The key to building a more convenient future is to streamline service, automate as much as possible and use connectivity - as and where it makes sense - to provide additional utility.
According to the 2018 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count, convenience stores now account for 34% of all retail outlets in the United States - with the vast majority offering a combination of convenience shopping and fuel. Customers frequenting these C-Stores are among the most time-sensitive of consumers: likely to be on the move and mobile, unlikely to be interested in browsing or extended shopping trips.
Making mobile an integral part of the marketing strategy helps C-Stores reach people while they’re nearby and makes it easier to create valuable repeat customers who may otherwise only have stopped in to fill their gas tank or pick up a pint of milk. The key to building a more convenient future is to streamline service, automate as much as possible and use connectivity - as and where it makes sense - to provide additional utility. And with 'convenience' in the actual store name, you know customers are going enter into this relationship with high expectations. Don't let them down!
Meeting the C-Store personalization challenge
Because of the greater immediacy involved in convenience shopping (customers want something very specific, and they want it now- miss that window and you lose the sale), convenience stores can get a lot of mileage out of the real-time data that can be collected from mobile and connected devices.
Most people visit gas stations that are within 6 miles of their home or work, so contextual information like location, travel speed, weather and time of day are critical for engaging customers when they’re nearby. Connected tech can then be used to reinforce and personalize messaging over multiple media: on phones, digital signage, in-store kiosks and more, encouraging customers to venture beyond the forecourt or add more to their basket.
Opportunities for behavior change & VIP experiences
Mobile engagement can be used to turn casual customers into committed customers by encouraging them to return more often, or incentivizing them to try something new. Time is the important factor - 90% C-Store mobile searches result in purchase; 35% immediately, 66% within an hour:
- Encourage future visits by allowing customers to use mobile devices to lock in promoted gas prices now and redeem at their convenience.
- Become a one-stop shop for people on the move: explore in-store WiFi, lockers for delivery of online purchases, online bill payment and registration, mobile loyalty and pump-side checkout via QR code or NFC.
- Target promotions across your range depending on customer preferences: CPGs, food to go, beverages, fuel and add on services. Push up- and cross-sell offers to increase the value of individual customers.
- Use connected signage at the roadside to promote offers to passing motorists, and reinforce messaging with forecourt and in-store material. Collect data on which promotions result in what customer visits by tracking mobile devices.
- If the majority of your customers pay for their gas at the pump and leave without setting foot in store, use dynamic signage at the pump to draw their attention. 32% of customers notice pump promotions, which influences purchases.
- Consider delivery options for added convenience, and to compete with delivery-first brands like Instacart, Postmates and goPuff. 7Now, 7-Eleven’s version of this service concept, also allows delivery to public places.
Mobile customer engagement in C-Stores
For more inspiration on using connected tech to build better C-Store experiences into the future, check out what the industry's been up to lately:
7-Eleven in Australia uses mobile to create customer loyalty through personalized experiences rewarding repeat visits. The app has been downloaded over 1 million times.
And in South Korea, 7-Eleven is trialling a self-service vending-machine store concept – although mobile payments are not currently being accepted.
Cargo is taking convenience store mobility literally, offering on-demand delivery of a limited range of convenience items.
Checkout-free convenience shopping is heating up: Ricker’s is working on mobile checkout for its stores, newcomer Zippin has opened a demo store in San Francisco, and even Microsoft is said to be developing its own cashier-free technology. And of course Amazon Go is still going.
Originally published December 2015, updated October 2019.
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