Self-scan was a convenient way to enable shoppers to checkout with the added benefit of speed and privacy. Retailers encouraged it because it delivered upon speed, and reduced personnel costs. The challenge was that merchandising was forgotten and conversion levels plummeted. The pain is still experienced today, and stores are now limited to the confines of existing space and equipment.
With two-thirds of the confection category and other treats & snacks purchases made on impulse, retailers are at risk of losing a top ten category once shoppers begin to skip the line. We’ll be spending the next 20-25 years trying to retrofit stores to recover lost sales and profit.
But there is a way to boost impulse purchasing while giving customers efficiency and convenience. When you think about the pandemic retail landscape and what comes next — category aside — it all starts with the consumer and shopper. First, we need to understand how this pandemic is impacting their behavior, both in real time today and then moving forward into the future. What is the “new norm?” What behaviors will stick and which will slide back to normal, eventually?
And then we have to think about merchandising in this pandemic landscape. In the world of social distancing checkout lanes, for example, are now extending into the approach area of the store — so maybe now it’s time to change your merchandising strategy if you’re an impulse buy. Or can you leverage that space differently? Can you sell larger packs because people are stocking up more? Or will impulse purchases just look different when autonomous checkout becomes the norm?
Maybe people will pop in and grab a quick-serve meal or dessert on their way home, because they don’t have to wait near other people in lines. That’s where seamless technology like Standard’s offering has additional benefit these days. Not only can shoppers avoid lines, but they can pay in a more contactless manner.
The simplest way to solve challenges like these to encourage greater collaboration between vendors, retailers, and manufacturers. When that happens—when the three sides can work together to combine technology with insight and experience—the entire industry gets better. Too often, manufacturers get left out of that conversation. And when that happens, considerations like impact to sales can go completely overlooked.
Again, it’s about understanding the people, portfolio and processes they're following—and each piece of the retail puzzle plays a part. Retailers need to understand the shopper and their customer journeys, then translate that into opportunities or threats for the retailer.
You also need to have relationships — retailer to manufacturer to vendor and to shoppers. When you have strong relationships there’s naturally a greater willingness to try and explore, whether it’s a new product or new technology or new merchandising strategy.
At the end of the day, no matter your role in this industry, we’re all looking to achieve the same thing — that’s important to remember. We’re all looking to find that win-win-win so the retailers, manufacturer and shopper can all win. Done right, technology like autonomous checkout can really play an important role.
Vince Hummel is global category leadership director for new transaction points at Mars Confectionery.