Many convenience and fuel retailers have yet to realize the value of researching, developing and implementing a digital marketing strategy that specifically drives customer engagement.
Since few of these retailers have built a dedicated, fully capable marketing team — and the IT resources to support it — most brands are limited in the level of digital engagement they can achieve.
Historically, c-stores have evolved their digital marketing plans at a slower pace than other retail verticals. However, a handful of c-stores have indeed shown a dedicated, strategic approach and are now seeing the fruits of their labor.
Wawa, for example, engages its legions of loyal fans via digital channels that allow them to order delivery, use curbside pickup, find fuel prices, purchase gift cards and even apply for jobs — but their path to digital maturity began many years ago.
Brands that were early adopters of digital engagement are now seeing the fruits of that labor. They were more prepared than their competitors when the pandemic hit because even if their systems weren’t perfect, at least a strategy was in place and could be evolved over time.
Because these early adopters were better able to meet customers’ immediate needs and preferences for digital interactions, they established trust and convenience. Now, they can move to the next stage in their digital transformation: creating valuable, memorable, and even fun experiences that cultivate authentic “brand love” — while the competition is just getting warmed up.
Finding a Growth Partner
Retailers who are just embarking on this journey shouldn’t worry, but they should act now. Brands can make up for lost time by working with a digital growth partner.
Engaging with a growth partner can advance convenience and fuel retailers’ marketing strategies and bring to market a digital engagement program that is positioned for immediate impact and long-term growth. In other words: they can help you make up for lost time.
So, what exactly is a growth partner?
It’s typically an agency or consultancy who can leverage their experience and technical skills to help your brand reach growth goals faster. A growth partner should possess a wide range of knowledge and offerings — such as marketing strategy, data analytics, experience design, commerce, customer engagement and customer relationship management (CRM) — and be able to help you identify opportunities for improvement or advancement.
Most importantly, they can set you up for success by helping you avoid the mistakes and pitfalls — both financial and operational — other brands have experienced navigating the path alone.
Engaging with a growth partner should be a true partnership, since your goals are their goals. You should be able to communicate clearly, openly and honestly with them. Conversely, you must be ready to accept their suggestions and constructive criticism, even if you don’t act on them.
Here are three ways a growth partner can help advance your digital engagement initiatives.
1. Bridging Strategies
One of the biggest challenges for retailers is aligning their technology strategies with their marketing objectives.
Often, these exist in silos with little inter-dependence. A growth partner that has both marketing and technology expertise can integrate marketing needs with planned technology investments to ensure digital engagement initiatives are not hamstrung due to a lack of coordination between these two critical areas.
2. Clearly Defining Objectives
A common pitfall for retailers is approaching digital engagement in a compartmentalized way. For example, they view a loyalty program or mobile app as standalone marketing tools rather than elements of a broader digital strategy.
A growth partner can assist retailers with mapping their customer journeys and defining immediate goals — such as launching or redesigning a mobile app or loyalty program — while taking an evolutionary approach to achieve digital engagement objectives over time.
Many retailers rush to launch a single element to match competitors or to simply have ‘something’ for customers to engage with. A growth partner focuses that effort into a disciplined and more comprehensive strategy that will produce greater customer engagement — and profits — in the long run.
3. Identifying Relevant & Agile Programs
Marketing technology evolves quickly with new platforms emerging every year. Many retailers don’t have the time or resources to keep pace with these advancements, much less invest capital at such high levels.
A growth partner can help retailers navigate these technological advancements and how they affect their digital engagement strategy. Should an emerging technology offer sufficient benefit to a retailer’s program, this partner can develop integration plans and refine the existing strategies and future approach.
Consumers have stood firm in their shift to purchasing and interacting digitally and on their mobile devices. As c-store retailers continue to adapt to recent challenges and rising inflation, they must focus on digital marketing strategies that specifically drive customer engagement and purchase frequency.
A growth partner might be exactly what your brand needs to stay competitive and meet customers where they are.
Kevin Rice is the executive vice president of restaurant and convenience at Bounteous. Rice’s experience driving digital growth for brands has established him as a leading voice for digital transformation in the restaurant and c-store industries.