Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 33

Between the vast assortment, the cheery staff
and the samples, there is a sense of magic at
Lolli & Pops. In a sign of just how important
delighting customers is, the company measures
success with "happiness counts," or how many
people have been delighted on a daily basis.

tedly knew nothing about running a retail company. But it was a
small business, he thought to himself, and he was sure he could
make something out of it.
So he brought his electrical engineer father out of retirement
and they both moved to Oklahoma City together to learn about
running a retail business. During this time Gupta also earned an
MBA from Stanford, where he ran the business with his dad (who
remained in Oklahoma) from his dorm room.
The time at Stanford allowed Gupta to really think about where
retail was going. He took an exploratory trip to Europe and zeroed
in on the experiential model of retail there. On that trip he learned
the two key insights that would become the core value propositions
for Lolli & Pops: delightful service and experiential retail.

HOW TO DELIGHT
One step into a Lolli & Pops store and it's impossible not to feel
that inner delight. The retailer sets a compelling stage with a store
design featuring pastels, ornate molding, vintage typography and
delicious displays supporting the star of the show: a mouth-watering assortment of specialty chocolates, colorful candies, chilled
novelty sodas, and other treats from around the world.
A lot of the assortment is the same in every store, so guests in
Texas and Georgia know they can count on the same products,
Gupta said. But at the same time, the assortment is constantly
changing and guests are constantly being exposed to new products.
"We have a huge innovation engine running both on sourcing
products and on bringing new products to market," Gupta said.
About 80% of the assortment at Lolli & Pops is name brand,
while the rest is private label. Gupta says the company has
launched about 200 private label products over the past year. And
as the company develops even more of its own products, he takes
great care to balance being on-trend by offering vegan, gluten-free
and other popular candy options.
Complementing the store's impressive assortment are employees whom Gupta calls "magic makers," dressed in bow ties, striped
aprons and straw boater hats. Staff immediately greet and engage
customers as they enter the store, and offer samples. In fact, Lolli
& Pops employees have the okay from management to open any
product in the store and share it with customers. From the looks
on customers' faces that Saturday in Atlanta, it's obvious that the
generous sampling policy is creating delighted shoppers one taste
at a time. The company also conveys delight with its packaging.
The company's products come in packs designed to look like a gift.
Between the vast assortment, the cheery staff and the samples,

there is a sense of magic at Lolli & Pops. In a sign of just how
important delighting customers is, the company measures success with "happiness counts" or how many people have been
delighted on a daily basis. "Last year we had 4 million guests.
When we think about that, we get really inspired by the idea of
growing that? And one day we could touch 100 million people?
So how do we do that?" Gupta said.

A SWEET PARTNERSHIP
One way the company plans to do that is with technology. Lolli
& Pops is working to leverage tech to improve and learn about
customers' in-store experience. Not just any technology, but
facial recognition.
The retailer has been working with Intel Corp. to develop a
customer loyalty program that uses facial recognition to pull a
profile on each customer as he or she enters the store. Intel has
been installing entrance-facing cameras at Lolli & Pops stores and
arming associates with tablets that are synced with a camera so
when loyalty members enter the store they can be offered recommendations based on their previous purchases.
Technology is also helping the business ensure that its sales
clerks are engaging with customers regularly.
"You can't have an imbalance of employees to customer. So we
have focused on how to use AI and deep learning to predict guest
traffic and improve scheduling. We are working with a startup in
San Francisco to leverage that," Gupta said. For its e-commerce
operations, Lolli and Pops focuses mainly on gifting. It has a limited assortment of gift-focused products online. But Lolli & Pops
leverages its physical assets, the in-store information it collects, to
determine what products should be sold as gifts online. It is this
kind of retail model that makes the company so successful.
While lots of innovation swirls about the candy industry, from
small brand growth to big brands attempting to position themselves as healthy snack purveyors, the rapid growth of Lolli & Pops
proves there is still a place for old-fashioned, brick and mortar food
retail. As long as the right ingredients are in place. RL
MAY/JUNE 2018 Retail Leader.com

33


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Retail Leader - May/June 2018

Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Contents
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 9
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 10
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 11
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 12
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 13
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 15
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 16
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 17
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 18
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S1
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S2
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S3
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S4
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S5
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S6
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S7
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - S8
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 19
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 20
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 21
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 22
Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - 23
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Retail Leader - May/June 2018 - Cover3
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