Love's, DAS Serve Up Technology
Retailer: Love’s Travel Stops
Manufacturer: DAS Cos.
Key Insight: Truck drivers say travel centers are their leading mobile electronics channel option. Traveling business people require being connected for work and entertainment.
Activation: The retailer rolled out a store-within-a-store concept called the “Mobile to Go Zone” that turned a stagnant apparel area into a modern, interactive place to capture sales in the high-growth electronics category. Love’s expects to have adopted the concept at 300 locations by fall.
Oklahoma City — Previously there was an unkempt collection of Angry Birds plush toys along with concert T-shirts, a pegboard of crosses and a standalone corrugated display for CDs. Now there are state-of-the-art electronic devices and accessories merchandised underneath bright category graphics, with a mobile technology endcap just around the corner. New tile on the floor is topped by freestanding “gift ideas” and “gadgets” displays on wheels.
More than 100 Love’s Travel Stops across the U.S. now feature a store-within-a-store concept dubbed the “Mobile to Go Zone.” The first debuted in August 2014, and Love’s plans to have 300 active by this fall.
The insights that led to the move were powerful: truck drivers, Love’s primary audience, say travel centers are their leading mobile electronics channel option because of the drivers’ frequent store visits (44 per month on average), easy parking and limited shopping time due to their 20 nights of travel per month. Traveling business people are the retailer’s second-largest audience; they are higher income and lower-frequency visitors but enjoy being connected for work and entertainment.
Kyle Sloan, the Love’s category manager who oversaw the remodel from the retailer side, says the objective was to drive incremental comparable store sales by turning a stagnant apparel area into a stylish and interactive place to capture sales in a high-growth category.
In the spring of 2013, Love’s challenged Lawn, Pennsylvania-based DAS Cos. – the manufacturer and distributor of automotive accessories, travel merchandise and mobile electronics, including the RoadPro family of brands – to design a space to merchandise high-growth electronic inventory. A series of concepts resulted in a warehouse prototype a year later, and the first prototype store debuted in Fort Meyers, Florida, in 2014.
Five additional stores followed that fall, and more were authorized in January and then August 2015. Approvals followed in part because when indexed to an average travel center, the initial Love’s stores with the concept stores sold 50% more mobile electronics.
Love’s and DAS monitored key performance indicators like department traffic increase and the percentage of shoppers who engaged their senses by touching, listening and trying on, as well as time spent watching and reading the provided informational content. They also collected store operations feedback to gauge employee adoption.
Derek Lehman, director of channel and shopper marketing for DAS, says the area has evolved over the years. It now includes the “mobile tech” endcap that bridges the gap between the traditional c-store side and the professional driver side of the store, wayfinding signs and digital media presented on up to seven digital screens.
“The initial store had printed headers mounted on header boards, which evolved in the second store to light boxes with brushed aluminum frames. That greatly improved the visibility of the Mobile to Go Zone and helped to attract and engage shoppers,” Lehman says. “The initial stores were a 100% stock kit with limited flexibility, which quickly evolved into a semi-stock kit that is 90% stock across all stores and 10% of the kit customized to fit each individual store’s available space. This allowed all stores, both new and retrofit locations, to have a custom-designed look and feel.”
One of the challenges involved with the design and execution was Love’s dearth of on-floor associates. Thus, the zone features interactive displays that serve as “virtual salespeople” across various product categories. An “Electronic Engagement Center” hosts six powered-up mobile devices linked to a big-screen computer monitor. The computer plays 30-second product videos and it has a touchscreen offering product content.
Furthermore, a “Sound Station” allows customers to select and compare the sound quality of portable Bluetooth speakers and try on, plug in and test various audio headphones. Also, a TV tower display has live video playing on each model, enabling picture and sound comparison. Lastly, a Garmin Vivofit activity tracker display allows customers to touch the product while watching an instructional video.
The interactive merchandising is housed in a maple-laminate, slatwall-anchored bookcase system, and product is organized by category within the bookcases and in freestanding aisle displays placed on a diagonal to spur customer approach.
Because truck drivers and traveling business people typically enter stores from different sides, Love’s and DAS had to begin awareness outside with pump topper signs. Tech-related circulars waited at the entrances and related posters adorned the restrooms. “Mobile Tech” signs hang from the ceiling to distinguish the mobile zone from “Truck and Auto” and “Travel Gear” areas. The area is positioned along the highest-traffic aisle leading to and from the restrooms.
The collaboration between Love’s and DAS won a Convenience Store News store design award in 2015, and store sales have increased, as have shopper traffic and dwell time in the area. “Love’s has been able to establish itself as the leading destination for leading electronics on America’s highways, while driving significant incremental sales and insuring operational efficiencies,” Sloan says.