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5 ways you can build sales with product innovation

The phrase “new and exciting” exists for a reason, and Matthew Bergen has figured out exactly how to put it to good use at his campus c-store.


The phrase “new and exciting” exists for a reason, and Matthew Bergen has figured out exactly how to put it to good use at his campus c-store. He hasn’t been in his role as manager of the Union Market at McMaster University for long, but his ability to hone in on the wants and needs of his peers has already helped him carve out innovative territory.

Case in point: Bergen knows students love having access to a wide selection of products, particularly healthy alternatives, so he recently brought in a line of gluten-free and vegan products for his gluten-conscious shoppers, and regularly updates his other healthy product lines, including protein bar and cracker SKUs.

He turns to social media for help increasing product awareness.

Spreading the word

“As I get newer products in, and as I make up displays, I like to take pictures of the display and post it with a comment or tag of the products in that photo,” explains Bergen, who has made a big push when it comes to the digital realm, posting to the Union Market Facebook page and Twitter account at least three or four times a week.

Wendy Montgomery, marketing consultant with Mondelēz Canada, agrees that Bergen is smart to focus on bringing innovation into his store. “C&G is a great channel for consumers to try new products because of the single-serve size,” says Montgomery.

Coffee, bagels, and fresh sandwiches are huge sellers at Union Market, and Bergen says he uses the popularity of his foodservice program to anchor innovation.

Building sales

This is music to the ears of Sreeram Rajagopalan, senior manager – sales strategy with PepsiCo Foods Canada, who urges strong foodservice retailers like Bergen to leverage these programs to create innovative bundling combos and increase basket size.

“Given that the number of c-store trips is dropping, the best way to get sales is through more dollars or units per trip, so try to build occasions and build baskets with each trip,” says Rajagopalan, adding that roughly 22 percent of transactions within c-gas are purchased outside the main line, using a display that is not part of the everyday section (source: Proprietary Convenience & Gas Study conducted by Fresh Intelligence Inc.).

Getting the logistics right

According to Rajagopalan, display is also critical to increasing innovation sales. “Retailers should merchandise innovation in the most visible location possible, because ‘new’ is what you want to scream out when the shopper is coming into your store. Ideally what that means within a c-store is you want to be within six feet of the cash, where the shopper is most likely to notice it on the glide path to pay for something else, or on the way into the store.”


That’s why Bergen attracts attention to recent additions with placement in high-visibility areas and the use of unique chalkboard signage, and is looking to establish an innovation rack to house all new SKUs.

Making a commitment

Above all else, however, it’s essential to pay attention to your demographic and what customers want. Listening to his trend-conscious Millennial customers allowed Bergen to find the right SKUs for his store.

But Bergen says it isn’t enough to just know what your customers want; once you bring in a SKU, you need to really make a commitment, promoting it with display and staff suggestion to increase traction.

Top tips for increasing innovation sales:

1. Be first to market. Innovation sales can be highest before wider availability, so take advantage of initial trial purchase.

2. Use high-traffic areas. Create an innovation rack with accompanying signage, and display new products near foodservice counters.

3. Leverage POS materials. Signage helps bolster incremental sales, so visit to place an order.

4. Add complementary innovation. New SKUs that tie in to existing inventory offer cross-promotion and bundling opportunities.

5. Talk it out. Encourage staff to mention new SKUs to customers to improve basket size.

Source: Mondelēz Canada

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