C-stores watch millions of dollars drive away every day. A better digital experience could bring them back.
New research has uncovered an opportunity for c-stores to increase revenue by millions of dollars annually. The catch? It’ll be gone in four minutes.
A recent study by Mobiquity highlights a substantial segment of customers who fill up their tanks and drive away from c-stores without ever walking into the store. Getting them from the pump to the store represents a huge opportunity with a small window of time. Four minutes or less…
Mobiquity’s AVP, Innovation Studio, Gaurav Devdutt, sat down to talk about the challenges c-stores face and the digital solutions that could propel them into the future.
Recent Mobiquity research has shown that, overall, C-store apps are not rated on par with other types of frequently used apps by consumers. Why is it so important that c-stores “get it right” when it comes to digital products?
When we talk about digital experience, we’re often talking about digital solutions to customer-centric challenges. C-stores today are facing some fierce headwinds. They’re trying to understand new consumer habits as a result of the ever-changing COVID 19 pandemic, of course, but they’re also dealing with supply chain disruptions, grappling with what the adoption of electric vehicles means for their businesses, and trying to fend off serious challenges from new and non-traditional competitors.
Most brands in this space can offer a quick fill-up, but that isn’t the answer to these big problems, and probably not a sustainable solution in the decade to come. The brands who come out on top of the industry will have meaning to their customers, understand their needs, and become a part of their daily lives.
For c-stores, getting it right means moving from transactional relationships to transformative experiences.
It’s clear that digital customer experience is important and we know that it’s top of mind for a lot of businesses, so what accounts for the gap between customer satisfaction in c-store versus other industries?
C-stores face three major challenges. One is a complex customer journey. In our analysis, we uncovered at least 672 different routes a customer could take in their path from order to receipt of goods. It’s difficult to manually analyze such a complex set of journeys and make any real sense out of it. That’s where a good data analytics partner and some applied AI can be a real help.
Second, new competitors. C-stores are evolving beyond their “Cokes and smokes” to embrace fresher and healthier foods with signature food offerings. This pitches them directly against much more digitally mature Quick Service Restaurants, grocery stores and well-funded startups that operate virtual convenience stores. The race for best customer experience is gaining momentum and c-stores need to have the right digital & data strategy to win this race.
The other major challenge is an extremely diverse customer base and a wide array of SKUs, which makes data analytics that much more difficult. Everyone needs gas, but the circumstances that bring them to the pump and their additional needs vary greatly. A truck driver, for example, may need a hot meal and a shower. The daily commuter might want to grab a consistently good cup of coffee on their way to work. Trying to find ways to engage with each, with the right product offering is not an easy task.
So you’ve got a diverse set of customers with different wants and needs, often being served a “one size fits all ‘’ digital experience. The result is underwhelming interactions on mobile apps, kiosks, websites and other digital touchpoints. Without the right approach to creating a personalized experience for each customer, it’s nearly impossible to create a seamless experience for all.
You mentioned the customer journey but what’s the value in fully understanding the many paths that customers can take?
The value becomes significant when you analyze each route to the customer minutely. Take for example, the pump to store route. Mobiquity recently completed an analysis that revealed every day nearly 50 million people fill up their gas tank and drive away from a c-store without setting foot inside, where the store’s highest margin items are. Getting simply 1–2 of those customers into the store each day would increase revenue by millions of dollars annually.
What can c-stores do to get those customers into the store and capitalize on that opportunity?
If you analyze a customer that regularly stops at the pump, just that specific journey point when they fuel up (those 4 minutes) with a lot of focus. Over time, you will start to get clues as to what might motivate them to come in the store more often. We call this “four minute forensics”, where we analyze the activities, transactions and path to purchase data minutely, at that very moment when someone fuels up to create micro personas and probable next action.
With such micro segmentation, you can test targeted offers with various types of customers to see what best incentivizes them to go inside. Using AI, we can more easily identify these patterns. The more we understand what pleases customers, the more we’re able to create friction-free experiences that give them what they need. It always starts with the customer — delight them consistently, and the store will succeed.
Where would you advise a customer start who is trying to improve their digital customer experience?
That’s difficult to say without analyzing a customer’s specific situation, but looking at customer feedback is a great place to start. We don’t recommend any retailer build onto an existing digital tool unless it’s already getting the basics right — login, rewards information, payment. A Mobiquity friction report can be a great first step in determining if there’s work to be done there.
Next, definitely the data collection strategy. It’s often more about the quality of data you collect, than the volume of data you are collecting. Sure, volume of data helps, but then big data often comes with big noise. Small data can be equally powerful, provided we collect it the right way, the right events and decorate it with the right context. Particularly post covid-19, there is a sort of a data reset, with new behavioral shifts. This makes it the right time for C-stores to relook at the data acquisition mechanisms.
After that, it’s really about personalization — understanding your guests and their needs and giving them offers that demonstrate that knowledge. A rewards program is great but the physical experience is an often overlooked touchpoint. There’s a lot you can tailor to each individual that will increase your relevance to your guest — it could be recommending the right substitute for an unavailable favorite when at store, or assisting them with helpful combos when they display purchase confusion at your app or targeting them with personalized, curated dining offers when they are fueling at pump for those four minutes, probably unsure about what they are going to have at diner.
You have four minutes to catch their attention and the more tailored your offer is, the more your chances increase.