what’s available to them in the various channels,” Bishop said.
Easy As 1-2-3
The Playbook outlines three steps to help operators improve their businesses, and provides a brief survey so retailers can determine where their store stands in terms of serving shoppers, and thus where in the steps they should start. This three-step approach to c-store growth includes Delivering on Core Needs, Defending Your Turf and Attracting New Business.
Step One: Delivering on Core Needs is about getting the basics right. Shopper surveys revealed that consumers apply some minimum standards to stores, which frequently revolve around the security or safety of the store, as well as store cleanliness—two areas where c-stores showed vulnerability. “Data showed some c-stores are not getting shoppers because of the way they look and operate,” Bishop noted. Other step one considerations include the array of products, pricing and value.
Step Two: Defending Your Turf is the place to start for retailers who are already meeting the basics. While c-store operators are doing a solid job with their grab-and-go foodservice sections, opportunities to do better exist in the realm of customer service as well as calling attention to the variety of products offered, especially in the beverage category. “While c-stores are the undisputed leader in convenience grab and go, the drug and dollar store channels are fast improving their offerings in this area, putting the pressure on c-stores to perform even better,” Bishop said. Customer concerns in this area included not being able to find breakfast sandwiches throughout the day and wanting more ways to customize their orders.
Step Three: Attracting New Business reminds retailers already scoring high on customer satisfaction that opportunities exist to increase the number of shopper occasions at convenience stores. Providing more value-priced, fresh alternatives to fast food; capturing the female customer’s business; providing value for families on a budget; and moving customers quickly through the checkout process are all platforms where chains can improve. “For example, c-stores are a place to take kids for a treat because prices are reasonable and there is something for everyone,” Bishop said. “The key here is targeting what shoppers want that we’re not giving them today,” he said.
The council plans to conduct pilot tests in 2013 and share the results in 2014. Bishop invites any retailer who might be interested in being part of the pilots, which would mean implementing some of the ideas of the Playbook and sharing the results, to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download the Playbook for Success go to www.ccrrc.org.