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Convenience stores are the bright spots in the retail industry. Despite the tough economic conditions of the past four years, revenue at convenience stores continues to grow, largely due to the industry’s emphasis on ease and accessibility for consumers who are pressed for time.
To meet these needs, c-stores have turned their attention to selling items beside gas and cigarettes. Given these trends, c-stores are poised to benefit even further by using digital signage more strategically to appeal to buyers looking for convenience.
There are five ways convenience store operators can use digital signage to increase sales starting today:
1. Give your store an image boost. Customers will consistently choose a clean, updated gas station or store over an older, rundown one. Industry research has shown that the cleanliness of a c-store can influence shopper behavior. While customers will high-tail it out of a dirty store, if you make them feel comfortable and safe, customers will reward you. Digital signage helps c-store owners convey that they have clean, safe stores in a couple ways. Since digital signage can be clearly seen and reliably updated, there is no need for window signs that clutter the storefront. Customers worried about safety at c-stores will appreciate being able to see into the store. Also, digital signs give owners the ability to promote messages about cleanliness and safety, which will draw in customers.
2. Drive traffic away from competitors. The c-store market is a highly competitive mix of national chains and independent operators. Owners often create niche markets to set themselves apart. The trouble is that customers have to be in the store to see those efforts. Digital signage gives c-store owners the ability to advertise what makes them unique, including amenities, foodservice and specialty products. The high visibility of digital signs, including LED gas price signs, also helps draw customers away from competitors. Since an LED gas price sign is visible from up to a quarter-mile away, it can help a c-store or gas station owner reach down the street to grab the attention of customers who might otherwise go to a closer competitor.
3. Highlight products and services. C-store owners try very hard to move customers from the pump into the store, which is the real profit center of the business. When The Yellowdog Express, located in Utica, Ohio, needed a way to compete with the 150-store chain operator across the street, the owner implemented promotions on his digital sign, including messages about the store’s ATM, and saw his monthly profit increase significantly. His ATM business alone increased 23 percent after promoting it on the sign. Digital signs also give c-store owners the ability to promote perishable products, reducing wasted inventory.
4. Advertise time-specific messages. One of the beauties of digital signage is the ability to conveniently execute daypart messages. Dayparting is the practice of dividing the day into several segments — usually morning, afternoon and evening. By dividing up the day, owners can better target messages to a particular demographic. For example, you can promote breakfast sandwiches and fresh coffee in the morning, snacks in the afternoon, and a well-lit facility at night. These messages can garner your c-store additional -- not replacement -- customers.
5. Give customers a reason to come back. According to the latest Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle study, 45 percent of men and 18 percent of women will shop at a c-store at least once a week. The most popular item purchased by both men and women is gasoline. Hence, introducing customers to other in-store items will increase both sales and the frequency of customer visits.
MotoMart, which operates gas stations and c-stores throughout the Midwest, decided to install digital signs so it could draw more attention to the stores’ highest-margin products. By promoting its WAND Card loyalty program on its signs, the company was successful in drawing customers from the gas pumps into the store to take advantage of special deals that featured the stores’ most profitable products.
There is a broad range of digital signage products available, so look for a quality sign manufacturer. You’ll want to make sure the sign is well constructed, operates reliably in all kinds of weather conditions, and is easy to operate. Also look for a manufacturer with a strong warranty and a good support team. With this in mind, your digital signage investment should pay dividends for many years.
John Kunze is director of sign division sales at Watchfire Signs, which has been manufacturing outdoor electric signs since 1932. Watchfire has more than 40,000 outdoor LED signs and billboards in daily operation worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.watchfiresigns.com/.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.