One size does not fit all

Chain retailers just love to standardise their store concept. There are great benefits to be gained by doing pretty much the same across the board. You can bulk buy your furniture or POS material, purchasing is simplified and centralised and you basically need only one store design for all your visual merchandising. What’s more, standardisation also creates a uniform appearance and makes it easy for shoppers to find the same products in exactly the same location in every store.
The question is though: do these benefits weigh up against the needs and wishes of the customer you serve in your store? Is the standard concept actually in tune with the phase of life of the consumer? Aren’t mindsets and shopper desires very dependent on geographic and demographic data?

People who live in city centres, for instance, are often young, (hard) working and usually reside in one- or two-person households. Their living space is often limited due to the expensive property prices per square metre, and so they need to be very efficient with the space they have. These consumers are different to young families in the suburbs, who live in more spacious surroundings and where it is time that needs to be handled with care and forethought.

Be hyper-relevant within your catchment area
To stay relevant for your target group, you need to zoom in on each individual store to know if it offers the right store concept (which doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a completely unique strategy and purchase procedure for every store). What do the majority of my shoppers look like? What are their needs? How do they shop and at what times? When you can answer these questions, you’ll be able to adjust your store concept in such a way that it is once again relevant to your visitors.

In today’s streetscape we are already seeing the emergence of store concepts - usually independent - that tie in to the local demographics. Two great examples are Wildernis in Amsterdam and STEK in Rotterdam, both of them garden stores that have placed their focus on urban gardens and city balconies. You’ll find everything you need to make the city green again. The big garden centres wouldn’t get much business if they were to open a city branch without proper thinking. But with a clever selection process, some interesting opportunities could present themselves.

How “small” and fitting can you make your formula?
There are store chains that have adapted specific stores to make sure they are relevant to their urban environment. If you visit a Praxis hardware store in the city, for example, you’ll notice a smaller product range that is tailored to the smaller jobs. You can hire a workbench with any tool or piece of equipment you need, even if it’s for just one hour. This way you don’t have to buy machinery and tools (which you can’t store in your crampy city apartment anyway), but just pop into the Praxis store around the corner.
Supermarkets too are experimenting with urban concepts. Smaller

product ranges, larger selection of freshly prepared food and the choice to buy smaller amounts than you’ll find in regular packaging.

GS25 “Fridge service”: brilliant concept for single-person households
The most inspirational example we found is at the GS25 convenience stores in South Korea. This chain has 1,500 stores, is open 24 hours a day and is renowned throughout Korea for its great 1+1 deals. Promotions like these are generally always successful, whatever the demographics or location. But there was still a downside: customers weren’t always too happy with these discount offers. Sure it’s a great bargain, but Koreans – especially in cities – often live in tiny homes and have a very high single-person household percentage. Well, you can see why having to buy two items isn’t necessarily the most practical solution. Fresh products have a limited best-before date and the space needed to store them is expensive. Because GS25 didn’t want to let go of this strong promotional strategy, but did want to increase the level of customer satisfaction, they came up with a brilliant solution: the virtual fridge!
Every shopper can take advantage of the ‘buy one, get one free’ offer, but doesn’t have to take all the goods home straight away. Instead, customers can use their customer card to place one of the items in the virtual refrigerator, which they can pick up later on in the month (but definitely within 30 days). Your virtual fridge is linked to the GS25 app, so you always know what’s still in ‘the fridge’.
So let’s say there’s a 1+1 offer on a kilogram of bananas, you get the first kilo during the promotional week and store the second kilo in your virtual fridge. When the first kilo is finished, just pop into the store to collect the rest. This way your food is always fresh and at a bargain price.

An additional advantage for GS25 is that it generates an enormous amount of repeat traffic, because who would leave a free kilo of bananas behind? And while you’re there, you may as well do the rest of your groceries. In South Korea, repeat traffic is vital in a convenience store market that is overflowing. GS25 takes in the third spot in South Korea, behind FamilyMart (part of Walmart) that has 7,500 stores and 7-Eleven with 3,000 convenience stores.

If you want to be relevant in retail, a ‘one size fits all’ approach will no longer do. In the long run, customers will stay clear because they do not feel understood by the retailer. It is therefore crucially important to find out more about the shopper profiles of your individual stores and to constantly make minor adjustments to align your shopping concept.

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