While there is no "secret sauce" to the perfect micro market, there are best practices. Here are some of the best Dos and Don'ts shared by operators who know.
Do have a grand opening
Taking the time and money to send staff to a location to open a micro market might seem like a 'nice to have', but it's actually essential. Not everyone understands what a micro market is or how it works. Even if the location previously had a micro market, your system will be different. The last thing you want is for employees to go elsewhere because they don't feel comfortable using the new micro market. A grand opening lets you speak to these people, show them how to use the system, explain the benefits of a micro market and sign up as many people to use micro market accounts as possible, which reduces your cashless fees.
The grand opening also creates excitement. Bring samples, have balloons, offer a giveaway – gift cards, free lunch, coupons to use in the market, etc. Take photos and use the grand opening on social media and to promote micro markets to other locations.
Don't set it and forget it
Micro markets are not magical refreshment solutions. They drive more sales than vending, but they still need attention, more so than vending machines. The high volume of product requires checking and organizing to keep it looking attractive to customers. Fresh food is one of the big differentiators between vending and micro markets. Use this to your advantage and provide a selection of foods that will bring even more people in to the micro market. Those users will likely buy a snack and beverage to go with their entrée.
Micro markets also need an influx of new products to keep consumers coming back, just like vending machines. Consumers get tired of the same things, and want to see the latest trendy item or taste profile in the micro market. It will make the space feel innovative.
Do run regular promotions
Everyone loves saving money or getting a deal. This is what makes promotions so powerful. Consider bundling items for a discount, or working with suppliers on a special price that you can then offer in the micro markets. Even a drawing based on Facebook likes can benefit your micro market. The more people are excited about the micro market and visit it, the better your return will be.
One way to stay on top of promotions is to turn to your micro market provider for help. Many have promotes built into the system, and all will have suggestions about promotions. Remember to measure sales before, during and after the promotion, in order to quantify its success.
Don't planogram like vending
Early on there were photos of micro market layouts that looked like vending machines without doors. Operators need to break out of this planogram idea. Chips don't have to go on the top and gum shouldn't go in cramped spaces on the bottom. Look at your convenience store and even grocery store. Checkout micro market displays at the next trade show. Keep your most profitable items at eye level.
Place best sellers higher or lower, because the consumer will look to find those. Ensure gum and mints are prominent, and near the checkout since these are often impulse buys.
Having a planogram for your micro market is a good idea. It helps drivers know where to restock and how each market should look. The planogram just shouldn't look anything like your vending machine. If it does, you likely aren't maximizing your profits.
Do use locking food coolers
Food safety isn't something to be taken lightly. Right now, the vending and micro market industry have an excellent track record. To keep it that way, use locking food coolers. These are glassfront coolers that will automatically lock if the temperature increases beyond safe levels for a predetermined time. To unlock, someone has to physically visit the location and check the food, ensuring the safety of the products.
It depends on where you are located in the country whether your health department is requiring the locking cooler or not. Either way, it's a good idea to be prepared, and keep your micro market customers, and your company reputation, safe.
Don't open a micro market without staff
All the hype about micro markets sales is true. The sales do increase. The number of consumers who will purchase from a micro market is higher than vending machines. Increased SKUs invite more people in and result in more sales. However, it also results in more work. The volume of products coming through the warehouse to stock the micro markets is more of a challenge than many operators expect. Add in analyzing the data micro market systems collect and developing, then executing promotions, and your current staff will be overwhelmed.
Adding micro markets one at a time isn't easy either. Operators considering the system should create a long-term strategy and goal, including hiring the staff to support the efforts to grow quickly and profitably.
Do build shrinkage into the pricing
The first concern of nearly every person who sees a micro market for the first time is theft. Yes. Micro market users will occasionally take things without paying, or pay for a less expensive item. However, most operators say it's rarer than they initially thought. These operators deal with theft the same way other retailers do, they raise the prices. Build in theft and spoilage of products, and the location can maintain profitability.
If the theft of a location truly is too high, have a candid conversation with the location manager. Ask what they suggest. If they want to keep the micro market, the company might offer to cover the shrinkage. Perhaps they would be willing to put up a monitor that shows canceled transactions or a photo of the purchaser for all to see. If they are not receptive, there is always the option to return to vending. Just remember that a small percentage of shrinkage will happen and it's better to get the business and maintain profitability with higher prices than have a disgruntled customer.