Convenience Central
Join our community
extra content

Three steps to drive fuel-only customers into you c-store

driving-fuel-customers-inside-c-store-teaser_0It’s a classic tale of two customers. One is the fuel-only customer who pulls in, gases up and drives off without an incremental visit to the convenience store. The other is the fuel-up customer who also stops inside the store for their morning cup of coffee, mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack or on-the-go lunch.

“A majority of your customers are fuel-only customers not stopping inside the store. We want to change that behaviour,” said Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist at Paytronix Systems Inc. “On the flip side, there’s probably a smaller minority of your customers who are actually stopping at your fuel pumps and coming into your store, so we want to make sure and maximize that number because that’s where we’re able to change their behaviour and get those incremental spends and visits.”

Speaking during the recent “How to Drive Pump-to-Store Visits With Data” webinar, Otocki provided pointers on how to drive fuel-only customers inside the store, where higher-margin products are and where operators can collect more data on customers to market to them effectively.

Discussing how c-store operators can collect data to change customer behaviour, Otocki outlined three steps:

Step 1: Identify Customers

C-store operators need identifiable information to effectively reach customers. When looking at pump-only customers, retailers are uniquely positioned to reach them through at-the-pump advertising of in-store items.

Citing The Coca-Cola Co.’s research on advertising at the pump, Otocki noted that 32 percent of customers noticed signage at the pump that influenced an in-store purchase during the same visit and 21 percent noticed signage at the pump that influenced an in-store purchase in the future.

Once retailers get fuel-only customers into the store, they must hook consumers and give them a good reason to give up their personal data. A few possibilities include:

  • Welcome rewards as a thank-you to customers for providing valuable data and getting to be known as marketable customers.
  • Text to join or mobile app that is easy and doesn’t require too much time.
  • Ambassadors, such as cashiers and staff, who can speak to the value of the retailer’s offering to customers.

Step 2: Get Customers to Engage

Nearly three-quarters of customers (73 percent) say the best promotions give discounted fuel with in-store purchases. As opposed to continuously giving customers deep discounts that de-value sales, retailers can utilize tie-in promotions. The most effective are buy X amount, get X cents off per gallon, or visit 10 times for X cents off per gallon.

Another viable promotion is to offer fuel-only customers a free hot or cold beverage to drive them into the store. This tactic allows retailers to handle their margins and ensure they aren’t giving away a product too large.

“We’ve seen fantastic results for this particular promotion. One of our clients saw a 55-percent increase in visits during that period from this targeted customer base. Beyond that, a spend lift of 184 percent,” Otocki pointed out. “That’s because these customers weren’t just coming in to get that free coffee or free dispensed beverage: they were coming in and tacking on a snack or sandwich, increasing their basket size.”

Step 3: Change Behaviour

Getting customers inside the store for the first time isn’t the hardest part. Rather, it’s getting them to come back in time and time again.

To do that, c-store operators should utilize data with segmentation. Convenience stores traditionally have three key segmentations:

  • Bubba, who visits daily to buy Slim Jims, soda and chips;
  • Susie the Soccer Mom, who visits two times a week for grab-and-go snacks for the kids that are healthier options, as well as salty snacks; and
  • Professionals, who visit less frequently (every month) and prefer options like protein bars, shakes and healthy snacks such as nuts and popcorn.

Without segmentation, c-store retailers are at risk of running blanketed offers to all customers, which can be costly, Otocki cautioned. Instead, she suggests sending two different offers to two different segments.

For example, retailers can send a free product or heavy discount to Segments 1 and 2 because it will motivate them for an incremental visit. With Segments 3 and 4, a BOGO promotion or a lesser discount might be more appropriate. Both moves will bring operators closer to motivating the right customers with the right promotions.

Continuous campaigns and machine-learning segmentation are other viable options that utilize data for maximum effectiveness. The first analyzes each guest’s unique visit cadence to trigger offers to the right person at the right time, while the latter discovers segments of similar guests based on what they do, which then can be translated into personalized, highly relevant offers.


Otocki had these final key takeaways for convenience store operators:

  1. Customers can change their behaviour.
  2. Get to know and identify all customers.
  3. Data is key to changing behavior.
  4. Think BIG.

Subscription services such as Burger King’s recently introduced BK Café Subscription in the U.S. are “perfect for c-stores,” according to Otocki. For $5 a month, customers can get a small coffee a day at the fast-casual restaurant at no additional cost.

“It’s a great model to be able to utilize because Burger King isn’t just doing this in order to get $5 a month from their customers and give them a coffee every single day. They’re doing this because they know it’s the way to get those visits to come back time and time again,” she explained. “If you already paid for your coffee every morning with your subscription, you probably will stop there because you know it’s been paid for. On top of that, the hope is that if these customers are coming in, they’re likely to purchase more items.”

A replay of “How to Drive Pump to Store Visits With Data” is available by clicking here. Originally published in Convenience Store News. 

Curb appeal and promotions drive fuel-only customers inside a C-store: Study

The majority of fuel sold in North America is sold at convenience stores. However, getting motorists to come inside the store after filling up has been an ongoing challenge for the convenience channel.

Citing State of the Industry data from NACS, the US-based association for convenience and fuel retailing, GasBuddy noted that a convenience store’s inside sales generate almost three-quarters of all gross profit dollars. Yet, some estimate that a similar number of consumers fill up and drive away — never coming inside to make additional purchases.

Forecourt_Lg_032619Converting those forecourt customers to inside customers is not impossible. In a new study, Canopy to the Store, GasBuddy found that conversion depends on a c-store operator’s ability to meet consumer needs of safety, cleanliness and hospitality. Additionally, consumers show “a strong interest” in specific strategies and promos that can move them from the pumps to the store.

First impressions count: Think curb appeal

GasBuddy released a report summarizing the findings from its surveys conducted in July 2018 and December 2018. Chief among its findings: Curb appeal matters.

Calling the forecourt “the first handshake that welcomes customers to the store,” GasBuddy explained that consumers are unlikely to go inside a store if they perceive it as dirty, boring or unexceptional. Reputation matters as well.

Frequent customers cite the following factors as having a strong or moderate influence in their opinion of a store before stepping inside:

  • Store design and upkeep (82.54 percent)
  • Cleanliness of the fuel area (79.7 percent)
  • Quality of lighting (79.6 percent)
  • Brand reputation (58.6 percent)
  • Opinions of friends and family (55.12 percent)

Moving inside, GasBuddy found that restrooms matter. According to the survey results, 22.6 percent of consumers said they frequently make a purchase after using the restrooms at a c-store. Another 56 percent said they occasionally make a purchase.

However, the restrooms must be clean. Nearly two-thirds of consumers said they have visited a gas station’s c-store with the intention of using the restroom, but decided to leave and go elsewhere.

Top reasons for avoiding a c-store’s restroom are:

  • Restrooms were dirty;
  • Restrooms were outdated and/or poorly maintained;
  • C-store was outdated and/or poorly maintained;
  • Restroom required a key or an access code; and
  • Customer did not feel safe.

GasBuddy’s report also revealed that knowing that a convenience retailer was committed to clean, quality restrooms would probably influence nearly 42 percent of consumers and definitely influence 27.19 percent.

“Every restroom visit is a sales opportunity. It’s a chance to connect with fuel-only customers who would otherwise rarely — or never — wander inside the store. Unfortunately, retailers who provide outdated, dirty, or poorly maintained facilities are not equipped to leverage this opportunity,” GasBuddy stated, calling restrooms “a litmus test for overall store quality.”

Offers and promotions drive sales

Beyond the look and feel of a store, convenience store retailers need to reach fuel-only consumers where they are — on their phones. According to GasBuddy, more than half of consumers look at their smartphone while refueling and, more notably, nearly three our of four consumers aged 18 to 34.

“This opens many opportunities to drive in-store sales through relevant offers and promotions,” the report noted.

Fuel discounts can hit the spot. In a recent GasBuddy study, 65 percent of consumers said gas prices impact their ability to spend money on other items and services.

Relevant orders also deliver results. When asked which kinds of mobile ads influence their decision to visit a convenience store brand, consumers said:

  • Healthy food options;
  • Redeemable coupons for convenience store products;
  • Loyalty rewards for convenience store products; and
  • Loyalty rewards for fuel savings.

The Canopy to the Store report also found that nearly 71 percent of consumers surveyed belong to a rewards program for a c-store or gas station. Of those, 48.78 percent use a rewards program very frequently, 34.2 percent somewhat frequently, 12.84 percent somewhat rarely, and only 4.17 percent very rarely.

Minimal savings and discounts on products consumers don’t purchase are among the reasons why they rarely use a rewards program.

A c-store retailer can change consumers’ minds, however, if the program offers consumers the ability to: build up points to spend on what they choose; earn discounts on fuel for in-store purchases; and get discounts on products they purchase daily or weekly.

To download GasBuddy’s full Canopy to Store report, click here.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.

Jennifer Stewart_ president _ CEO CIPMA

The view from CIPMA

How does the fuel sector function and what makes it tick? We sit down with Jennifer Stewart, President and CEO of CIPMA, to find out. Read more

Tricia Anderson, CEO, CIPMA

Eye on the future

2017 Canadian Fuel Marketing Conference sets the stage for the future of the fuel marketing industry Read more


Calgary Co-op: putting customers first

Find out how Calgary Co-op has become a fuelling fixture in Alberta in this Q&A with Woody Stelnicki, managing director, petroleum. Read more