Retailers have an opportunity to drive better sales out of their front-end merchandising by treating that area of the store as its own category, according to an analysis conducted by Mars Chocolate North America and Wrigley.
The two brands, both of which are divisions of global confectionery firm Mars Inc., collaborated to analyze more than 150 studies to come up with recommendations for retailers based on shopper insights. The resulting report describes what Mars and Wrigley call a distilled set of six, consumer-centric “Front End Key Beliefs.”
“One of the biggest surprises from our Key Beliefs study was the consistency of consumer behavior around the world,” said Timothy LeBel, vice president of sales-grocery/value/military for Mars Chocolate North America, Hackettstown, N.J. “Whether domestic or global, there are key characteristics that remain constant: The confectionery category is impulsive; exposure to the category drives conversion; shoppers primarily purchase for themselves at the grocery checkout; the power categories are high impulse, high household penetration and high frequency; the more simplistic the merchandising, the higher the customer conversion; and keeping the merchandising on checkouts consistent improves conversion.”
Rather than offering cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all recommendations, the Key Beliefs report provides a framework that considers the shopper journey as it relates to the front end. Each of the six Key Beliefs is described in terms of shopper insights and implications, and offers strategies based on specific needs.
One retailer that implemented recommendations from the Key Beliefs report, for example, was able to enhance its front-end offering by using key brands to anchor the planogram flow. It also capitalized on the impulse nature of the category by incorporating a series of display shippers.
Finally, it incorporated some shopper-marketing “bundling” of products in its coupons, offering free or discounted product when purchased in conjucnction with certain Mars products, such as M&M’S, Dove chocolates and Snickers bars.
The Key Beliefs report focused in particular on merchandising the self-checkout aisles. Shoppers age 18 to 49 have embraced this technology and expected to continue using it, the report found. One study cited in the report estimates that self-checkout will grow 63% across all outlets by 2015.
One of the challenges of merchandising this area of the store is that shoppers spend on average only about 3½ minutes in self-checkout lines, vs. 5 minutes in cashiered lanes. In addition, most of that shortened time in the self-checkout lane is spent actually conducting the transaction.
The Mars/Wrigley Key Beliefs report notes that while almost 80% of self-checkout lanes merchandise some products, nearly a third of those lack confectionery. The report recommends merchandising planograms for this area of the store.
The most successful allocation of product, the report found, would be merchandising 50% of the space with confectionery product, 30% with beverages, 10% with magazines and 10% with salty snacks. The “power categories” of the front end — confectionery product, beverages and magazines — represent the majority of front-end sales, and confectionery is the largest category in terms of both sales and profits, Mars noted.
Within those categories, retailers should form a center set with “power brands” that have high penetration, high loyalty and high share, with supporting brands on the outside.
“Self-checkout elicits a quick transaction experience and thus reduces shopping and browse time,” said LeBel. “That should not be a barrier for retailers to merchandise — it just means the retailer needs to include the right set of items that meet three criteria: They should be impulsive, have high purchase frequency and high household penetration. Those categories include candy and single-serve beverages. I believe this area of the store is under-merchandised due to the lack of insights.”
Retailers need to recognize the magnitude of the sales and profits generated at the front end, he said, and manage it like its own category.
“This will allow for operational efficiencies, since there are several different product groups involved,” he noted.
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