The c-store retail environment has been seemingly ever-changing over the past few years. A big question many convenience store owners may have is, what does the future of c-store retail really look like?
Pleasing the Traveling C-Store Customer
In 2016, it was predicted that 35 percent of Americans are planning to take a family vacation 50 miles or more away from home. With so many people traveling you need to make sure your store is appealing so that customers are more likely to stop in and make a purchase.
During a road trip, there are three things that travelers cannot go without. Food, restrooms, and fuel are all an integral part of any roadtrippers journey. As customers search for a pit stop, a few things that factor into their decision to spend money are:
An Attractive Storefront
Many travelers are families with children who are looking for a safe location to stop and stretch their legs. Help bring in families by keeping your lot clean and making sure that there is plenty of lighting during evening hours.
Low Gas Prices
In 2015, 71 percent of customers listed fuel price as the most important factor when selecting a c-store. Keep your prices competitive so that cost aware consumers will stop at your business when traveling.
Having a dirty bathroom can push customers out of the door costing you a sale. When the restroom is not properly taken care of, customers will wonder what else in your c-store is not getting the right amount of attention. Have an employee check them frequently to make sure products are stocked and that everything is clean.
Sales and Promotions
Although bathrooms may not bring in customers, sales and promotions will. Offers like 'Buy One Get One Free' or 'Two for $2.22' are likely to tempt customers already fueling up at the pump who were not planning on making a trip inside. You can also offer specials on typical road trip purchases such as coffee, bottled drinks, or chips to help please shoppers.
If traveling customers are part of your main business then consider taking steps to market yourself towards those customers. Some c-stores have even renamed themselves to represent this, 'Fast Trip Convenience Store' and even 'QuikTrip' insinuate a fast and easy experience while traveling.
Another way to market to potential customers is by using holidays to your advantage. These are typically high travel times so following the example of Cumberland Farms who offered customers a free hot or iced coffee on Christmas Day in 2016. You could also make these promotions seasonal, with a free bottle of water on July 4th.
Bring in consistent out-of-town business by offering services that may not be available in other parts of the U.S. If you border a state that has high tobacco taxes or does not have a lottery then offering those types of products will help boost sales.
The Food Items They Want
In the past, customers would have to stop for hot food separately from where the fill up their tanks. Now that c-stores are evolving and able to carry hot and cold ready-to-eat items, families are more inclined to make only one stop. By offering these food items customers will be saving time and potentially money, making you a true one-stop shop. Along with ready-made items travelers also want healthy options.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are some of the easiest items that you can offer travelers who are looking for nutrition and substance:
- Easy snacks like veggie sticks, fresh whole fruit, fresh fruit cups, and hard-boiled eggs
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Healthy grains like nuts, trail mix, sunflower seeds, and granola bars
- Drinks like 100% fruit or vegetable juice, water, and coffee
- Grab and go lunches like a Healthy Sandwich or Fresh Salad
Capitalize on the extra business out-of-town customers can offer by keeping your inventory stocked and your c-store appealing from the outside. Be friendly, courteous, and offer to answer any questions they may have. Customers will remember the stops that offer options that they enjoy, have great customer service, and will most likely stop there again on future road trips ensuring more profits in the future.