How to Stock Micro Markets in a Post-COVID World

August 7, 2020

190441203 | Sarayuth Punnasuriyaporn |

As employees return to the workplace and commercial businesses reopen, consumers will be prioritizing safety and convenience when purchasing food and beverages. Micro markets are perfectly poised to meet the needs of grab-and-go consumers. But to recapture, attract, and retain these customers, operators must stock their micro markets with a diverse mix of high-quality products and provide a safe shopping experience.

Here are four examples of how operators can offer consumers a positive micro market experience throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Micro markets are ideal in the post-COVID workplace

By design, micro markets are perfect for social distancing, says Mike Coffey, chief strategy and innovation officer at Canteen. Because micro markets are set up closer to where associates work, “they don’t [have to] travel as far to get the snacks and food items they want,” he explains. What’s more, micro markets “are designed for smaller populations of people, and they’re open all the time, so there’s no set break periods.”

Since many company cafeterias are closed, Coffey continues, micro markets may be the only on-site options for many consumers—especially those who are hesitant to leave the workplace in search of food or beverages. This reality gives operators a unique opportunity to capture new micro market business that they can sustain long after the pandemic’s threat lifts.

A quality product mix is key to gaining—and keeping—new customers

A key component to micro market customer retention is updating product selection regularly so the market doesn’t feel stale to frequent customers. Operators should think like retailers when making decisions about what to stock.

“The good news is that people who may have never utilized the micro market before are now aware that they’re going to get good products and services through our amenities,” Coffey says. “But if you want to keep customers excited and coming back, you need to think about your market as a retail outlet and focus on offering new products and high-quality fresh food.” He advises micro market operators to “think about what’s changing in retail today: stay current on trends, make sure that you have a lot of options available, and change the mix of [product offerings in] your market to [attract] new customers.”

For example, research from The NPD Group shows that U.S. consumers have increased their snack consumption during the COVID-19 crisis. Micro market operators can respond to this trend by stocking a variety of popular sweet and savory snack products and placing them in prominent locations so customers can easily find their favorite snacks.

Refreshing the micro market layout keeps consumers coming back

Regularly adjusting a micro market’s layout also helps keep it thriving. “A market doesn’t need to be totally refreshed as much as a regular retail outlet, as it’s serving a captive market,” explains Kyle Reifert, president and owner of FrameWorks Displays. But a “product reset draws eyes to new areas in the market and indicates an operator’s interest in providing good service to an account,” he says. “It also shows the location that you’re taking care of them and you’re interested.”

Although there’s no industry standard on how often the market layout should be changed, operators can determine an ideal time frame by monitoring how products are selling, communicating with clients, and using food and beverage trends to shape the product mix.

Keep small micro markets simple

In locations that are tight on space, operators should strive for simplicity in their merchandising. “Small operators shouldn’t overthink it,” Reifert says. “You need a dry goods display, cooler and sometimes freezer space, sometimes a coffee option, and a payment system.”

Again, thinking like a retailer and providing an intuitive layout with quality food, snacks, and beverages results in a pleasant and easy shopping experience for customers.

“Generally, we find it best to group refrigerated products separately from dry merchandise,” says Bear Wegener, president of Axis Designs. “Bottled soda and refrigerated food may be on one end while snacks, sundries and coffee service are grouped on another end.”

Be prepared—and flexible

During these uncertain times, the needs of micro market clients and their employees can change very quickly. Successful micro market operators should be ready to pivot and supply top-quality products and service, no matter what.

Looking for more tips on how to manage a safe and efficient micro market? Find additional ideas here.

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