If you're a c-store management professional interested in staying ahead of the competition, it's important to start at square one.
If you’re a c-store management professional interested in staying ahead of the competition, it’s important to start at square one.

While many brick-and-mortar retail operations are struggling to compete with their e-commerce counterparts, C-stores remain popular among a broad spectrum of consumers. That’s largely because convenience stores offer shoppers efficiency, variety and – perhaps most importantly – accessibility. The “convenience” of digital marketplaces only extends so far – when you’re hungry and on the road, ordering snacks online isn’t an option. By offering people a quick, reliable way to fill their stomachs, C-stores fill an important gap in today’s shifting commercial landscape.

Despite C-stores’ ability to remain standing amid a flood of online retailers, they haven’t emerged from the digital shopping craze completely unscathed. The streamlined experiences offered by e-commerce stores have heightened consumers’ expectations for all types of shopping, including convenience store shopping. If a C-store fails to engage with its customer base in a user-friendly manner, it may not be able to sustain success.

If you’re a C-store management professional interested in staying ahead of the competition, it’s important to start at square one. Before you order experimental products or install cutting-edge payment systems, take a look at your store’s layout. Although it might seem like a secondary priority, your business’s floor plan could mean the difference between success and failure.

A smart floor plan can boost profit and reduce theft 
When it comes to increasing customer satisfaction and raising your C-store’s profit, it pays to know the way shoppers think. A floor plan based on consumer psychology is more likely to resonate with people, while a haphazard or counterintuitive layout could prompt them to leave without even exploring the selection.

Get inside your customers’ heads – starting at your store’s entrance
According to American Express, consumers are naturally inclined to turn right upon entering a shop. As such, this section of your store should be considered “premium real estate.” Use this space to display your most expensive or enticing products, which for many convenience stores include items like alcohol, e-cigarettes and ready-to-eat meals. This area also represents an opportunity to present a stellar first impression and connect with customers on an emotional level. Use it to showcase holiday decorations, partnerships with local charities or other examples of your company’s values.

You can also use your entryway to increase sales is by stocking it with baskets or carts. While smaller C-stores may not have the space to accommodate these features, larger operations should take advantage of their profit-boosting abilities. American Express explained that when shoppers grab empty baskets or carts when entering a store, they feel more compelled to fill those containers as they peruse the aisles. The source suggested making your baskets and carts as large as possible to inspire consumers to keep shopping until they run out room.

Register placement increases engagement and monitors theft
When placing your checkout counter, it’s best to pick a spot toward the front of the C-store, not far from the entryway. According to The Houston Chronicle, this placement both maximizes customer engagement and reduces the risk of theft. The cashier is able to greet customers and is clearly accessible to help with any questions or problems. This spot also gives store clerks the ability to survey large portions of the shop without having to leave their stations, which is especially important in small C-stores that might only have one or two employees scheduled per shift.

If your store has a self-serve coffee, food or drink area, you should position it adjacent to the checkout counter. This way, workers can assist customers and do occasional clean-ups without having to stray too far from the register. Placing self-serve sections in line with checkout counters also reduces the chances of people leaving without paying for their food.

Save the best for last 
Items considered essential or popular should be placed furthest away from the entrance, explained American Express. When important products are located in the back of the store, consumers are forced to walk through the whole shop, and may be inspired to grab more items along the way. It’s a simple way to boost the amount of time people spend at your C-store – which often correlates to a boost in sales. Take a look at your inventory numbers to determine which products are your store’s best-sellers, then display them in the back of your space.

Flashy displays help sell ‘impulse’ products
Items that appeal to customers’ eyes and stomachs – but aren’t on their list of essentials – are often described as ‘impulse’ buys. This category often includes things like candy, ice cream, soda, toys, accessories and souvenirs. Because these items won’t make it into most shopping baskets on their own, they should be advertised and promoted. Colors, large text and eye-catching displays will help establish these products as special indulgences and will inspire shoppers to pick them up as last-minute treats.

Understand who has the influence 
When organizing your shelves, it’s important to think about the types of customers that frequent your store, and who is ultimately calling the shots on these shopping excursions. Families are a staple customer base of many C-stores, especially those located along busy interstates or near major tourist destinations. Taking children on road trips requires more than a few breaks, and chances are that your convenience store has served as a rest stop for many a traveling clan.

American Express noted that families with kids are typically swayed by the desires of their youngsters when purchasing food at grocery or C-stores, which means children have a significant amount of influence over what gets bought and what gets left behind. Appeal to your youngest customer base by placing products they may be interested in in the middle of your shelves, as this is eye-level for most small children.

Head to the drawing board and start playing around with different C-store layouts to find one that enhances your operations.