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Photos by Justin LaPierre

Socially connected: Dépanneur R. Prud’homme

Located on the edge of Quebec’s vast wilderness, Dépanneur R. Prud’homme combines a modern approach with small-town charm

How is it that a family-owned convenience store and gas station in a remote corner of Quebec has generated more than 40,000 followers on its Facebook page, making it by far the most popular dépanneur on social media in la belle province?

“I think it reflects the quality of our store and products and the way we treat our employees and customers,” says Vicky Beauséjour, who helps run Dépanneur R. Prud’homme, a family business owned and operated by her parents, Éric Beauséjour and Nathalie Richard.

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Photos by Justin LaPierre

Located in the small town of Saint-Michel-des-Saints, a two-hour drive north of Montreal at the end of a provincial highway, the store, which operates under the Beau-soir banner, is the last place where cottage- and camping-bound tourists can buy food, gas and other c-store items before entering Quebec’s vast wilderness.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.20 PM“Don’t think that because we’re in a remote community this is a sleepy, backwoods business,” 25-year-old Vicky told Convenience Store News Canada during a recent phone interview.  “We have a modern, big-city store with friendly, small-town charm.”

Built and opened in the fall of 2017 (next to the now-demolished, decades-old general store that the Beauséjours bought in 2012), the store features the same menu of homemade traditional and fast food items—everything from chicken pie and ragout to pizza and poutine, eaten on premise or takeout—that earned the original store local fame.

It also stocks a growing variety of specialty local food products, including craft beer, wine, dairy and charcuterie, as well as modern ready-to-eat and made-to-order items that span healthy snacks, breakfast sandwiches, daily lunch specials and meals.

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.16 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.51.35 PMAll are made fresh daily in the big kitchen, where most of the store’s 15 full-time employees work under the supervision of Richard, a trained chef who also runs a local catering service. During the pandemic, the c-store used social media to keep customers in the loop about daily specials and encouraged people to preorder, while also offering delivery. 

The store’s foodservice offering has expanded to include a well-stocked salad bar, which Vicky says was added at customers’ bequest: “We’re glad we did because it’s very popular.”

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.07 PMAnother popular feature—one that has been a game changer for the family’s business—is the Esso gas station.  “Adding gas was big because it made us a one-stop destination for both locals and tourists,” says Vicky, a new mom who works throughout the store, often alongside her fiancé, Marc-André Soulière.  “Now people don’t have to run around to different stores to find things. We’ve got it all here.”

While it was her mom who showed her how to cook as a young child, Vicky credits her dad, Éric, a former candy salesman who always dreamed of being a c-store owner, for her entrepreneurial zeal. “My dad’s like a big kid. He loves to be at the store meeting people and being involved in everything. I’m a lot like him.”  

They use the store’s Facebook page to actively promote the business and to post updates, like the closure of the store’s dining area during the COVID-19 crisis and the expansion of home delivery service.  

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.25.00 PM“We use social media a lot to announce our menus or promotions, like draws,” says Vicky.  She credits those postings—including several of customers posing with a skid of Budweiser cases made to look like a single case costing nearly $4,000 (part of a promotion by Labatt)—for generating both buzz and likes online.  

“We work hard to provide people with the things they want and need,” she adds. “ I think people understand and appreciate that.”

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Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.45.26 PM

The golden rules for mastering c-store social media engagement

socialmedia-teaserCapturing the attention of customers in today’s digital world is not easy. Email inboxes are overflowing, the number of apps on a person’s cell phone continue to grow, and brands have just seconds to grab a customer’s attention on social media.

So, how can convenience store operators best utilize social media to engage their customers?

“Video or motion graphics have proven to be ways to stand out in the crowd,” Brad Plowman, spokesperson for FUEL Marketing. “Fighting to be engaging in a two-second window as a consumer is scrolling through an app or their social media feed is tough, but we have found success in creating compelling videos and motion graphics to cause the consumer to pause. We have seen a much higher click-thru rate than static display ads.”

Another tactic Plowman has seen work well is highlighting customer messaging and comments. If a customer makes a video or creates a post with a c-store’s brand in it, this is something to promote in hopes that it will go viral. Plowman even recommends the retailer put advertising money behind it and “boost” such posts to further engagement with existing and potential customers.

With social media engagement, consistency is key. So, he recommends brands plan their posts for each month ahead of time, and then post them based on a “disciplined schedule.”

“If they randomly post every few days or let a couple of weeks go by without posting, there is no reason for the customer to return,” he explained. “Social media is all about a well-thought-out, predetermined, disciplined approach.”

Additionally, while there are many avenues available today to personalize messaging, a wealth of data is available through social media to target the right customers with the right messages. And it’s easy to engage directly with customers in this manner, according to Plowman.

“The data available to target a specific customer allows for marketers to engage one on one with a customer,” he said. “The burden then goes to the creative messaging and if the company is offering the customer a personalized message. We have the capability to offer a customer posts and engagements specific to their needs, wants and buying habits.”

Last but not least, Plowman advises c-store retailers to follow the 80/20 rule, with 80 percent of posts being informative and entertaining content and the other 20 percent promotional.

“Overselling on social media is the biggest no-no,” he cautioned. “Social media is about letting the consumer see inside the company. Do they practice their mission statement? Are they socially conscious? Do they have a personality?

“All of your posting on social media should contribute to the overall brand of the c-store,” he continued. “But don’t make every post about a sale or promotion. Consumers will see through that and quit following or engaging with the brand.”

Originally posted at Convenience Store News. 

Photos by Aaron McKenzie Fraser

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