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Are You Using Plan-o-grams?

Posted by Al Goldsmith - October 10, 2013

Are you using a plan-o-gram for your candy/snack machines or bottle drop machines? Let’s hope so! Plan-o-grams are equally important for micro-markets. And OCS operators can use much more effective product merchandising strategies and tactics. Plan-o-grams are better than what a very smart operator once described as “hand-grenade” merchandising.

This is a crucial merchandising tactic to deploy what we sell in the most appealing way. Putting the “right” products in the “right” places will increase sales and profits. My own experience, and that of many others, includes research-based proof that a plan-o-gram generates better bottom-line results than not using one.
Plan-o-grams are great. There are lots of ways to do it. Odds are that you have seen competing (and widely divergent) viewpoints on which products to feature and where to place different SKUs. I am not going to comment on which approach is “best.” For now, I will skip the necessity to have different plan-o-grams for every location we serve.
Go beyond traditional plan-o-grams
But plan-o-grams are not enough. We need much better strategies to manage the products we sell. A Wall Street Journal article, The Calendar of Fast Food, explored the ways fast food restaurant chains are using seasonal menu items and LTOs (limited time offers). They are expanding their menu line-ups to attract people to their restaurants. You’re probably familiar with McDonald’s Shamrock Shake featured around St. Patrick’s Day. Also, there are special fish sandwiches, LTO menu additions, at many fast food chains during Lent.
In our industry we have had experience with the “summer menu.” Unfortunately that was a reverse LTO resulting in chocolate candy coming off our menu. The replacement SKUs were good products. The problem was that our competition, primarily convenience stores in this case, did not remove chocolate candy during the summer months.
It is time to rethink and revitalize our product merchandising strategies. We should be featuring seasonal menus for every product category. It’s time to apply limited time offers across the board. Visit the coffee chains, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, to see how they offer seasonal products. Visit McDonald’s when they are offering their McRib sandwich. The periodic reintroduction of the McRib is a marketing lesson for any company in our business.
Get your plan-o-grams organized. Look at the calendar. Think about unique LTO solutions for holiday periods and other important dates, whether local or national. Using seasonal menu strategies and LTOs will be the beginning. You can test different approaches. Track results and refine your plans. Find what works at your locations to capture increased traffic and participation. Keep on pushing to add incremental sales and higher profits.

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