ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Consumers can be expected to celebrate the core four traditional holidays — Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas — but there is a myriad of national or faux holidays occurring multiple times a month that present opportunities for convenience store retailers to leverage the occasion to increase sales and profits.
Because consumers tend to consciously be aware of these moments and want to engage, c-store operators should be prepared to provide them with a convenient way to do so, category experts explained during the "Guide to Capitalizing on Key Consumer Moments" session as part of the NACS Crack the Code Experience.
"A consumer moment is any buying or selling opportunity during the calendar year for which consumers are actively engaged in and seeking solutions for," said Mike Gilroy, vice president of trade development and sponsorship for Mars Wrigley. These opportunities can include, but are not limited to, back to school, summer road trips, Super Bowl, Pi Day, Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Donut Day and more.
Two examples of convenience retailers taking advantage of such moments are TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) and RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.
In conjunction with June's National Candy Month, TA kicked off a "Summer Road Trip" campaign to boost morale and sales volume as consumers began emerging from the lockdown instated by COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, the Westlake, Ohio-based travel center operator was able to add value for guests with deals, while building brand awareness across the entire confectionery category.
"We will definitely be repeating this campaign. 'Summer Road Trip' is a sustainable season and we expect it to be as normal as Halloween or Easter," noted Peter Kempton Jr., category manager for TA, which operates travel centers in 44 U.S. states and Canada.
RaceTrac leveraged an unofficial national holiday, as well as its operational footprint, to build a winning formula around the Super Bowl. In 2019, the game was held in the retailer's hometown of Atlanta, giving RaceTrac the opportunity to engage guests and excite team members, emphasize its "Whatever Gets You Going" slogan, and drive traffic and product purchases at its convenience stores.
"The Super Bowl has played in three major markets where RaceTrac operates, presenting a huge opportunity," explained Nikki Loveless, candy category manager for the chain of 550 stores across Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee.
She suggests experimenting across categories for bundles, and creating secondary placements for key products like ice barrels, shippers and endcaps.
Building relevance around consumer moments such as these is more important now than ever, according to Marcia Webb, Nielsen's vice president of retail. C-stores are facing a number of operational challenges, most notably those posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been responsible for a drop in in-store promotions and for drastically changing how consumers behave and shop.
In order to get their fair share of the pie, Webb advises c-store operators to capitalize on memorable, personalized moments by focusing on four key components:
Innovation — Ensure your products and concepts are aligned to consumer demand and fill an unmet need;
Current and emerging trends — Keep a pulse on the attributes and items important to your consumers so that you can capitalize on growth trends;
Messaging — Put product features and benefits front and center on packaging and in marketing efforts; and
Predictive analytics — Ensure you are lowering prices where you’ll get credit and that your promotions are resonating with your consumers.
"Align your products and services to your consumers, and communicate that message broadly," Webb said, noting that shoppers are driven by services, price/value, assortment, experience and products.
The NACS Crack the Code Experience was a five-week digital event that brought together convenience store industry retailers and suppliers virtually in lieu of an in-person NACS Show this year. The event concluded Dec. 4.