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How does a company establish collaborative partnerships with retailers? It is a challenge, particularly when the type of store you need to connect with is in a highly fractured channel, with store owners who have varying levels of shopper understanding and where your categories are a fraction of the channel's overall sales. How do you demonstrate thought leadership in a meaningful way with the long term goal of building your business in a key channel?

This is the predicament a consumer packaged goods company (CPG) in the food vertical found themselves in with convenience store operators.

The CPG company developed a strategic approach, to help bridge the gap between them and c-store operators. They wanted to provide resourceful insights to the convenience operators that went beyond a brand-centric focus. The insights and information they provided would be a way to engage and build relationships with the c-store operator audience and better understand specific c-store opportunities and challenges for the brand.

C+R Research developed a mixed-method approach to gain insights necessary for the initiative.

Problem

A major food consumer packaged goods company needed better shelf representation and brand adoption in the convenience store. The convenience store channel has a large reach with over 150,000 facilities in the US alone; more than the number of supermarkets, supercenters, dollar stores and drug stores combined.

The challenge was that in the convenience store channel there is huge range in store formats, multiple models, and 63% of stores are run independently by single store operators. This makes a typical retail approach ineffective and the ability to build relationships with operators difficult.

The CPG company knew they needed a valuable way to build positive rapport and drive adoption of their products in the stores. However, the CPG food product categories are a limited piece of c-store sales and any marketing piece needed to be highly focused on solutions that would help store operators, not central to the CPG products and their benefits.

The client aimed to demonstrate their commitment by making a contribution that went beyond the scope of their product categories to the convenience store industry. They sought out C+R Research to develop an approach that would be scalable, memorable and useful for this channel.

Result

The C+R Research team explored convenience store shoppers' experiences, behaviors, attitudes, and motivations with a multi-varied, extended engagement research approach.

We provided the CPG food company a plethora of learnings. Some of the topics included, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What catches consumers' attention in-store
  • Emerging snack trends
  • How shoppers use social media in c-stores and online interactions with c-stores
  • Effective ways of driving and converting traffic in the morning
  • Gender differences in likes and dislikes regarding convenience stores
  • Decoding the why behind impulse buys
  • What makes great food service
  • Creating buzz around c-stores
  • Effective approaches to loyalty programs

As a result of the project, the client organization developed strong shopper empathy and shared their insights externally. The findings made it to the trade press and resulted in engagements with c-store operators.

Results were used to improve conversion, revenue, and customer satisfaction for the retailer as well as build the CPG manufacturer's presence in the channel.

Solution

An online community of c-store shoppers was set up for four months with the C+R team meeting weekly with the client. This approach allowed the team to have constant and ready access to the c-store shopper and conduct various research techniques, activities, and engagement methods.

The community provided an efficient way to cover wide ranging topics and formats, had design flexibility, allowed for quantitative rigor as well as qualitative rigor, and in-the-moment learnings. Results were delivered in multiple formats, such as infographics, to provide c-store operators a high level to detailed reports for retailer planning presentations. A full range of tools were used to capture the most reliable answers. Specific techniques employed were:

  • Quantitative surveys
  • Quick polls
  • Mobile missions
  • Photo and video capture
  • Shopper-driven forums about topics of interest to the community
  • Journaling
  • In-depth discussions

The results have helped the CPG company build trust and a collaborative partnership among convenience store operators. They are considered a thought-leader and valuable resource within the industry today.