The checkout aisle has long been a power spot for retailers who use the section to tempt a captive audience. Realize you’re out of gum? Grab a pack. Want to catch up on the latest Kardashian drama? Flip through a trashy tabloid. Need a pumpkin to bring the Halloween spirit into your apartment or home? They’re here, too.
For years, the checkout experience provided all this.
However, times are changing and checkout sales across the board are falling. But why? Well, that’s still up for debate. One theory speculates that as shoppers spend more time on their smartphones while waiting in line, they are not noticing and purchasing these “instant consumables” as they used to. Target, on the other hand, seems to believe that it’s what’s being sold in these areas that’s turning shoppers off, not a limited attention span. The giant retailer recently announced its play to replace typical indulgent impulse items with more health-friendly options like granola bars.
As other retailers begin to develop their own solutions, they will need to decide how to redirect shoppers looking for these types of purchases in the years to come. That’s where holidays like Halloween come into play. Retailers can use Halloween, a holiday that brings about some level of expected change in store design already, as a way to subtly pivot shoppers towards a new behavior. Here’s how that could work.
Finding the foothold in the holiday
What we are looking for first are existing seasonal behavior changes that we can predict and then leverage. In life, a break in a person’s routine is the ideal time to shake things up and introduce a new habit. The same holds true on a smaller scale in retail. Halloween already brings about some level of change in stores, whether it’s creating a limited-use pop-up within the store or all-out decorating in a specific aisle, the occasion is front and center. During this time, shoppers are breaking from their weekly routine and behaving differently in store.
Introducing the behavior change
Once the behavioral foothold has been identified, the next step is to layer on our desired behavior change. With Halloween right around the corner, it is a prime entry point. There’s an opportunity to reinvent the candy aisle, or at the very least make it more intriguing, so shoppers will be drawn to it long after Halloween is over. An easy win is to recapture the whimsy and fun of classic candy stores in a space that currently feels very sterile. Hershey, which was ahead of the curve in recognizing the current threat on the checkout space, has already started doing just this. Hershey has been testing a “store within a store” concept that makes shopping for candy feel like an experience rather than just a line item on a shopping list.
Following through on the habit
The true test comes after Halloween is over. Will the changes made be enough to convince shoppers to stick with the habit or will they revert back to passing the aisle without a second thought? For the new space to be successful it has to play to the original mindset of the checkout section (grabbing a single size candy bar is easy) while also addressing the new barriers that have emerged (adding an extra step and going out of the way for an unplanned purchase). If both of these can be balanced, then the retailer has a better shot at retaining revenue from impulse purchases in this category.
Utilizing a recognized holiday or retailer program is an opportune way to change shoppers’ behavior in-store. Whether it’s to solve for an emerging shopper barrier, address changing retailer priorities, or to leverage a consumer trend, holidays both cultural and national, can be the key to reconnecting with consumers and driving them in a new direction.