C-stores continue to evolve to attract and retain customers from the forecourt to the store, starting with a clean, welcoming exterior and a distinct brand identity. Video displays and offers encourage in-store visits, and loyalty programs and mobile payment options keep customers coming back for a better, more seamless experience.
Spicewood, Texas-based Texas Born (TXB), rebranded from Kwik Chek this past year. The idea was to emphasize the c-store chain’s Texan roots and values, said TXB Marketing Brand Manager Anna Felz — authenticity, hospitality and integrity.
It also provided an opportunity for enhanced branding and identity across the entire business, with a particular focus on its food offer — better-for-you options and fresh foods like handmade tacos, sushi and salmon — as well as proprietary offers, like its new TXB soda flavors made with pure cane sugar.
“We are super proud of these elements that differentiate us in the industry,” Felz said, “and we want to market that to our guests. … Of course, it’s always a challenge to get that ‘fuel only’ customer to come inside the store to check out everything we have to offer, so therein also lies a huge opportunity.”
A clean and welcoming environment is the first step for TXB, Felz said. After all, the forecourt reflects a brand’s standards and, ultimately, its in-store offer, including its foodservice.
But newer TXB locations go a step further with electric vehicle charging stations, outdoor seating options outfitted with misting systems and fans, as well as landscaping and greenery surrounding the forecourt. Plus, fuel canopies are equipped with bright LED lighting to ensure a welcoming and safe environment.
Pushing the Envelope
McDonough, Ga.-based Royal Seven, which operates eight stores in the state, is constantly pushing the envelope to create a better customer experience, down to the smallest details, said Chief Operating Officer Mit Patel. The chain took a significant step forward, he said, when it began upgrading its Wayne Ovation fuel dispensers to the Dover Fueling Solutions (DFS) Anthem UX user experience platform.
The platform, which features a 27-inch touchscreen display, provides retailers with information and data to maximize customer interactions through targeted advertising and promotions, tailored to customers and controlled in the cloud.
The new, updated pumps coincided nicely with Royal Seven establishing a more cohesive brand identity, Patel said, which, like TXB, includes a greater focus on foodservice and proprietary, private-label offers.
Coupled with its ability to display personalized ads on the dispenser before, during and after fueling, Royal Seven is better able to market its updated in-store offer to its customers at the pump, with a focus on marketing by daypart. In-store sales have increased, Patel said — despite the pandemic.
“The media capabilities are pretty extensive; you can even schedule the ads that are running on the gas pumps,” Patel said. “So during the morning, we’re advertising our breakfast. During the afternoon, we’re advertising snacks in-store. In the evenings, our dinner deals are being promoted to target the timeframe.”
ExxonMobil, too, has been focusing on creating a seamless forecourt experience, as well as an enhanced loyalty program to better market its fuel and in-store offers alike.
Through ExxonMobil’s rewards app, customers can pay for fuel from inside the car — while earning rewards, tracking their points and using them for savings during their visit. Specifically, Exxon Mobil Rewards+ members earn three points per gallon at the pump and two points for every $1 spent in the store or on a car wash. Every 100 points equals a dollar in savings.
To date, said Eric Carmichael, Americas retail fuels sales and marketing manager, members have saved over $100 million through the program.
“We know that, during the pandemic, customers really appreciated our contactless payment options, including innovative ways to pay for gas,” said Carmichael, “such as through the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app, an Alexa-enabled device by saying ‘Alexa, pay for gas,’ or through digital wallets on their smartphone to tap and pay at the pump with Apple Pay or Google Pay.”
For TXB, the rebrand from Kwik Chek meant updating its loyalty app to reflect its new identity and design. For the most part, though, the app’s features remained the same, said Felz.
“ … We still have contactless, pay-at-the-pump capabilities and offer rewards points that guests can use for savings off gas or to purchase items in-store,” she said. “Although, we are now offering even more digital coupons within the app to our loyalty members as we highlight our new menu items.”
This includes TXB’s annual 100 Days of Summer campaign that is currently live through Sept. 8, which guarantees participating customers one prize per day through a scratch-and-win game within the app, ranging from free gas for a year to coupons for a variety of fresh-made food items.
The c-store chain’s also in the process of adding mobile ordering and order-ahead to the app’s capabilities, with a projected rollout planned for later this year. Once that’s up and running, Felz said, TXB “will offer dedicated parking spaces for mobile orders.”
ExxonMobil’s Carmichael cites keeping up with ever-changing customer habits among the biggest challenges in marketing right now. At the same time, he said, he does expect pandemic-driven technologies to continue to be the standard for consumers going forward.
“Staying engaged with customers, meeting them where they are, using their preferred channels and providing information and incentives that are helpful and streamline their routine,” he said, “ultimately help us stay connected.”