Customers Want Healthier Impulse Purchases

candy in checkout line

It’s not uncommon to have a love/hate relationship with the last-minute shopping options in the checkout line. Sometimes it’s helpful and convenient (floss, batteries, things you actually need). Other times it feels like a trap, especially for parents (all that candy!). If you feel this way, you’re not alone.

A recent survey commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that 35 percent of respondents strongly agreed and 45 percent somewhat agreed that they would prefer it if both supermarkets and non-food stores offered more healthy options in the checkout line.

It’s possible shoppers feel this way because they themselves are not immune to the lure of not-so-nutritious items. Fifty-one percent said they had purchased candy, chips, soda, or other snack foods or sugary drinks at checkout in the previous month. And, perhaps most poignantly, 76 percent said they regretted their purchases.

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It’s not just grocery stores shoppers are concerned about — even some clothing stores sell candy bars and soda by the register now, so it can seem like temptation is everywhere.

Accordingly, in addition to grocery stores, shoppers also take issue with the options at hardware, office supply, and other stores. Seventy-eight percent agreed that these retailers stock a lot of food and drinks they don’t want.

Interestingly, when stores carry unhealthy options in the checkout line, it doesn’t seem to affect shoppers’ opinion of them. The survey found that 56 percent of respondents would have neither a favorable nor unfavorable impression of a store that featured junk food by the register.

However, when stores did stock healthier options, it moved the needle with consumers. Thirty-six percent of respondents said it would slightly improve their impression of the store, and 26 percent said it would substantially improve their impression.

For store owners, this is a key point. If you know that consumers will have a more favorable impression of your business if you offer healthy food and beverage options in the checkout line, why wouldn’t you give it a try?

If your store currently only stocks sugar- and fat-heavy items near the register — or if you don’t offer anything at all in that area — try testing out healthy snacks and beverages to see what shoppers respond to before going all in. You can compare sales before and during your test with your POS analytics.

If you need some guidance getting started, the survey found the items shoppers would most like to see in the checkout line are nuts (36 percent), water/seltzer or fresh fruit (28 percent each), granola bars (27 percent), and dried fruit (21 percent).

Another idea is to try stocking healthy snack options from local businesses. Not only is it a great way to give some love to another small business, but it also shows your customers that you’re committed to supporting the community. If the local products are popular with shoppers, that could open the door to future partnerships or comarketing efforts.

Of course, the most important thing to consider in all of this is customer experience. According to the survey, 77 percent of respondents reported that getting through the checkout area quickly is an important consideration in choosing a line. You can speed up your line by using an intuitive POS that accepts all payment types or by trying one of these other techniques.

Still, a little waiting is sometimes unavoidable, so while your customers are in line, make that time a little more pleasant by offering them items they need or want — and won’t regret later.

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