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    New Retailer Survey Looks at C-store Social Media Efforts

    Study reveals insights into convenience store social and mobile marketing practices.

    BARRINGTON, Ill. & COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Balvor LLC and Convevo Partners, in collaboration with Convenience Store News, recently examined how convenience retailers view and use electronic platforms ranging from e-mail to Facebook, texting and more.

    This work provides new insights based on input from 135 convenience retailers that represent more than 26,000 stores, and is the first, in-depth look at current retail perspectives and practices specific to convenience retail as it relates to this area.

    "Until now, convenience -- like other retailers -- have been bombarded with messages about the how these various platforms are becoming more important without knowing what is most relevant to their business," said David Bishop, managing partner of Balvor LLC.

    Convevo Partners President Greg Ehrlich added, "The convenience industry has operators of all sizes, which has implications on how and what they can practically do. We recognize that how a company approaches these areas is influenced heavily by their size, structure and capabilities."

    Findings of the survey released early reveal that:

    • Although 43 percent of all convenience retailers maintain a Facebook page today, participation varies considerably by company size. For instance, nearly all retailers who operate 51 or more stores have a page; around half of the retailers with 11 to 50 stores do; and slightly more than one-quarter of the retailers operating one to 10 stores have a Facebook page.

    The leading reason why a retailer isn't using Facebook today is due to a lack of time internally to manage it. However, the second reason retailers agreed with is that they're not sure how to leverage Facebook effectively, which could clearly affect how much time a retailer dedicates.

    "This isn't to suggest that those who are using it know what they're doing. We found that just under half of the retailers who are using Facebook have clearly stated goals and even less routinely measure the effectiveness of their activities," said Bishop.

    Text messaging is used by even fewer retailers, as approximately one-quarter (26 percent) indicate their company currently sends out texts to customers, but there is a sizable group (39 percent) of retailers who are either likely to start using text messaging in 2012 or are still evaluating it.

    Text marketing has emerged as the most cost-effective way to build a communication channel with customers. Customers opt-in to text programs with the expectation that retailers are going to be sending them special deals. This is quite different from Facebook where consumers are more interested in conversing with companies than they are in being bombarded with promotions. While fan-only specials can be effective, they should only represent a small portion of a company's Facebook posts.

    "Mobile providers began offering unlimited messaging several years ago, which has really lowered the cost of this technology. However, mainly mid-large chain operators are taking advantage of this pricing shift," Ehrlich noted. "Single-store and smaller chain operators could really benefit from the simplicity and cost effectiveness of text marketing. While it requires conducting a little research on how to set up a text marketing program, it is definitely worth the time."

    Only one-quarter (24 percent) of the retailers agreed that their company has a clear strategy for selecting and implementing mobile, social and web-based tools, revealing that execution in some cases may be ahead of strategy development. Bishop and Ehrlich both believe the goal is to help retailers understand which platforms make the most sense and how they can effectively leverage those to drive the desired business results.

    Bishop and Ehrlich will discuss their work in more detail during a presentation entitled, "Is Social and Mobile Marketing Right for Your Store?" at the upcoming M-PACT Conference, being held March 15 in Indianapolis.

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