Convenience Stores and Trusted Partnerships

Shoppers come to convenience stores to get their needs met. But if retailers don’t fully understand what shoppers want, efforts to capture more of their business will probably miss the mark.

This has been one of the biggest challenges facing c-stores over the past couple of years, especially as retail is changing so dramatically.

Retail, in fact, is evolving at such a pace that it’s almost impossible to predict where it will end up. Consider that over just the past year, Amazon has pushed the envelope in terms of technology and speed of service, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are jumping into the home delivery business and store visits are being threatened by alternative fuels and electric vehicles, both of which require fewer trips to the local c-store for a refill. This cuts right to the core of what convenience stores do best: offer quick service, an outstanding product assortment and great locations.

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However, we have entered a retail phase where customers can get all these things without ever leaving their couch, and that has the industry’s attention.

These are times when retailers really find out who their friends are. The relationship between supplier companies and convenience stores has never been stronger and, for both sides to succeed, this relationship needs to be strengthened during these unprecedented times. This means delivering on what the customers want, when they want it and at an attractive price.

Satisfying Loyal Customers
For convenience stores, the data is simply too big to ignore. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of a store’s sales come from 20% of its customers. This means to keep customers returning, operators must take all the necessary steps to keep this core group of customers loyal to their stores.

For convenience stores, this means giving the loyal customers what they want. The easiest, and possibly the most affordable, way to build customer loyalty is to provide outstanding service. Let’s face it; delivering top-notch service has never been more important. While the economy is strengthening, discretionary spending is still selective, creating significant competitive challenges for retailers and suppliers alike.

The ability to maintain a loyal customer base requires customer-centric strategies in collaboration with suppliers. It’s no secret that when store sales increase, everyone wins. To give you an idea of just how important the retail environment is, customer service experts seem to agree no matter what customers say they want, what they’re really looking for is something special. They can’t quite describe it, but when they find it, they know.

Those little details of the buying experience may appear intangible, but what brands you sell and the price are usually less important to customers than a great shopping experience.

Other tips for generating loyal, repeat customers at the convenience store level include:
Treat them well. People simply want to be treated with respect and fairness. They want to feel like valued customers, whose time and opinions matter. If people can’t trust you to treat them right, they certainly won’t trust you with their money.

Provide an efficient buying process. From start to end, did each step of the sale go smoothly? Could the buyers get the answers or help they needed? Could they find what they came for? Were prices and payment options clear and easy to apply?
Eliminate aggravation. A buyer is willing to endure a little inconvenience, such as a line during rush hour, but not for long and not every time. Your job is to minimize inconveniences, not treat them like business as usual.

Convenience stores and their supplier partners must work together to drive a steady stream of new and repeat customers. When they do, these customers will be the best brand ambassadors and that, ultimately, is how to grow the business.