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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.