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    NACStech: C-Stores Strive to Reach Consumers at the Pump

    Majority of customers who fill up never set foot inside the store.

    LAS VEGAS -- Every convenience store operator knows the customers who come into the store. They buy cigarettes, packaged beverages and food. But there is a whole different customer base that never walks through the front door -- those who pull up, fill up and pull away.

    The tricky part seems to be how to capture that consumer without asking them to change their behavior and come inside. Two companies are doing just that, as they explained at NACStech 2011 in Las Vegas this week.

    According to Tim Stickney, vice president of Vendgogh LLC, gas island vending is a picture of convenience. "Forecourt sales can help build a bridge between technology and profitability."

    And Vendgogh should know. The Cary, N.C.-based company offers a vending machine that retailers can place at the gas pump to sell packaged beverages. The machine integrates seamlessly with the c-store's POS. With the swipe of a credit card, the consumer can purchase gas and a drink, Stickney explained. In fact, after swiping a credit card to buy gas, the consumer is prompted to buy a drink -- encouraging impulse buying from someone whose only intention was filling up.

    Stickney added that research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of consumers at the pump do not enter the store. "That's huge. That's a lot of people who buy gas and nothing else," he said, adding that 95 percent of the consumers who use credit cards never enter the convenience store.

    He went on to explain that those consumers who use the vending machines at the pump have said they decide where to buy gas depending on the presence of a vending machine.

    Currently Vendgogh's vending machines are in two pilot locations and a third is ready to roll out in the coming weeks. Through the pilot program at Wilcox Hess, specifically, the company has found that consumers will use the machines and they have no negative impact on inside sales, Stickney explained. He also said the company is exploring the option to add snacks to the machines.

    "This really is an untapped market," he added. "It is a huge opportunity to sell to consumers who get gas and go."

    Kirt Scott, chief technology officer at Additech Inc., agreed capturing consumers at the pump is a great opportunity. The Houston-based company sells fuel additives directly at the pump. "We've taken a niche product and wrapped it up in technology. We have integrated at the pump and turned it into a convenience product," he explained.

    But selling fuel additives to the consumer is a bit different than selling a bottle of water. Additech's product requires educating the consumer on why they need to buy the fuel additive or engine treatment, Scott said.

    And that education comes through the dispenser during the four to five minutes the consumer is at the gas pump, he added.

     

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