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September 12, 2011

Competition is already intense in convenience retailing and it looks like there’s no end in sight. Big box retailers are doing a better job of satisfying the immediate consumption needs of their shoppers and smaller box retailers, that offer greater convenience, are growing fast. What is a convenience retailer to do to grow their business?

Guidance can be found in a study conducted several years ago by the Coca‑Cola Retailing Research Council. At that time, supermarkets faced increased competition from what they called “alternative” formats. These were the stores that shoppers were increasingly turning to for groceries instead of the supermarket.

I can clearly remember the Council discussion leading up to the study. Most of the retailers on the Council believed these new competitors were stealing their customers and that the study needed to find ways to stop them. One retailer, however, didn’t agree with the idea that competition was taking supermarket customers. He pointed out there’s really no gun to anyone’s head: consumers went freely to these alternative formats apparently because they did a better job of satisfying shoppers.

At first, the group didn’t buy into this descending opinion, but that person didn’t give in. Eventually, he convinced the rest of the Council it was more important to better understand and find ways to serve shopper needs than to concentrate on responding to the competition.

The result was The World According to Shoppers, study, which identified and profiled a variety of “shopping occasions.” In addition, the findings addressed exactly what shoppers look for in each situation.

Armed with this new information, food retailers were able to decide where to focus their attention. In response, many won more business by better satisfying shopper needs.

The current NACS/CCRRC research project has a lot of similarities to The World According to Shoppers. The focus is on doing serious shopper research. Phase 1 results will be presented at a NACS convention workshop on Monday, October 3 at 8 a.m. The session will be chaired by Fran Duskiewicz, senior vice president of Nice N Easy and the current Council chairman.

Come hear why good shopper research is important for convenience retailers and some of the learnings from phase 1 of the current research.

Bill Bishop
Research Director
NACS/Coca‑Cola Retailing Research Council
Founder, Willard Bishop Consulting and Chief Architect