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4 strategies for delivering a more experiential confectionery shopping experience

unnamed-1Like all things retail these days, the confectionery shopping experience is in flux. New technology and the rise of e-commerce is shifting the way shoppers behave, as they’re now looking for a more experiential confectionery shopping experience.

“The in-store experience now has to offer a holistic approach that incorporates this shift and creates a cohesive shopping experience. This can come to life in a lot of ways for retailers,” said Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience at Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

For example, although it’s still a highly impulsive category, there is an opportunity to help products become planned purchases, making it from the aisle to the basket by connecting online communications with those in stores, Dodge explained.

“This is done by matching external promotions, such as web banners, with the internal merchandising experience,” he said.

Millennials are the driving force behind the confectionery shopping shift, and this generation is embracing the small format of the convenience channel now more than ever. C-stores stocking unique flavors, textures and pack types are helping meet the needs of this generation.

“In addition to product mix, incorporating unique fixtures and signage is improving the c-store experience and increasing shopper engagement with the category,” McLane Co. Inc. Confection Category Manager Kraig Morrison advised. “New technology and increased services are also evolving the shopper experience. For example, e-commerce and delivery are a couple of the future driving forces of the c-store shopping experience.”

As consumers’ confectionery shopping expectations continue to evolve, it’s becoming increasingly important for c-store retailers to provide a seamless, integrated experience.

Here are four recommendations from confectionery category experts on how to win more sales.

  1. Merchandising

The best planograming strategy for confection places the top-performing items and brands in the area of the setwith the highest visual penetration rate, also known as the “strike zone.”

Positioning top items within the strike zone not only optimizes the placement of the best items in the set, but it also allows for king and standard pack types to be blocked separately, making the aisle more shoppable, according to Morrison.

“Grouping pack types helps to put king-size, standard and non-chocolate in their own prominent locations. With 32% of consumers only looking for king and

29% only looking for standard, creating their own blocks allows the planogram to cater to each customer’s need state,” he said.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery recently conducted a global, multi-month survey to understand what influences shopper purchasing decisions and developed a few key strategies:

  • Carry a balanced assortment of gum, mints, fruity confections and chocolate to meet the shoppers’ needs and drive sales.
  • Reorganize products based on what motivates shoppers to purchase certain items. For example, pack type is the top purchase driver for fruity confections, while brand

name is the top purchase driver for chocolate.

The candy aisle has traditionally been where shoppers seek confection, and 64% of confection purchases still originate from this primary location.

However, the candy aisle has earned a reputation as being one of the most difficult areas of the store to shop.

“Optimizing the candy aisle and arranging the planogram to place the products the shopper most often seeks in the ‘strike zone’ can decrease product search time by

50% and yield a 4-percent to 6-percent increase in sales,” noted Alan Tobin, director of category management, convenience channel, at The Hershey Co.

This strategy ensures that the strike zone is reserved for only the very best items, which should include all sizes. Getting the merchandising strategy right in the primary location is key to success in the confectionery category.

“If shoppers are unable to locate an item they desire immediately, they will walk away from the category completely,” Tobin acknowledged.

Core-Mark International Inc.’s Michael Caporusso, director of marketing and category management, shared a similar sentiment:

“One of the barriers to the category is wrong pricing and another is if the candy aisle has low visibility, so prioritize the placement of products.”

However, retailers must also be cognizant that the candy category is driven by brand and innovation. “Shoppers are looking for specific brands, but they’re also looking to indulge in what they haven’t eaten before,” said Caporusso. “It’s a contradictory experience, but for a c-store retailer to provide convenience, you have to have both experiences.”

  1. Signage

The average time spent in a convenience store is only two minutes and 42 seconds. And of this short period of time, only 18 seconds are spent in-aisle.

“Signage helps the shopper navigate the store and directs the shopper through the aisle to make the most of this valuable time. Good examples are window and

pumptopper signage to help drive shoppers into the store,” said Morrison.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery’s Dodge agrees with this strategy and recommends retailers leverage a mix of in-store and out-of-store signage by advertising power brands on the lot during key holidays and leveraging pumptoppers and gas TV ads to promote high-margin basket builder categories, like confection.

  1. Promotions

Promotional effectiveness is becoming more of a must have to generate gains year over year.

The anticipated lift in sales that the “right price” will trigger, combined with the successful application of marketing, has to accomplish the goal of producing more net profit at the reduced price for the period of time. According to McLane’s Morrison, two-for pricing is one of the most successful drivers in candy, leading to the “win-win-win result.”

“The shopper recognizes the value of a 2/$2 or 2/$3 offer for multiple products and, at the same time, the retailer and the manufacturer are gaining sales and penny profit gains with the larger basket rings,” he said, adding that fountain drink bundling is another successful driver.

  1. Last Interruptions

Aside from the candy aisle, counter unit displays, under the counter and queue lines are critical secondary purchase points for confectionery, as shoppers approach the pay point from these different vantage points. It’s important for c-stores to maximize checkout given the brief time customers spend in the store.

With that in mind, Dodge has these three final tips for c-store operators:

  • Redesign the checkout by using large-footprint and ground-up builds, as well as register toppers that feature power categories and power brands.
  • Make sure products are easy to shop and well organized around the checkout. If shoppers can easily locate impulse products, they are more likely to add them to their basket.
  • Provide a variety of product choices to satisfy different shoppers’ end-of-trip needs.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

3 in-store strategies to drive impulse purchases

shopping-basket-icon-TEASER_0The convenience channel has long been known for its cokes and smokes, but if you ask any convenience store retailer, supplier or distributor what really has the ability to drive profits by increasing basket size, they will tell you it’s the highly profitable and highly impulsive candy and snacks categories.

“Candy and snacks — both salty and sweet — are very important to a c-store’s profitability. These categories carry above-average margins and provide a strong impulse purchase opportunity for many of our guests,” Ken Hagler, senior director of merchandising for Tri Star Energy LLC’s Twice Daily Convenience Stores.

Alan Tobin, senior manager, c-store category strategy and insights for The Hershey Co., agrees that candy and snacks play a key role in building baskets at c-stores.

“With 47% of purchases being unplanned, and more than 80% of purchases consumed within an hour, a candy and snacks consumer is in the market for these products on pretty much every trip,” Tobin pointed out.

So, the question becomes: What are the most effective ways convenience store operators can lean into the candy and snacks categories to drive both impulsive and purposeful purchases?

Retailers and suppliers shared the following tricks of the trade:


Twice Daily, operator of 50 c-stores across Tennessee and Kentucky, focuses on its fresh food and beverage offers to drive in-store traffic. Once in-store, Twice Daily emphasizes its candy and snack items to entice extra buys. It does this by strategically displaying these categories on the way to and from destination zones, such as the beverage cooler, fresh food area, and along the sales counter.

“We believe this provides us with the greatest opportunity to garner that additional add-on sale of a candy or snack item to go with a customer’s food or beverage purchase,” Hagler explained. “We also merchandise top-selling candy and snack items at the sales counter to capture that last-second impulse purchase to go along with the other items being purchased.”


The front counter is where shoppers spend the most time dwelling, notes Hershey’s Tobin.

“About 17% of a shopper’s total time in-store is spent at the checkout. With an average of 23% of candy and snack sales coming from the checkout area, retailers have a huge opportunity to increase basket sizes through maximizing merchandising in this space,” he said.

Tobin recommends incorporating one of three merchandising systems at every pay point:

  1. Counter unit: With limited space, retailers should only merchandise the best-selling brands and items here. About 75%t of candy sales from a counter unit are incremental, he reports.
  2. Under the counter: Retailers who have executed this method saw an average of a 10 to 12% lift in category sales, with a 36%t increase in frontend conversion, according to Tobin.
  3. Queue line: Recent Hershey research showed a 56% increase in buyer conversion at the pay point after a queue line was installed.


Although it seems like an obvious solution, clear and simple signage is a must to communicate specials and promotional offers to capture incremental basket rings.

“One of the biggest gaps we see with the c-stores we work with is not having enough signage and callouts to grab customers’ attention, especially when it’s a bundle or a price-driven offer, so the customer sees it and gets the chance to make that decision,” said Joe Thrash, national trade relations manager for McKee Foods Corp., manufacturer of Little Debbie packaged sweet snacks.

Too often, signage doesn’t make sense in focusing on the bundle offer or is just not there, he explained.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.