PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights Survey shows that on top of traditional Return on Investment (ROI) metrics used to determine success, companies need to introduce another metric that zeros in on consumers: Return on Experience (ROX).
CSNC talked to Elisa Swern, partner, consumer markets, PwC Canada, who explained what c-stores need to know about the evolving consumer and delivering ROX.
PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights Survey highlights the importance of the consumer experience: How does that play out for c-stores?
ES: Regardless of the type of store, consumers want convenience and ease. They want a seamless experience that will draw them back to the store. Retailers should focus on technology to capture as many insights as possible to understand consumers’ preferences for products.
Convenience stores can focus on their consumers and how their employees impact this seamless experience to generate sales and repeat consumers. C-stores are a community hub with small footprint stores that provide the potential for unique and friendly experiences between customers and employees.
How do c-stores deliver ROX?
ES: Return on experience helps companies understand the return they’re getting on investments made into parts of the organization directly related to how consumers interact with their brand.
PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights report indicates that more Canadians are engaging in micro-trips to the grocery store throughout the week rather than going only once per week. They want fast and convenient shopping experiences and convenience stores can offer it.
Consumers who go to convenience stores are usually there for a few minutes to pick up what they need. Anecdotally, we know that consumers are now expecting convenience stores to have more items than just newspapers and gum. They are looking for hot food options, health food and even more toiletries.
How are consumers changing and what does this mean for the future of c-stores?
ES: PwC Canada’s Consumer Insights report indicates that some consumers prefer in-store trips versus online ordering because they like to see and touch products, while others enjoy the experience of discovering new products in-store. Nearly half of respondents said they have concerns over the quality of products. Seeing items firsthand and with assistance from knowledgeable employees can help with their decisions.
Also, sustainability is becoming a top priority for Canadian consumers, regardless of the type of shop. Food items being organic, sustainably packaged and ethically produced are top of the shopping list.
Finally, consumers still like their loyalty programs. Tracking what consumers normally buy and acting upon it, demonstrates that the retailer has applied their knowledge of what’s important to the consumer to improve their return on experience. Providing this value back to the consumer in exchange for their data is important.
What needs to evolve in stores to deliver these experiences?
ES: A greater focus on data and insights. Collecting insights about consumer behaviour will help c-stores focus on the right product mix and services—making sure that items most important to consumers are available and increasing awareness of this with their customers is key. It’s equally important to deliver consistent experiences for consumers through employee training and investment. Experience doesn’t necessarily mean creating a VIP or niche one. It can be, and is typically, centered around creating a positive experience for the consumer. Where they leave the store with a feeling of ease and intent to return.
What role does technology play in building these relationships?
ES: Voice-enabled tech is creating a new communications channel for retailers and consumers: 17% of Canadians we surveyed are already using smart home voice assistants to make purchases.
Retailers need to start tapping into rich voice data information, as it adds context to consumer interactions. By tapping into this data, retailers will be able to improve their relationships and interactions with consumers. For instance, they’ll be able to suggest a new product while the consumer is shopping or direct consumers to their closest c-store to purchase the item searched.
Any specific insights for independent c-store operators?
ES: Get to know your consumers and their preferences. Typically, consumers will go back to their closest convenience store if they offer the right products and knowledgeable, friendly service. While investing in technology might be more difficult for independent c-store operators, they can start by using point-of-sale data to gain insight into the products consumers buy and record feedback on what they want and couldn’t find, for example, specific products and brands.
Being knowledgeable about the product is always key for a strong consumer experience. If you know the product and can share information with consumers, they are more likely to purchase it from you.
What macro retail trends do c-store retailers need to know about?
ES: Technology is key, but if retailers collect data they must treat it with respect and protect it to build a long and trusted relationship with the consumer. The consumer needs to see that there is an equal value of exchange between their data, and what they are receiving in return.
What is the biggest challenge for this industry?
ES: Rapidly changing and growing consumer demands because of technology. C-stores need to stay on top of technology trends if they want to keep interacting with their consumers and provide them with the products and the experience they are looking for.
What is the big opportunity?
ES: Making c-store a community hub where consumers can do their one-stop-shop.