Study Prompts In-Store Revamp at BP's ampm

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Study Prompts In-Store Revamp at BP's ampm

By Dan Alaimo - 09/30/2011

CHICAGO -- BP's ampm convenience stores will revamp assortments, merchandising and store layouts next year following results from a recent study. Over the past year, the chain participated in a Center Store MegaStudy conducted by VideoMining Corp. of State College, Pa. The study used ceiling-mounted cameras and transaction data to measure customer behavior on the path to purchase and the "moment of truth" at the shelf. Other chains in the project were 7-Eleven, Circle K, Sheetz and Cumberland Farms.

"It gave us something to think about in planning -- both store layout and design -- as far as what store space was being efficiently used for what categories," said Michael Burkenbine, marketing programs specialist, ampm, based in southern California. "We also could see times of day when people would walk by something. We have sales, but this told us which people walked over and didn't purchase versus the people who did purchase."

Burkenbine presented select ampm findings from the study at this month's LEAD Marketing Conference here. LEAD, produced by the Shopper Technology Institute, Cleveland, stands for loyalty, engagement, analytics and digital.

For example, ampm discovered that it had a 61 percent conversion rate of people in the store who purchase something, "which was fairly low for a convenience store chain," Burkenbine said. But the average time customers spent in the stores was high -- 2.79 minutes.

Making changes to increase the conversion rate, while taking greater advantage of the time the shoppers are in-store, will be part of the chain's planning for 2012, he said. "We have people in our four walls longer than any other convenience store chain, so we should be able to get more sales out of that," he said.

Initially the changes will focus on categories, promotions and product placement, which are easier to modify in a chain that is entirely operated by franchisees, he said. But the company also will look at layout, design and fixturing, based on the "heat map" findings in the study tracking traffic patterns. These require more financial resources and the cooperation between corporate and franchisees to change.

"So we are looking at our center of store offering -- should we be offering something more than what we now carry? What else would people who spend as much as six minutes inside of a site like to see. That's coming up for 2012 for us," Burkenbine said.

The study confirmed that the chain's signature condiment tables for coffee and food were popular, and also found that "we do very, very well at breakfast. The vast majority of the people who come into our sites during breakfast actually purchase. The traffic-to-buy ratio was really high." As a result, ampm will look at adding more breakfast-related items next year, such as meal bars for breakfast, Burkenbine said.

End-caps also indexed very well in the research, so ampm will reconsider the product mix next year. "Maybe higher margin items would go there, or things that aren't selling so well. We could lift those products as long as the margins are right," he said.

For ampm, VideoMining collected data on over 1 million shopping trips, said Rajeev Sharma, the latter's CEO. The overall study will track 10 million trips. The study was based in part on the shopper marketing axiom, "It they don't pass it, they won't see it, they can't buy it," he said.

"The goal is first to identify where you are losing shoppers. Is it for lack of exposure or is it after engagement? Then look at different marketing stimuli to quantitatively measure and understand what impact it has in terms of conversion rate," Sharma said.