Media

Strong Virtual Presence Can Win Physical Trips

Convenience Corner Blog: Think digital tools and forecourt messaging to drive in-store traffic.

Lori Buss Stillman

May 11, 2020

NACS News

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—For as long as I can remember, the keys to success in retail were summed up as location, location, location. While location is inarguably an essential asset, the meaning of this axiom has evolved beyond a store’s physical presence to include connecting with increasingly digital savvy customers on their terms.

Winning trips today, especially in this pandemic environment, makes location more important than ever. In the NACS 2019 Convenience Tracking Program study, consumers told us that their primary purchase decision is disproportionately made before they step into the store. Nearly half (48%) of purchase decisions are already made before they leave where they are coming from, and an additional 43% make their decision while en route or when they have the store in sight. And while the latter 10% certainly validates the importance of physical location, winning the trips of the remaining shoppers on a premeditated mission must be won long before they see a store on the corner.

Here are some ways to reframe the role of location in your business strategy and ensure you are optimally positioned to win.

Digital Presence

Shoppers want to engage with brands. They want to know their personality, values and feel a personal connection. Digital location is an effective tool for building emotional connectedness with shoppers. And this holds true even with fuels sales. A January 2020 NACS survey found that 73% of younger customers (ages 18-34) would drive five minutes out of their way to go to the store they like, while 68% would drive five minutes out of their way to save five cents a gallon. Connectedness has become the new price.

As you think about the elements of a robust digital presence, be sure to include:

Website: This is the central hub of your online presence and everything about your store (brand) should be found here: company information, products and services, operational information, original content, ways to connect with you on other channels, etc. Make it user-friendly, engaging and keep it fresh!

Google Business Listing: Having a Google My Business listing is essential, given Google’s role as the top search engine. This listing is free and allows your business to show up in, on Google Maps and allows you to generate business reviews.

Social Media: A strong social presence is how your brand personality and voice is amplified. There are great examples within the convenience industry of retailers who have amassed a significant following and connected with consumers through Twitter and Facebook. The frequency, relevancy and engagement of your social content is an effective tool for winning trips and building trust among consumers.

Content Marketing: Beyond social media, what types of original content can further communicate your value and offerings? Can you provide driving tips? Highlight your community role and how you give back. Share insights that connect your in-store offers to shopper needs. Leveraging original content further reinforces your purpose and how shoppers can connect with your brand.

Forecourt Conversion Strategy

The second element of location is the forecourt. How are you using this physical space to convert the fuel-only and drive-by consumers to shop inside your store? Beyond the basic tenets of good lighting, a clean and well-maintained pad and store design/upkeep, the role of the forecourt represents untapped potential for winning trips.

Think about how you’re messaging in-store offerings. Digital signage, pump toppers and relevant messaging can turn a fuel-only shopper into an engaged, in-store customer. How can you use dayparts and cross-promotion to drive conversion? Retailers who serve up offers that give shoppers back time, drive future behavior and solve problems in real time can capture dollars leaking to other retailers and strengthen their ties to shoppers.

Leveraging individually targeted mobile marketing efforts to capture shoppers’ attention is an untapped opportunity. Imagine engaging a customer (or their waiting passenger) with a quick game while refueling that entertains and offers a reward with a time-sensitive purchase prompt that requires immediate action, like “win a free fountain drink, good only for the next 10 minutes!” that translates into an incremental snack purchase. Leveraging today’s technology to target, engage and convert shoppers has never been easier.

Read Lori’s full blog at Convenience Corner for insights into how to enhance the layout and design of your store to win trips.

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