are you serving your healthy eaters

Measuring customers’ lifestyle attitudes can help you make profitable decisions.

A CSD Staff Report

The employees of a bank branch office in Austin, Texas only have one choice when they’re in a rush for lunch— the convenience store across the street. That’s bad news for their health. “I’m pretty much limited to sandwiches and juice, because I’m trying to eat healthy,” says Bob, the bank’s graphic designer.

If this c-store offered Bob more healthy food choices, there’s little doubt that it would be tapping into a growing trend—and attracting more health-minded customers. More Americans today are living a healthy life than ever before, according to an ongoing study of Americans’ health behaviors by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which measures people’s propensity to exercise, manage their weight, eat the recommended number of fruits and vegetables every day and smoke.

And many other studies point to a “health consciousness revolution” under way across the country. In fact, health has been identified by Datamonitor as one of the 10 ” megatrends” impacting consumer behaviors and buying habits in the next decade.

However, this trend doesn’t mean that every convenience store should immediately replace their potato chips and Twinkies with apples and carrot sticks. While many people are eating healthier, many others still expect to fill up on their favorite snack foods while filling up their gas tanks. Realistically, even healthy eaters occasionally give into their craving for an Almond Joy and a Coke.

So what’s a progressive c-store to do? The answer lies in a new breed of geodemographic tools that assess the consumers living and working in retailers’ markets. These tools can provide valuable details about consumers—including everything from traditional demographic statistics (e.g., age, occupation, income levels) to leading-edge measurements of consumers’ lifestyle attitudes.

Measuring consumers’ lifestyle attitudes holds particular promise for c-store operators who are striving to make educated decisions on new trends. For example, measuring people’s attitudes about health makes it possible to calculate the percent of health conscious people in a specific market.

“If a store is surrounded by people who watch their diets, exercise and don’t smoke, then it makes sense to give those customers healthier food choices than the traditional convenience store menu selection,” explains Robert Welch, president of Synergos Technologies, an Austin, Texas-based provider of innovative geodemographic data products.

Synergos Technologies offers several compelling tools that give retailers better insight into their consumers. One of these products is STI: Landscape, an assessment tool that segments neighborhoods by geodemographic characteristics and measures consumers’ lifestyle attitudes in 10 areas. STI: Landscape’s consumer insights allow retailers to better understand the populations they serve and make more informed stocking, promotion and advertising decisions— such as whether to rethink their selection of healthy foods.

“Making profitable business decisions is the goal,” says Welch. “When retailers improve their customer knowledge base, they can make more informed decisions. And smarter decisions support higher profits.”

Welch adds that without this insight, retailers are forced to second-guess their customers’ desires, which leads to mistakes in either overestimating or underestimating demand.

“Retailers’ assumptions and reality are often two very different things. When retailers apply STI: Landscape to their consumer research, they get the facts.”

To illustrate this point, Welch used STI: Landscape to identify the nation’s top 10 healthiest markets and top 10 least healthy markets. “The answers may surprise many retailers,” notes Welch. “It’s easy to make assumptions about consumers or just blindly follow trends; but it’s smarter to get the facts.” (NOTE: The No. 1 healthiest U.S. market on April 1, 2006, according to STI: Landscape is Fairfax County, VA. See sidebar, right. For a list of the top 10 most healthy and least healthy markets, go to CSDecisions.com)

Synergos Technologies created STI: Landscape in 2005 to fill a specific gap in the consumer research marketplace. “For decades, retailers have used socioeconomic market segmentation tools to identify ‘who’ their customers are demographically and ‘where’ they live geographically,” Welch explains.

“While this information remains critical to site selection and other business decisions, new business challenges and pressures have sent retailers in search of even more advanced methods for capturing consumer insights, like consumer segmentation systems.”

Other consumer segmentation systems available today were created in the 1970s, which was a very different world from the high-tech, high-speed, highly mobile world we live in today, Welch notes. As a result, “these systems are typically inadequate gauges of today’s consumers, who are much more complex and mature consumers than they were in previous generations.”

STI: Landscape overcomes the limitations of outdated systems by addressing customer segmentation from a whole new perspective. “By looking at the issue from new angles, we found that each household has a unique set of attitudes that influence its residents’ buying habits—including everything from their physical activity levels to their propensity to support a particular political candidate,” says Welch. “For example, one household may be the first to purchase new technologies, while another may wait years to adopt new technologies. We developed a unique new system to measure consumers’ wide range of attitudes.”

STI: Landscape identifies consumer’ attitudes by augmenting traditional economic and demographic segmentation processes with several non-demographic consumer lifestyle indices from organization such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Elections Committee (FEC). Synergos Technologies also developed a unique analytic methodology to create the “lifestyles-with-attitude” component of its consumer segmentation system.

STI: Landscape currently offers 10 Lifestyle Indices in two categories: Health and Social. Each one works independently or several indices can be combined into a customized model according to a retailer’s preferences. Synergos Technologies has plans to create additional lifestyle indices in the near future. For more information, contact Leslie Woodring at (602) 770-9136 or lwoodring@popstats.com.

Where do the healthy eaters call home?

STI: Landscape’s Health Zone Index has identified Fairfax County, VA, as the healthiest market in the U.S. among counties with household populations (over 18) of greater than 500,000.

STI: Landscape’s assessment shows that Fairfax County is home to more consumers who rank higher in these categories than any other market in the nation:

  • Weight management
  • Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise
  • Non-smokers

This powerful consumer insight is only available with STI: Landscape’s consumer attitude assessment methodology. This product provides unique consumer-level insights on every market in the U.S.— so c-store operators can make informed decisions on everything from menus to product adjacencies to promotions. In this way, they no longer have to wonder if they’re missing out on a trend or making decisions that won’t serve their actual populations.

STI: Landscapes’ five Health Indices include:

  • Size Matters. Measures consumers’ height-to-weight ratio, considered to be a
    primary statistic for health.
  • Eat Your Veggies. Measures the number of servings of fruits and vegetables a person eats each day.
  • Smoker Signals. Measures the number of smokers in a neighborhood.
  • Bodies in Motion. Measures people’s daily activity levels.
  • Health Zone. Measures the general health of a population by combining the scores of the four other health indices.

STI: Landscapes’ five Social Indices include:

  • Technology Pioneers. Measures individuals who are early-adopters of new technologies.
  • Gay Chic. Measures the likelihood that people are associated with a homosexual lifestyle.
  • Urban Views. Measures the density of people and businesses in a specific location.
  • Conservatism. Measures people’s support of conservative issues in elections.
  • Power Brokers. Measures financial contributions to political and social issues.
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