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    The Age of Digital Marketing

    Online social networks, smart phones and e-mail transform how c-stores speak to consumers and promote offerings.

    This transformation comes in response to consumers' increasing engagement with digital media for on-the-go communication. With each new advancement, Americans are not replacing one with the other, but rather relying on more -- often simultaneously.

    In this special cover story package, Convenience Store News examines how the convenience industry is embracing the age of digital marketing by utilizing social media, e-mail marketing and mobile marketing to connect with consumers wherever they are.

    For c-stores, the approach doesn't have to be out with the old and in with the new. "As with any new marketing medium, you don't necessarily chop off your right hand because you can all of a sudden write with your left hand," said Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing. "It doesn't need to be a one-or-the-other approach."

    In fact, research shows that in the digital realm, the various media feed one another. For instance, a recent survey by global research firm Synovate found that Americans are among the most likely to own at least two cell phones compared to other countries, and more than one-fourth of U.S. respondents said they use their phones for e-mailing; a similar percentage use them to browse the Internet; and 15 percent access social networks via their mobile phones.

    Studies also show the most active users of social media use e-mail more than less active or non-users. Social networking sites, such as Facebook, send messages to a user's inbox every time someone comments on a posting or something he or she participated in.

    "It's perfectly logical that as people make connections through social media, they maintain those connections outside of that specific platform and may extend those connections to e-mail, a phone conversation or even in-person meetings," said Jon Gibs, vice president of media analytics for Nielsen Online.

    The key takeaway for retailers is that more often than not, various modes of marketing and advertising complement rather than detract from one another, noted Deirdre Baird, president and CEO of Pivotal Veracity, an e-mail delivery auditing and optimization firm.

    "There isn't one marketing channel that reigns supreme anymore," she said.

    Click a headline below to read more on each digital marketing strategy:

    -- Networking Opportunities: Social Networking
    -- Inbox Engagement: E-mail Marketing
    -- The Hard Cell: Mobile Marketing

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