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In our last article for Convenience Store News, we discussed the burgeoning need at convenience stores for more grab-and-go items, specifically fresh food and produce. Proper in-store merchandising to increase sales per square foot and maintaining food integrity are key, particularly with more produce and fragile items. This is a tall order and will take time, and possibly outside help to master. But it is of critical importance if you desire to evolve your business to keep up with the changing retail/e-tail space in this country.
The next step in keeping up with current trends is the development of effective website content, followed by actually allowing customers to order online and/or have their orders delivered. Even the giant 7-Eleven has begun to pilot some delivery options.
Convenience stores are primed for integrating different channels of sales. Your customers want the convenience of having a choice in the way they shop your convenience store on a daily basis.
We are not going to tell you to open tomorrow with a full-fledged online ordering system with free delivery or in-store pickup. But we are going to start you on the path toward an evolution that will eventually place you solidly online, with a bolstered product offering and ease of form, function and content consumption that folks just can’t refuse. And there is help out there from companies who provide not only a nimble platform, but all of the operational, fulfillment, logistics and form, function and content support that you could leverage to support your limited resources.
The customer experience mantra remains crystal clear and the same: Customers demand convenience…Convenience dictates choice…Choice builds value…Value builds customers…Convenience can trump price for value proposition. For if it couldn’t, c-stores would not be doing as well as they are.
Consider this typical lament from a customer:
“My family just called from out of town. I have such a hectic work schedule today, a major presentation due, and I am busy until 30 minutes before they arrive! The cupboard is bare. Oh my, what will I do? I need a genie in a bottle. I am racing around the house to clean before I head out to work. No time! What can I serve for dinner? How about for breakfast and lunch tomorrow? I have no way to get to a store before they arrive. Online ordering — that’s the answer!
But who is the best option to order from the fastest? Same-day delivery is an absolute. Who has what I need most — dinner fixings for seven from the frozen section, breakfast pastries and assorted coffees, and fresh fruits for in the morning? Is anybody in the family gluten-free? I can’t remember.
Calm down, I can do it. I just have to hurry and call my favorite convenience store. First, let me see what they have online to offer so I can plan. Oh no, they don’t have content and information on their website. My sister has a peanut allergy, my father is on a diet. Where are the products? What do they have there? I can’t find any product information or ingredients or nutrition. I can’t find anything except a store locator and information about the brands they carry. I am in deep trouble.”
And so it goes. This story is a common one, happening countless times on a daily basis around the country. Therefore, it is a natural evolutionary path that the next step after augmenting your fresh grab-and-go offer and ensuring product integrity — and even starting to source locally — is to think about what the next changes look like for you, the convenience store.
Anyone who has heard the phrase, “Content is king,” will understand what we are talking about. The Edelman Trust barometer suggests that more than half of customers do not trust most businesses or institutions. This is a rather large number. How do companies build trust and loyalty to increase sales and retention and set the stage for continued evolution online, led by customer demand?
With content. The next step on your path is providing content online to be a trusted source of information about your brands so that your customers become comfortable with you and your knowledge.
Don’t advertise to get people to your website until your site has proper form, function and content. With all of the options, we get one chance. If the experience is not good, there are many other places online people can go to have a good experience. Disruptions like Instacart are taking “gold” customers from solid retailers and sending them to the competition. Don’t let that happen. Keep your customers by putting money into the building and evolving of your website.
Search engines find you through content. Customers find you by searching for content that you have on your site. Additionally, social media content can cause viral marketing reactions, which lead folks right to your site and, subsequently, your stores.
Customers who find robust content on your site are more likely to follow up with a visit to the store. It’s a fact that customers search more than three sites before choosing where to purchase. They have to know what you have, and detailed information and attributes about your products, brands and categories, in order to choose. You have to tell the story in such an engaging way that the experience on your website gives them exactly what they need to know and builds trust each and every time.
This trust leads to more in-store traffic, and grows their desire for online ordering from you — when you have it. Basket sizes will increase, frequency of order will increase, and overall revenue will catapult you to the next level, both in-store and online (when you are ready for that step).
In our next article, we will do a deep dive into content building, discussing how to build effective and “selling” content in an inexpensive yet compelling manner. Stay tuned.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.