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5 in-store technologies to drive sales and improve customer experience

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-30 at 8.02.19 PMIt’s hard these days to keep up with the speed at which technologies are developed. In fact, it can be downright mind-boggling. And for smaller independent retailers with fewer resources to draw from than their larger competitors, understanding which technological solutions to invest in can be daunting.

Retailers are seeking out any advantages in a time of unprecedented retail competition. In-store technologies that help retailers create more engaging and positive retail experiences with convenience and speed are essential. 

  1. Update your router. Speed matters in a world that’s not only moving fast, but also accelerating. Routers are now required to work harder. With smartphones, tablet computers, Internet-enabled store equipment and more all competing for the same Internet connection, the router must work harder than ever before. If you’re not getting the Internet speed you expect, it could be due to your wireless router. Even if you upgrade your Internet plan to a higher speed tier, you might not enjoy a faster Internet connection until you update your wireless router. And, make sure the router features the latest firmware.
  2. Consider context. It’s no longer only about the screen, device, platform or the physical store. Does your business’s mobile experience match where it’s being used? I.e. on the bus, watching TV, at the coffee shop or in your store? A tiny version of your website that’s unreadable on a smartphone screen is totally unacceptable. Make sure your online marketing activities and website adapt to the size of screen that it’s being viewed on. Responsive web design is mobile-friendly, helping increase visibility on search engines, which can mean more visitors to your website. More traffic results in better lead generation, added conversions and increased sales—three big reasons why you need a responsive web design.
  3. Get your Google on.  The increased visibility that Google has placed around Google Local listing results on mobile means that Google My Business is essential for local SEO. It’s free to set up and will enable you to appear in local search results for enquiries specific to your products or services. Keep your business listing information up-to-date: Change your address, hours, contact info and photos to help potential customers find you and learn more about your business. Encourage customers to leave reviews, which can help your search ranking. If you haven’t already, add or claim your business, then verify your business listing so it’s eligible to appear on maps, search and other Google services.
  4. Tap free research services. Uncover the latest marketing research and digital trends with data reports and articles from Think with Google. Use Diagnostic Tools & Industry Benchmarks to measure your brand’s site and campaign performance, and then get tips on improving key metrics. Use Culture & Trends to find out what your potential customers are engaging with and searching for. See what’s trending in your category or market. Use Competitive Analysis to see how you stack up against the competition. Find opportunities to differentiate your brand, product or service. Use Consumer Insights to explore real-time data to glean insights about consumer research, shopping and purchase behaviours. Make more strategic decisions about your marketing campaigns and ad spending. Use Google Ads Keyword Planner to choose the right keywords. The keyword research tool will help you find the keywords that are most relevant for your business.
  5. Embrace email marketing. Some say email marketing is dying or dead, but that’s a myth: It remains the best way to engage. People still open emails. In modern business, email dominates marketing channels. If you’re thinking about using this proven technique, my advice is to start harvesting email addresses. This is where you should consider using a CRM system like Constant Contact or Mailchimp to market prospects that have opted into receiving your email newsletters. Also, make sure to investigate and follow the requirements of CASL.

 

There’s no question that, in the modern business landscape, a big part of your operations and marketing strategy is digital. Whether it’s to better serve the customer; to enhance experiences for the customer to improve operational efficiencies; or to exploit previously unseen opportunities, retailers are constantly seeking ways to leverage technologies that can help them drive traffic to their stores and loyalty among their customers.

 Gerry Spitzner helps retailers develop marketplace strategies to create, engage and keep customers for life. For more information about his approach, connect at retailSOS@gmail.com

Originally published in the July/August issue of Convenience Store News Canada

 


How c-store chains are using technology to connect with employees

labor-technology-teaserOver the past several years, there have been countless conversations around technology in the convenience channel.

However, many of the conversations revolve around consumer-facing technology. How can convenience store retailers tap into innovation to reach their shoppers? Is it through digital signage? Messaging at the pump? Loyalty programs? A mobile app?

Yet, there is another side to the tech coin: employee-facing technology.

A growing number of c-store operators are turning to tech solutions to manage everything from communicating with employees to scheduling.

“In technology, you are always chasing the bouncing ball because consumer expectations, and client expectations, change fast and get more demanding every time. We clearly see that in our industry. Consumers have ever-increasing expectations of what retailers can do for them,” said Rick Sales, president of Abierto Networks, a digital engagement technology provider.

“But what I think is interesting, and what we are discovering, is that sometimes retailers forget that their employees are consumers, too,” he added, noting that retailers also need to look at their employees as consumers of the information they are trying to get across.

“If you look at your employee as a consumer of information, then you can appreciate that, with information presented at the right time and in the right way, you can modify the behavior of an employee just as you can modify a behavior of a consumer,” Sales explained.

Here’s an insider look at three U.S.-based c-store chains using technology to connect with employees:

SHEETZ INC.

The Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store retailer is utilizing Abierto Networks’ employee engagement kiosks. The kiosks are deployed at all Sheetz stores as a key piece of the retailer’s employee engagement and internal communications strategy. Through the kiosks, Sheetz can relay store metrics to employees and mix that in with other messages — such as store meetings, uniform ordering, training tips, and employee recognition like birthdays and anniversaries.

KUM & GO LC

The Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain is partnering with Branch, a mobile-first technology provider that helps organizations increase schedule and financial flexibility for hourly employees. Through Branch, Kum & Go associates can now find coverage for their shifts by sending notice out to everyone in the district. Since deployment, general managers have gone from covering two to three extra shifts a week to maybe one per month.

GOLDEN PANTRY FOOD STORES

The Watkinsville, Ga.-based operator of 37 c-stores earlier this year selected HotSchedules, a provider of workforce and back-office solutions for the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, to support its scheduling, forecasting and labor management initiatives. Employees can leverage HotSchedules — whether through the app or online — to request time off, trade shifts and change availability. Managers can build schedules based upon employee availability. In addition, built into the platform are compliance needs specific to state regulations like overtime, child labor or predictive scheduling.

Originally posted at Convenience Store News. 


Technology on the menu for c-store foodservice leaders

Screen Shot 2019-06-13 at 12.37.56 PMAs convenience store operators invest more money, time and square footage in foodservice operations, many are turning to technology for faster service, automation and an improved bottom line.

Whether it’s online or mobile ordering, in-store kiosks, food safety technology or robots cooking in the kitchen, the latest advancements are allowing c-stores to keep up with the restaurant industry and better satisfy customers.

Technology in foodservice is not a new concept, but we are starting to see more innovation. Because of the low unemployment rate and higher labor costs, there is a lot of automation technology being developed,” says Amanda Topper, associate director of foodservice research at Mintel, based in Chicago.Also, mobile ordering and delivery is coming about because we are seeing a shift of more consumers wanting to have off-location dining.”

In fact, 57% of consumers said they planned to use mobile ordering and pickup in 2019, according to Mintel’s Dining Out in 2019 report.

In terms of online ordering and delivery at c-stores, Mintel’s March 2019 C-Store Foodservice Report showed 23% of c-store foodservice customers want to see online ordering from a c-store and 21% want delivery options offered.

We are seeing operators invest more in mobile and online ordering, and shifting to a store concept that meets the needs of consumers placing orders online,” Topper explained.

Technology for training is another area ripe with innovation. Many operators are using iPads or other tablets in the kitchen to feature recipes and provide training videos for kitchen staff on how to prepare meals, according to Jessica Williams, founder and CEO of the consulting firm Food Forward Thinking LLC.

With training, it’s critical to replicate in-person training as much as possible, so video training through iPads or filming recipes in those quick clips people see on Instagram is something that is helping right now,” Williams explained. The digital training will also be key to offering consistent and accurate products across a chain.”

Technology advances are leading to improvements in the food safety arena as well.

One area in particular that’s gaining traction in food safety technology is blockchain food traceability, which enables a customer to track the entire lifecycle of a food product by scanning its QR code.

Blockchain covers every link of the supply chain, from raw materials to production to the final product on the shelf, according to Francine Shaw, president and CEO of Savvy Food Safety Inc., based in Hagerstown, Md. Blockchain also enables companies to track their own supply chain in a secure and paperless way. Data that used to take seven days to collect can now be obtained in mere seconds.

Blockchain will make tracking shipments much less complicated. Every logistical step of a product’s journey will have instantaneous information on who handled it, where and when, resulting in fewer stolen, lost or damaged goods. Suppliers could even trace the temperature and humidity throughout the shipping process,” Shaw said. This will be extremely useful in locating unsafe products or the source of foodborne illnesses, thus preventing costly mass recalls.”

Blockchain technology can also help prevent massive amounts of unnecessary food waste and all of the related costs that go along with it, including labor, storage, disposal of contaminated or mislabeled product, and more, she added.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


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