This article was written by Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol for the December/January issue of Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine.

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by so quickly. It’s fair to say that 2021 didn’t quite work out as we had anticipated after a challenging 2020, and I don’t think anyone expected the level of impact COVID-19 had on our lives this year!

As a result of COVID, I believe the way that Australians balance their professional and personal lives has changed significantly, and it will be interesting to see how this behavioural change impacts customer missions and the way people shop with us.

As a Sydneysider who spent over 16 weeks in lockdown, the shift to being at home really helped me create a healthy balance between my professional and personal life. This has meant being able to go for a run at lunchtime or take my dogs for a walk in the morning without the guilt factor of being away from my desk. Before COVID, I stayed at my desk 9-5 and would never have made the time for these activities, which are so crucial for physical and mental health!

As a leader, I think it’s important to walk the talk on flexibility, so I will openly tell people when I’ve been offline during the day and for what type of activity. It’s important to find ways to manage your wellbeing and exercise is a great one to incorporate into your daily routine – having a run in the middle of the day allows me to re-set and get on with a productive afternoon. I’ve also realised that we can work quite effectively from home, and as we start to move back into the office, we’ll be transitioning to a 60/40 split of office-to-home working. This change has enabled me to think a little bit differently about recruitment by not restricting our search for talent to those within Sydney. As a result, I’ve been able to add some great new talent to our team based in Melbourne.

The trend to flexibility will also drive changes in the way our customers shop with us. As we see people transition back to office-based working, we will start to see a revitalisation of the typical customer missions we experienced pre-lockdown, such as using our convenient locations to pick up a quick coffee and breakfast on the way to work. In this future world of flexible home and office working, we expect to see our customers shop with us in varied ways, and the opportunity for Ampol is to continue capturing our customers during the days they are working from home.

Making sure you have the right offer and convenient ways for your customers to transact with you is key. An example is utilising delivery services, such as UberEats, to reach a customer working from home who needs a quick re-charge, lunch or snack. What’s interesting in targeting the working-from-home consumer is the trend for larger pack sizes, either because they want to save some for later or they have someone at home to share with. This means we need to ensure we have the right range to target these at-home consumers, which is quite different to the single consumption pack sizes that are more popular for customers on-the-go.

Our channel has a natural ability to target and benefit from the changing shopping behaviours we’ve seen through COVID-19 because of our convenient locations in both metropolitan and residential areas. At Ampol, we’ve benefitted from the trend of people staying within their suburbs to shop, and with our stores so conveniently located, we see consumers using us for a quick top-up of their essential items to save the hassle of going to a supermarket. The key to retaining these types of customers is absolutely all about the basics – having what they need, when they need it and providing great customer service.

As we move towards these new flexible ways of working, it’s important to think about the varied needs of a customer throughout the week, and ensuring we find ways to serve these missions through both product range and transaction type.

After another interesting year, I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings.

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