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Despite all the technology built into today’s vehicles, most drivers still have to pull over once in a while to fill up the tank. Convenience stores and truck stops are also popular for a quick, caffeinated pick-me-up, a salty snack or a gallon of washer fluid.
But the days of the generic c-store are long gone. With driving on the decline, c-store retailers can no longer depend solely on the profits from fuel sales to stay afloat, which has created a rush to differentiate and compete on other offerings. Most c-store brands have focused on improved customer service, branded premium coffee, higher-quality food marts, and loyalty programs to maintain and attract new customers.
Now, with many c-stores on a level playing field, business managers are looking to remove costs from the equation, while maintaining quality and increasing sales.
LEADING THE PACK
A number of c-store retailers like Wawa Inc. are already ahead of the pack in adopting technology to optimize business operations.
With more than 700 locations (350-plus offering fuel) in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida, Wawa’s 22,000 associates have become known for high-quality service and food. More than just “convenient,” Wawa’s draw is its made-to-order hoagies, hot breakfast sandwiches, specialty beverages, and assortment of soups, sides and snacks.
Wawa’s ability to understand and deliver on its customers' desires isn’t just luck. The company relies on an integrated suite of software applications that give store managers detailed insight into which products are selling, at which price points and at what times.
With proper software, Wawa is able to understand the exact mix of who is buying what on an individual store basis. This information then directs inventory, ordering and receiving to streamline merchandising, marketing and sales.
Running its business at optimum efficiency is one way Wawa stays on top — a strategy that is especially helpful when scaling to add new stores. Having insights into customer-buying preferences and behaviors was helpful in determining how new stores might better address customer needs, down to details like product placement.
THE VALUE OF TRANSACTION HISTORY
Having a 360-degree view of the customer is critical for moving toward a customized, one-to-one marketing or promotions program. Just as important is the backend IT infrastructure that drives this interaction between retailer and consumer. C-stores that can combine real-time personalized promotions with shoppers’ point-of-sale transaction history have the potential to create a serious market advantage.
Transaction history (something easily recorded and assigned to a loyalty account) contains a multitude of data, including:
- Time, date, location and frequency of c-store visits;
- Size and value of each visit;
- Value and frequency of coupon usage; and
- Individual items purchased (brand name vs. store brand).
Using big data, transaction history can be loaded and accessed in real time to trigger personalized promotions through machine-to-machine technology. It’s important to have a singular database as a repository that collects transactional data previously spread over multiple independent applications in diverse formats. It provides a common foundation for all consuming applications.
This results in a more personalized relationship with the c-store and potential benefits for the consumer.
Imagine this scenario: John walks into a c-store to grab a quick breakfast before work. He picks up a breakfast sandwich and the presence of his smartphone trips a digital marketing sensor or beacon. The beacon recognizes John’s device and location, and quickly sends a promotional offer to his phone regarding the new (and higher margin) breakfast smoothies. Prompted by the price break, John heads over to get a smoothie instead of his usual coffee and thinks it’s his lucky day!