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Fluctuating Gas Prices: Keeping Customers Happy

Throughout the year gas prices rise and fall affecting your customers shopping and fueling habits. It is important to know how to keep your customers happy no matter what the price is at the pump so that your profits stay consistent all year long.

What Happens When the Prices Change?

Gas prices rise and fall due to many different factors. There may be an excess of oil available or it may just be a certain time of the year when prices are always high or low. During the colder months like December and January prices are generally much less than warmer months like June and July. Depending on what part of the country your store resides in can also play a part in fuel costs. Gas prices are usually highest on the West Coast while prices are the most stable in the Rockies and least expensive in the South and Southeast.

  • When prices go up:
    • Customers tend to pick another store with lower prices even if it is only be one cent
    • If all stores in the area go up a the same time many people will find alternative ways to commute like riding a bike or carpooling
    • Others will cut back on driving altogether and put less amounts in their tank like five or ten dollars
    • People are also less likely to spend money inside c-stores on snacks, drinks, and other items
  • When prices go down:
    •  Three in five drivers become more optimistic about the economy
    •  24 percent of customers say that they will drive more and 18 percent say they will spend more
    • Drivers are also more likely to come inside c-stores and buy their favorite items

What to Do When Fuel Prices Increase

Be honest and open with your customers about why the price has changed.

Explaining to your customers about why your prices have risen will make them feel like you an honest retailer. This along with thanking them for their continued loyalty will strengthen your customer relationships ensuring they shop with you in the future.

Offer an incentive that will make it worth it for the customer to fill-up.

Having another lower priced item for any fuel buyers is a great strategy to keep customers coming in even when the prices rise. Having a free or discount coffee for morning commuters or a bottle of water for those coming in the afternoon. You can even add more value to your fuel by giving away services like a free car wash (if your c-store is compatible) or future discounts and coupons on other items in the store.

Explain how the higher prices gives them the options they love.

If customers do not understand why the prices are going up even after explaining to them, try letting them know that without the price increase you would not be able to offer all of the products and services that you have. The customer may not have their favorite energy drink or Kombucha if you did not have higher prices. The increase allows you to give the shoppers more choices that others in the area may not have.

Focus on selling food items.

Edible grocery items have higher margins than gasoline or cigarettes according to the NACS. This means that even when prices are high you should be gaining the majority of profits from inside of your c-store. Focus on marketing these products and lure customers in that way.

Tell them how the increase in price is not to increase profits.

By explaining the necessity of raising your prices it shows the customers that you are not being greedy, but instead you are doing what you must to offer the best services and selection. Let them know that you are a small business and you are only trying to improve your c-store and are not like large chains that are trying to make more profits. They will most likely appreciate your honesty and continue to support your business.

Taking Advantage of Low Fuel Costs

When people feel like they are saving money they are more friendly. Take advantage of this opportunity by growing your customer relationships and loyalty. You can do this by excelling in other areas like offering healthy choices and placing an increased emphasis on fresh prepared food choices like 7-Eleven and Quik Trip has done at many of their remodeled locations. You can also use this time to better understand your shoppers various paths and the best selling item categories so you can better market during times of high gas prices.

Also, when gas prices are low it affects the entire economy making many things cheaper, especially traveling. You may think more road trips, but in addition to this many airlines have lower prices when fuel prices are down. This means if you are in a popular location for travelers, then you should be stocking up on the items and improving the services they use the most. Clean bathrooms and staple snacks will be you ally when more travelers are in your c-store.

With the rise and fall of gas prices we always see changes in customer behavior and shopping patterns. Learning to manipulate these behaviors will benefit you in the long run. Taking the time to talk to your customers and figure out what will keep them coming in when prices are high will help you stay consistent throughout the year, no matter what the temperature is outside.

in Building Your Business, Consumer Trends, Fuel, goEBT News, Industry News