October 11, 2017 by IDW

Beverage Brand Marketers know that consumer shopping patterns differ between each retail channel. This presents unique challenges that are retail channel specific. Additionally, each retail channel continues to change as a result of changing shopping and consumption patterns. In this article, we’ll discuss the unique challenges that the General Merchandise Channel presents. By understanding the nature of the General Merchandise Channel combined with changes to the retail landscape, Beverage Brand Marketers can make informed decisions in how they can most effectively market and promote their brands.

The General Merchandise Channel resides in a space between the Convenience Retail Channel and the Mass Retail Channel. The Convenience Retail Channel is characterized by a fast-paced, high traffic environment, where consumers are looking for an expedited shopping experience and single-serve, ready-to-consume beverages. On the other hand, the Mass Retail Channel is characterized by larger purchases that maximize value, with beverages often sold as part of multi-packs and larger take home quantities. The Convenience Retail Channel is most frequented by those on-the-go, while the Mass Retail Channel is often utilized by families and those looking to make more long-term purchases. In the middle of these two channels is the General Merchandise Channel, where aspects of both the convenience and mass retail environments are present.

The General Merchandise Channel’s most important characteristic is opportunity. A flexible and innovative Beverage Brand Marketer will be able to cultivate a significant brand presence in the General Merchandise Channel. Consumers within the General Merchandise Channel are typically looking for value, but are also open to the novelty of trying new things. The General Merchandise Channel is most notably comprised of so-called “Dollar” stores, where all goods are moderately priced. Within this shopping environment, most consumers aren’t looking specifically for an expedited shopping experience, such as in the case of the convenience retail environment, and nor are they looking specifically for large-quantity purchases like they would be at the mass retail stores. Rather, consumers in the General Merchandise Channel are looking for high value deals on a wide variety of goods, and often don’t enter the store with a specific purchase in mind.

On the surface, this can seem to present a significant challenge to a Beverage Brand Marketer. If a consumer is looking for neither convenience nor a large quantity purchase, and may not even be shopping for specific beverages or brands, then how is the General Merchandise Channel worthwhile? First, the General Merchandise Channel is an excellent space for brand trials and new products. Beverage Brand Marketers can conduct a brand trial with little risk in the General Merchandise Channel, gathering insights into whether their brand marketing strategy is effective, and gauging whether the novelty of their product is enticing to consumers. Secondly, Beverage Brand Marketers can encourage their customers, the retailers and managers, to offer their consumers both ready-to-consume beverages and larger take-home quantities. By offering both options, retailers will be able to meet a desire for convenience, or a desire for the increased value that large quantity packs represent. Lastly, Beverage Brand Marketers can have their ready-to-consume products placed at high traffic areas and at the checkout aisle, allowing retailers to capture increased impulse sales while also achieving greater brand awareness.

The strength of the General Merchandise Channel lies in the flexibility of the consumer base that frequent the stores that represent this channel. Unlike the Convenience Retail Channel and the Mass Retail Channel, consumers in the General Merchandise Channel are most often seeking a high value shopping experience. They aren’t typically in a hurry, which is an asset if a Beverage Brand Marketer is looking to conduct a brand or product trial in a location. The General Merchandise Channel is ideal for conducting promotions, such as a “Buy One, Get One” offer on a new product. Not only are consumers in the General Merchandise Channel looking for the best value they can possibly find, they are also generally more open minded about trying new products. By appealing to this desire for value and capitalizing on the open-minded nature of the general merchandise consumer, Beverage Brand Marketers can use promotional events to increase brand awareness, conduct brand and product trials, and expand the reach and scope of their general merchandise retail presence. By occupying a unique space in between the Convenience Retail Channel and the Mass Retail Channel, the General Merchandise Channel is an important asset in the portfolio of Beverage Brand Marketers.