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5 Ways to Drive Increased Gas & Convenience Foot Traffic
Brandi Smith, Marketing Director
The gas and convenience retail industry is continuously heating up against other retail channels. Research suggests that the strength of convenience stores will continue, but it’s not guaranteed. With consumer shopping trips declining, competing channels like quick serve restaurants (QSRs) diversify, and e-commerce continues to rapidly explode, there’s no time like the present for gas and convenience to bring their A-game when it comes to creating in-store foot traffic.
According to a recent GasBuddy report, in the category of gas and convenience brands with over 1,000 locations, four of the top five foot traffic “winners” are those that emphasize their in-store offerings, rather than prices at the pump alone. When fuel prices are somewhat similar, customers seek out the brands that can offer some form of service. However, according to the report, 53% of visits to gas and convenience stores lasted less than 5 minutes. This makes it critical to know how often your customers frequent your stores in order to tailor your offerings to take advantage of high traffic points during the week, and in turn, prompt your customers to spend more time in the store and increase their basket size.
So, how can brands take a routine consumer stop at the pump — and beyond – to drive consumers into the store? Here are five ways:
Gas and convenience retailers can stay relevant and establish competitive advantage when adopting a loyalty and/or fuel rewards program. In the C-Store Shopper Profile 2018 Report by Excentus Corporation, it was found that 51% of consumers shop more frequently at stores or chains where they are loyalty program members than at other convenience stores. In addition, 22% of these consumers shop exclusively at that chain. The data that these programs deliver help get to know your customer better than anyone else and bridge the gap between the business side of growing revenue and the consumer side of knowing what customers want and expect.
To get the most out of your loyalty program, there are some things you should consider when it comes to your program design:
With the proliferation of loyalty programs out there, it’s a fight for consumer mindshare to get them onboard with yours. The reality is, consumers can only engage is so many loyalty programs at a time. A loyalty pitch that is too long and difficult to explain will create a barrier that can keep your shoppers from signing up. Start simply, but powerfully.
With 51% of consumers shopping more frequently at stores where they have a loyalty membership, getting them signed up is a valuable endeavor. Train your staff and ensure they have the knowledge needed to explain the benefits of the loyalty program to customers. The key is to do so without slowing down the transaction process to keep shoppers more responsive. You can even get your employees involved to generate excitement and the knowledge needed to get program signups, but also leverage them to test new loyalty features, or perhaps even develop special benefits that only apply to them.
Gas discounts are one of the strongest offers gas and convenience brands can offer. Gas is a costly expense and a need for drivers of all demographics. Savings at the pump appeal to everyone and loyalty programs that offer fuel discounts have risen by 10% according to an Excentus, The Road to Rewards report. The study found that the top two motivational factors for interacting with a loyalty program were saving on the cost of fuel (21%) and earning and redeeming points on fuel and in-store purchases (18%).
One of the biggest advantages of offering a loyalty program is collecting customer data and then using that data to personalize offers based on customer behavior. With today’s business intelligence (BI) technology, customers can be segmented by their number of store visits, what they purchase, if they are a fuel-only customer and more. You can then push out coupons and offers relevant to their likes and needs to increase visit frequency and in-store purchases – like a morning coffee and breakfast sandwich or a visit for an afternoon snack to re-energize, which leads to the next point…
GasBuddy has also found that 60% of its app users drink coffee on their commute every morning. Gas stations in the study that received an “excellent” coffee rating received 18% of their daily traffic between 5am to 10am, which is approximately 12.5% more than stations with below-average coffee ratings. Investing in a good quality coffee will naturally boost your in-store traffic. It can also lead to other breakfast purchases like that sandwich I mentioned above, which means higher overall basket size.
Our first-of-its-kind end-to-end delivery system pays commuters and other drivers to deliver parcels using a network of transfer mailboxes called Hives, located at strategic locations across North America. Certified, background checked and rated drivers use these Hives as pick-up and drop-off points for parcels, like a baton in a relay. By hosting Hives at your locations, you are both opening up a profit channel because we pay you per parcel, but also that moves two potential customers – the drop-off driver and pick-up driver – through your locations as parcels move through the Hive. Plus, our data driven technology offers a holistic solution that provides Hive hosts with information on driver demographics and behaviors enabling a proactive partnership aimed at targeting, incentivizing and measuring traffic increase and in-store purchases.
GasBuddy also found that four out of the top five foot traffic “winners” are convenience brands that emphasize their in-store offerings, rather than prices at the pump, and more than half of consumer visits to the last longer than five minutes. This suggests that consumers are not only interested in filling up their tanks but also on in-store items. By pushing special offers to your customer’s mobile device when they pull into your store or placing signage at the pump and other strategically placed areas at your location, you’ll entice customers to make an additional purchase, especially when tied to earning more loyalty rewards.
The experience a customer has at a gas and convenience location can be based on many factors from outdoor lighting, cleanliness, food quality and experience overall. For example, studies have shown that consumers prefer to refuel at stations that are well-lit in the evenings and early morning. Those with above-average outdoor lighting ratings drove 25.9% more visits than their below average competitors. Stations with below-average customer service ratings experienced 15% less visits than the industry average. Conversely, stations with above-average customer service ratings experienced an uplift of nearly 7%, showing that today’s consumers seek quality retail experiences — even when they’re just making a quick pit-stop. Whether good or bad, your customer experience will create a lasting impression and can make or break a return visit.
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