Photo credit: Photo by Petr Kratochvil
According to a Deloitte study 61 percent of people now own smartphones – versus 42 percent two years ago. Among smartphone users, 68 percent plan to use it when shopping. We should enable them to use their smartphones when shopping at our locations for food, snacks and beverages. Learn more about why in my article titled Is your business ready to be on a smartphone?
Vending is a shopping alternative
For our industry, this is the beginning of a new era. We can no longer be in the re-stocking business. That is the path to being irrelevant. Our future demands much more than simply refilling the shelves with what was sold yesterday. If we continue to be re-stocking businesses, we will fail to be considered as a shopping alternative. Our long-term growth prospects will be doomed.
It’s time to give people a reason to come see what we offer – to encourage them buy from us.
They are shoppers – actually potential shoppers – since they are not obligated to purchase what we offer. Don’t think of them as “captive” because they can, very easily, go elsewhere – or brown-bag food, snacks and beverages from home. Don’t use the term consumers. “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people,” said Stanley Marcus, the retail legend who ran Neiman Marcus.
Younger people have far different shopping behaviors versus their baby boomer parents. It’s all about different food, snack and beverage choices from what their parents wanted.
Our industry had amazing success in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The beginning of the 21st century has been difficult and challenging to say the least. We are adapting now with micro markets and much broader office coffee service product and equipment options. Onsite foodservice has been diversified with more ethnic food alternatives and a wide range of beverage selections. Snacks have become meals and meals have become snacks.
Convenience stores and fast food restaurants have dramatically expanded their menus and added to their product assortment to attract younger shoppers.
At the same time, the competition is moving ahead aggressively with social media engagement strategies. One prediction for 2014, at foodabletv.com, noted that McDonald’s might “overtake Starbucks as the global leader of connected social media consumers.” The site reported that Starbucks has “more than 35 million Facebook fans and 6 million global Twitter followers.”
8 Steps to the future
here are eight specific action points for our industry. The path to success will be different from what we traditionally did to achieve profitable growth. Specifically:
- REMOTE MONITORING: Get connected! Almost every site should be networked for remote monitoring. There might be some exceptions where it is not a necessity – but those will be (very) few.
- SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT: Get started on your social media plan. Do not delay. Our industry is already lagging behind competing channels.
- CREATE AN APP: It must be thoroughly tested so that is fast and easy to use. Most new apps are deleted with 30 days of being installed on a smartphone
- ENGAGE AND ENROLL SHOPPERS: Get them registered and connected with your company. You cannot communicate if you do not know who they are and how to reach them.
- ESTABLISH SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE: Learn how to “play” on Facebook and Twitter. Begin two-way conversations with the people at the locations you serve. If you do this, someone must be directly responsible for replying to inquiries, complaints and the (very nice to receive) compliments from shoppers. Not being responsive promptly will be a very bad indicator to fans and followers – who will then stop paying attention. You must:
- Tell them what you’re selling.
- Let them know about new products or LTO’s (limited time offers) on the shelves.
- Inform them about the nutritional information and allergens.
- PRODUCT ASSORTMENT: Push your product assortment to deliver the highest possible unit and dollar sales. Every location will probably be different. Learn how to prosper with lots of planogram variations.
- PROMOTE USING SOCIAL MEDIA: Learn how to promote in social media. How are offers presented? How do you to use geo-fencing and other site-specific tools? What promotional strategies work best in social media? I am not a fan of (reduced) price promotions. Find ways to bundle items – think about the combination meals sold at fast food restaurants. For micro market operators combo meals represent a huge opportunity.
- Push (hard) for industry data. We cannot make good decisions without data on market share, growth and trending. Someone needs to take the lead and make this a reality.
Remember that young people expect that everything will be available all the time. They expect to be able to access it all from their smartphones or tablets. If we are not available as an app on their phones, they will see us as being stone-age and will look elsewhere for beverages, candy, snacks and food.
How many people have downloaded your app? How many Facebook fans and Twitter followers does your business have? If your answers are “none” – it is time to act.