Coffee, Sandwiches, Inspiration & Experience, in short COSIE. This Total Nederland shop concept won several (European) innovation awards and is a great source of inspiration for the shop formula that the French oil company wants to roll out worldwide. The secret? “A targeted focus,” explains Frits Morrema, Retail Marketing & Communication Manager at Total Nederland.
Total Nederland is making a lot of progress when it comes to the shop. The French were already putting the first outlines on paper at the end of 2013 for what would go on to become COSIE. The concept focuses on quality. And on experience. “No less than 70 percent of the visitors to a filling station drink their coffee and eat their sandwich outside the station because it’s not cosy inside. We were sure that could be changed. We knew there was another way to go. That’s why we serve barista-quality coffee, fresh juices, and surprising sandwiches in a modern, hospitable, stylish environment, an environment where visitors want to linger. Where visitors meet up with colleagues, where they stop for a break, and where they enjoy quality coffee, freshly made sandwiches, and delicious snacks while passing through,” says Morrema.
The concept was first rolled out at three stations, in Zaandam, Schiebroek, and Leiderdorp. After that, the concept was implemented in two more stations, namely Terschuur and Maarheeze. “The numbers in the first three stations were fantastic, but they were also questioned. Wasn’t this due to the upturn in the economy and the busier traffic there? Which is why we converted two more stations, and we’re seeing the same growth figures there, too,” says Morrema. It makes it clear that Total Nederland was on the right track with the concept. Morrema sketches the picture of a targeted strategy. “You know how it goes. It never goes the way you think it will in the beginning. Then it’s easy to say, see, it doesn’t work. In such a case, it’s very easy to fall back on the old faithful solution. But we put our foot down. We’re sticking it out. We have a good, clear plan, we’ve set goals, and everyone is enthusiastic about it. That’s when you’ve got to persevere and maintain your position.” This perseverance was mainly demanded of the project team itself. “The first questions arise when you start working on the plans. When you’re really going to change, the question marks become obstacles that the project team has to overcome. If it does catch on, you’ll see that the project team’s enthusiasm, which they’ve maintained for a long time, will also spread to others, and if it’s a success in the end, then it’s a success for all of us. That’s how it works,” laughs the Total Nederland Retail Marketing & Communication Manager. One part that was improved during the roll-out was the presentation of the impulse-buy products. “These were a little further away from the register; we thought visitors would be willing to move up to one meter to get a candy bar. But that wasn’t the case and the turnover for impulse-buy products fell.” So what do you do in that case? Call the partners. “It was their suggestion, so in my opinion, they had to help come up with the solution. In the end, we successfully integrated the impulse-buy products into the counter thanks to their cooperation,” says Morrema.
A good team
In Morrema’s opinion, it is extremely important to put together a good team in a development process. A team of partners and a team of people from all parts of the company. “We’re not comprised of just marketers and salespeople; we had an employee from the engineering department join us. For example, he invented the tobacco safe in our concept.” An employee can select the tobacco product on a screen at the register and then the pack rolls out of a container. “The appearance of the tobacco pack doesn’t tie in with what COSIE stands for and the image we want to project. We don’t want to have cigarette packs next to a cream-filled pasty. But then again, you don’t just get 50 to 70 percent of the turnover from the shop. That is why we have the tobacco safe, so that visitors don’t have to look at a wall of tobacco products. And an additional advantage of this solution is that space is immediately created for the sale of coffee, for example.”
Adaptations to the concept
Total made a few adjustments during the roll-out process. The most important of these was the adaptation of the counter, which is the heart of the concept. Morrema says, “This was U-shaped in the beginning. But after Zaandam and Schiebroek, we opened up that U-shape as it were. This made the concept even more effective; it improved the contact with visitors, optimised the flow, and improved the product presentation.” There is also plenty of development in the area of the range. “We now fry up chips and hamburgers because visitors have been asking for it,” explains Morrema. Chips and hamburgers are separate modules, just like snacks, sandwiches, and coffee. “Our shop formula is modular, meaning that we can look at each individual location, possibly together with the entrepreneur at a dealer location, to see which parts of the formula will work in that station. Thanks to some adjustments to the bread module, we can now offer cost-effective, fresh-made sandwiches in smaller stations, for example.”
With this approach, Total’s shop becomes a ‘destination’, which makes it possible to respond to local needs optimally. “COSIE stands for Coffee, Sandwich, Inspiration and Experience. Moreover, COSIE also means cosiness in English. And that is exactly the atmosphere we want to create in our shops: people need to have a good time and make a conscious choice to stop at our shops,” says Morrema. The fact that COSIE doesn’t have the same brand recognition as McDonald’s or Subway has doesn’t bother him. “COSIE is not a consumer brand; we sell our fresh products under the Café Bonjour brand name. The visitor who wants a hamburger from McDonald’s isn’t going to come to us. They’ll keep driving until they see that big M just off the motorway. We are and remain a filling station; our visitors need things like a nice sandwich and good coffee and they want friendly, quick service. They remember the hospitality. And that’s what they’ll come back for,” Morrema says. He supports his claim with results. “We can see that this concept is a success; when we open a renovated station, the conversion increases first. In other words, existing visitors spend more. But as time goes by, we also see new people visiting our shop.”