Increased sales occurs either through expanding your customer base or getting more business from your existing customers. Customer growth is a huge undertaking and is invariably expensive. Therefore it is imperative to get your existing customers to buy more on each trip or buy more frequently.
If you expect customers to be loyal, then you must show them how determined and committed you are to your own business to earn their business. It is important to surround yourself with competent, customer-friendly employees that will follow in your footsteps. Keeping a quality staff is imperative to keeping a loyal customer base. Mentor them to do as you say and do as you do.
Keep the exterior of your location up to par, sweep up those cigarette butts, clean the windows and take care of any gas spills. Have a logical store layout and maintain organization, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Customers do not want to waste time hunting for what they need. Make sure the shelves are clean and fully stocked. Half empty shelves and dusty products do not make a very good impression. Greet customers promptly when they enter your store. Learn and use their name. Once you are acquainted, ask them how they are, what is happening with their live and families, etc. Learn what they buy and offer new products and merchandise you feel will appeal to them. Building a genuine relationship with your customers will make it hard for them to shop anywhere else.
Point-Of-Purchase (POP) advertising is built around impulse purchasing and use of in-store displays and other last minute marketing ploys to catch a shopper’s eye. As with all forms of advertising, the objective is to influence a person’s decision. Typically, a shortcoming of advertising is the time lag between when potential customers are subject to the ad and the time when they have an opportunity to make a purchase. POP advertising is effective as it eliminates such a lag time and attempts to influence the customer at the very moment that he/she is making a buying decision. Powerful Point-Of-Purchase marketing attracts interest and drives sales. It can persuade shoppers to purchase additional quantities of a product or to buy related products that are merchandised together. The ultimate goal is to increase sales at your location. Point-Of-Purchase promotion techniques often include window displays, floor stands, banners of any kind, end caps promoting a single product, counter displays, posters, signs, display bins, and even placement of related items next to each other on shelves. POP materials work best at eye level, using bright colors, engaging graphics and simple messages. Generally, these displays are created by the manufacturer for distribution to wholesalers or retailers who sell their merchandise. In fact, a manufacturer may discount the cost of merchandise or compensate the retailer in some other way for using their Point-Of-Purchase displays. This is especially true when using an end cap display, the prime real estate in the convenience store! To take full advantage of POP marketing, the advertisements must evolve constantly, mix up your merchandise, move around your displays, and keep your approach fresh. Once the customer sees the same display for a few weeks, it becomes ineffective. Additionally, if the sale is regularly available, customers will not feel the urgency to make a purchase. It is well worth your time and effort to ensure eye appeal and take advantage of a targeted audience. Customers will make additional purchases and come back often to see if they can take advantage of the next exciting promotion.
Take spring cleaning to the next level this year, clean up and revamp your foodservice program. Customers today are very picky when it comes to their food. They want it fast, they want it fresh and they want value. There is considerable pressure on c-store retailers to get their foodservice offering right. Any deficiency can drive customers away, perhaps forever. When you are ready to test your innovativeness and expand your menu, pay special attention to the following:
- Stay connected to the pulse of your community. In general, there is a growing demand for healthier options in the form or fresh fruit cups, salads, smoothies, hearty soups, wraps, grilled sandwiches, organic coffee and teas. Move slowly and cautiously when adding new items to your menu, making sure the demand is there.
- Build a better perception of c-store food by offering fresh foods constantly. Make sure to inform your customers with an eye catching sign, “Made Fresh Here” or “Guaranteed Fresh.”
- If you are not preparing the food in front of your customers, package it in clear containers or clear cellophane wrap. Be sure to include a label with the date the food was prepared.
- Convenience stores rely heavily on impulse sales, your foodservice area must be spotless and your staff on top of things at all times. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- If you are serious about improving your foodservice program, you need to develop a tolerance for waste. You will make more money down the road with happy, repeat customers.
- In revamping your menu, consider offering special combo prices or deals. The placing of the order is simplified and customers are rewarded with perceived instant savings. The retailer is rewarded with add-on sales and thereby increasing the sales amount average.
- The days are gone when customers would buy a food item and wash it down with a generic cup of coffee. Customers today have a much more discerning taste even driving out of their way for a great cup of coffee. Get those customers inside your store by offering unique flavors and espresso-based drinks.
The blue-collar man who smokes used to account for the majority of gas station/convenience store sales. Today, it is a very different matter. More and more, the survival of these stores is based on non-fuel offerings. The trend is to turn gas station/convenience stores into a destination. Paying for gas at the pump – means less impulse buys in the store.
Upscale innovative designs are being incorporated with unique colors, woodwork, art, coffee bars, fireplaces, free Wi-Fi access, and dining areas with big-screen TVs. The goal of this chic strategy is to make it a pleasurable shopping experience.
While offering requisite items, many stores are constantly retooling offerings. Price and value are still vital but the trend is to amplify the appeal of the establishment. Convenience stores built today are 25 percent larger than those built a decade ago. Many owners will tell you they make more off a 12oz cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up. Innovations of this epicurean uprising include homemade baked goods, garden-fresh produce, gourmet coffee, espresso bars, brick-oven pizza, packages deli-style lunch boxes, fresh seafood, and seating areas with magazines nearby. Many stores want to be perceived as a healthy alternative to fast food. Some states allow beer caves, a wine selection or roll-your-own-cigarette machines. To make the customer feel entertained and satisfied is the experience most inventive stores are after.
Swanky food won’t thrive in every neighborhood. Years of dreadful coffee and wrinkly old hot dogs have made customers reluctant to take convenience store food seriously. Today, it is not enough to say “Great location, extended hours or pretty good price.” How to find new ways to entice time-strapped patrons inside the store is the question; and innovation is the answer.