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    5 Ways to Compete with Larger C-Store Chains

    Large c-store chains are expanding and with big box stores like Walmart have recently expanded into the convenience store industry , the competition is getting even more intense. To keep attracting customers and driving profits for your store, you will have to do things differently to compete. As a small c-store owner, you may be wondering how you can compete with the c-store giants. We have a few tips that will ensure your customers will continue to pick your business over a large c-store chain.

    Customer Engagement

    One of the most important things to customers is trust. While many consumers are quick to trust the big names and brands in almost every industry, this is not just by chance.  Big stores have often put in the effort early on to cater to customer needs and gained the trust of consumers over time.  However, today’s consumers are shifting their preferences and seeking out more and more small businesses because they’re tired of the big business experience.  Now’s a great time to embrace being a small business owner and start building trust with c-store customers.

    • One way to gain trust is by engaging with the community, get to know your customers personally. This reassures your customers that you care about them and that you want to be more than just another place they have to spend their hard-earned money. It is the smallest things that mean the most to customers: noticing their shopping habits or knowing what times they usually come in. It shows that you are paying attention to them and that they are not just another customer.
    • A great advantage of being a small c-store owner is that you can spend more time inside your store getting to personally supervise your store’s activity and meet customers. A large c-store chain can have a long list of part time employees, with new employees coming and going, never there long enough to build the type of relationship with customers that a small c-store can.
    • Often, in big corporations, customers’ voices get lost. Customers just want to know that their opinions matter and that you are listening to them. This is a great advantage for small c-store owners because you can address your customers concerns directly. Let your customers know that you hear their concerns and are working to resolve them.
    • Customer engagement is about always being attentive. If a customer appears lost, make sure they get help quickly and can find what they are looking for. Engaging with customers constantly is an easy way for customers to trust you and want to come back to your store.

    Ability to Fulfill CustomersImmediate Needs

    Of course, in the convenience store industry, speed and convenience are the key to winning over customers.  As the world shifts more and more to online services and shopping, immediately available products are becoming more and more appreciated.  NACS reports that more than 83% of products purchased at a c-store are consumed within an hour, and 64% of products are consumed before the customer even leaves the store.  Providing access to the products customers want to enjoy right away is a great way to keep them coming back.

    To-go foods and coffee are a great way to compete with large c-stores. Coffee prices at some of the most visited coffee shops have been steadily increasing, making now a great time to focus on adding more of a selection for your coffee machines. People do not want to wait in long lines when they can go to a c-store and get what they want quicker and cheaper on their way to work or school.

    Packaged to-go foods and freshly prepared foods have become more popular as well.   A great foodservice program can be a great way to bring customers in at every daypart.

    Unlike large c-stores, you can decide what you want to and don’t want to sell. A store owner for a large c store chain does not have it so easy. This is especially helpful for a multicultural neighborhood.

    Work Smarter

    Being a small business owner is not about being everything to all customers, it’s about finding out what works for your particular customers.  It’s about being good enough at everything but being GREAT at one or a couple things.

    Decide what makes your store most valuable to your customers and how you can make the most profit from this quality.  Focus on not just what makes the highest margin, but also what your competition may not be the best at. For example, your store may do really well in coffee sales. Focus on that by adding more flavor variety to what you have, better quality of coffee, seasonal flavors, and more. Make your best strength the number one reason why people choose your store over the competition.

    Reward Programs and Deals

    Start getting innovative with your selling strategies! Get creative with your marketing and take risks.

    Coupons and promotions are a great way to encourage customers to return, attract new customers, and promote new products.  Try offering deals such as:

    • buy one get one free
    • 2 for $__
    • $__/__% off

    Customers are more likely to return if they know they will have opportunities to save money and get more for their money spent.

    Offer Services Your Competition May Not

    Offering all the conveniences your customers want in one store is a sure way to be better than your competition. Turning a store into a one-stop shop for the neighborhood is something the larger stores have already started to do, but most c-store owners have the luxury of being placed in the middle of the neighborhoods where customers need the resources most. 

    Think about the money services you can offer access to:

    • ATMs
    • Prepaid Cards/Phones
    • Bill Pay
    • Check Cashing
    • Money Orders
    • Money Transfer

    While large retailers like Walmart and even Amazon are challenging the typical brick and mortar c-store industry, there is still a lot of hope for the single store owners.  Small business is valuable to consumers who appreciate quick service, personal attention, and added values.  Don’t let the online wave or rapid growth of c-store chains discourage you.  Instead, make some investments in the right areas and keep your customers loyal to your small business.