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Road trip! Tips for driving c-store customer satisfaction with frictionless digital experiences

With more than half of traveling families expected to hit the road this summer, convenience store retailers are preparing for the ramp up of customer trips. Getting them through the door will take more than having low fuel prices and clean bathrooms.

Photo: Tony Webster

Photo: Tony Webster

During a recent road trip, Jim Lecinski, associate professor at Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications Program at Northwestern University, stopped at four c-stores — with each satisfying different needs: fast groceries, favorite breakfast foods, fuel, lottery, snacks, and a restroom break.

Speaking at the 2019 NACS State of the Industry Summit this month, Lecinski explained his experience at each store depended on how well each retailer assisted him to get those six jobs done without friction at all points in his journey.

As he noted, c-store retailers can deliver a frictionless experience by tapping into their “mental model,” which consists of three elements:

  1. Creating a great retail environment;
  2. Driving people into your destination; and,
  3. Delivering a great experience.

There is one monkey wrench in the works, however, and it’s the increased use of mobile devices. “What happens when consumers don’t look up?” he asked. “Mobile changes everything.”

According to Lecinski, there are several moments of truth along a shopper’s traditional journey: the stimulus, the first moment of truth at the retail store and point of sale, and the second moment of truth — the consumer’s experience.

Mobile devices, however, added a zero moment of truth between the stimulus — like a highway billboard — and the retail store: pre-shopping, he added.

With that zero moment of truth in mind, convenience retailers need to create digital experiences that remove friction. Those digital experiences, according to Lecinski, need to satisfy a consumer’s curiosity, understand the demand and relieve impatience.

Citing Google search findings, Lecinski noted there was a more than 85 percent increase in mobile searches for “where to buy” products in the past year.

In addition, comparing Google findings from January 2015-June 2015 to January 2017-June 2017, there was a two-time increase in searches for same-day shipping, a three-time increase in “open now” searches and a 150-percent increase in travel searches including the words “today” and “tonight.”

All those point to a lack of patience among today’s shoppers. However, relieving impatience is a competitive edge convenience stores have, Lecinski said.

“Convenience stores have been historically successful in relieving impatience, but the bar gets higher because of mobile,” he noted.

Looking outside the industry at who is leading the way in delivering digital customer experiences, Lecinski pointed to:

  • Starbucks and its virtual barista
  • Domino’s and its zero-click ordering
  • Fresh EBT and its instant SNAP balance check

“Tech enables your brand to be assistive and reduce friction,” he explained.

Moving into the second half of 2019, Lecinski advised c-store operators to review their digital platform through three strategies:

  • Know me faster. How does your mobile site speed stack up to consumer expectations?
  • Know me better. How does your data strategy predict and personalize consumer needs?
  • Wow me everywhere. For what “jobs to be done” could you better assist your consumer?

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


7-Eleven’s digital strategy is about expanding customer interactions

As technology advances, improved hardware can make a big difference in retail performance, but equally critical — or potentially even more important — is data and how it is used.7-eleven-logo-500x400

“Disruptions are coming at the c-store industry everywhere you look,” Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist for Paytronix, said during a recent webinar presented by the company, titled “How 7-Eleven Is Changing the Game…Again.”

This includes regular convenience stores that are embracing new technology, as well as outside competitors like Amazon Go. Additionally, dollar stores are starting to rival c-stores as they try to claim the convenience factor for themselves.

“Convenience is changing, and that’s why 7-Eleven is reacting the way they are,” Otocki said, pointing to the company’s 7Rewards loyalty program as the centerpiece of its digital strategy.

The primary goal of 7-Eleven’s digital strategy is to expand customer interactions beyond the four walls of the store and the forecourt.

Customer data is the key to customer engagement, used as the foundation for how 7-Eleven communicates with customers, how it gets them to return and how it keeps their loyalty, according to the webinar.

Smartphones and mobile devices offer multiple paths to mobile engagement, including push and pull messages, customer surveys, mobile-responsive emails and geofencing.

Geofencing in particular is a way of ensuring that c-stores message customers at the right time through the right medium, according to Otocki. Based on GPS, retailers can set a certain distance from their store at which their mobile app will notify the customer of reward items they are eligible for or what items are currently being promoted. The messages can be tailored to individual customers based on their existing data.

SMS text messaging is another way to reach and engage customers — and a popular one, as 75 percent of consumers indicate they would like to receive offer messages through this medium. SMS apps are also one of the most frequently used types of smartphone apps. As a result, companies can send personalized messages based on data in a medium they know customers are going to be in.

One platform-specific digital initiative that 7-Eleven has launched is a Facebook chatbot, which customers can message to seek out the nearest store or investigate deals, promotions and rewards point balances.

The digital trend that may be most important in the future, though, is mobile ordering and payment, as well as delivery, Otocki said. 7-Eleven first moved into this area by utilizing Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Cash.

Mobile payments are a win-win scenario, offering customers faster-moving lines and offering retailers more data they can use to improve their customer experience.

Mobile payment can even give older stores a different feel, according to Otocki. “[Customers] see it as quicker and easier,” she said.

On the delivery front, she noted that it isn’t home delivery or nothing; c-stores can set up programs that deliver items to drivers at the fuel pump, connecting in-store purchases to out-of-store customers. Retailers can also designate pickup points for pre-ordered purchases.

7-Eleven is also experimenting with scan-and-go technology, simplifying the checkout process even further.

The key to success isn’t any one type of new technology, according to Paytronix. Retailers will likely succeed if they use data to help them change and stay ahead of the curve.

Paytronix provides loyalty programs and customer engagement solutions to convenience stores, restaurants and retail chains.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.


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