Today’s volatile gas prices and the rise of electric cars means fuel sales are down, and fewer people are finding themselves on their weekly trip to the pump.
In order to offset this decline in fuel usage, many chains are evaluating their real estate and consolidating stores to increase revenue, and although it may seem counterintuitive – it’s actually a great way to expand the business.
Instead of spending money to run and operate multiple gas stations in a small area, it gives business owners the opportunity to invest in high-quality gas station convenience stores that have the potential to meet customer needs far beyond fuel.
Increasing Convenience at Fuel Retailers
As it turns out, having gas just isn’t enough to run a successful gas station these days. Creating a convenient customer experience – from shopping to charging – can create a loyal customer base.
Attached convenience stores
Believe it or not, gas isn’t the only, or even always the most popular reason that people go to gas stations. Since they started opening and attaching themselves to the pump, convenience stores have been strong drivers of business for decades.
But now, with fewer people pulling over to ask for directions, cars with better miles per gallon, and even electrical vehicles – there needs to be even better reasons for people to stop.
Gas stations that invest in convenience stores that have high-quality foods and goods will continue to draw business more than those that don’t.
When it comes to payment, there are almost endless options these days to exchange funds. Between credit card companies and “tap” accessible cards to operating system accounts like Apple Pay, more and more people use contactless payment on a daily basis, especially at the gas pump.
However, contactless payment only works if the business has the ability to accept the payment. Places that don’t are missing out on customers that value this option and may choose to go to places that can accommodate their needs.
Even though much of life has returned back to a “new” normal since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many habits that were once a necessity that people now find convenient – one being contactless pickup.
The truth for many people is that it’s just much easier to be able to drive up to the front of a store and gather your items that have already been collected. And stores that aren’t able to provide this are losing out to stores that have options for drive-through and pickup.
Continuing to provide contactless pickup is a trend that will benefit both consumers and business owners alike.
Let’s face it, for most people, convenience is king. And although convenience stores were one of the original ideas for making things quick and easy, so many advancements have come out since then that make it even easier for people to have their needs met.
Delivery is one of these ways, and luckily for gas stations, they don’t even need to offer delivery services themselves. With more and more options for third-party delivery services, it’s easier than ever for businesses to experience the benefits of delivery services, without having to provide the extra labor.
Electric charging stations
New technologies, although good for most people, also come with a lot of changing needs. And for the automotive industry, this is reshaping the future of gas stations and convenience stores in two ways.
First, it means that gas stations actually need to have charging stations for electric vehicles that are available, reliable, and efficient.
Second, it means that in order to compete in the market, people will also be looking at which places they’ll most likely be okay with spending their time at, considering it can take a while to charge the vehicle – especially if they’re far away from home.
This spare time while waiting for vehicles is a prime opportunity to draw business inside the gas station’s convenience store, increasing sales.
Convenience Retailer Products & Merchandise
Although having an attached C-store is the first step in expanding business, what’s inside the store is just as important. This means that gas and convenience businesses need to invest in high-quality food and retail in order to meet the needs of their customers.
More private labels
A private label product is one that a retailer or company gets produced by a third party but sells under its own name. However, even though they have an outside partnership, the retailer is entirely in control of the product, including the specs, packaging, etc. Consumers gain trust in the product as they gain trust in the retailer.
This customer loyalty allows the retailer to produce the products with little marketing and, thus, at a lower cost for a higher profit margin.
People don’t always have time to stop for a sit-down lunch, but also don’t want to go through the drive-through. Having multiple options for a quick lunch on the go, where you can also grab snacks, drinks, and anything else you might need for the day, is a compelling reason for customers to come back time and time again.
And the higher quality of these goods, including freshly prepared meals, the more likely people will come back for more.
Although for many people, a gas station is just a quick stop on their way to the rest of their day, for others, it is a destination.
Whether they’re pulling over to rest on the last leg of their road trip or are stopping by to grab lunch during the workday, many people visit gas stations when they are not in a hurry.
That’s why having specialty retail that meets their needs is good for customers and businesses. This can be things such as self-care products or home needs, including batteries and flashlights.
Fuel Station Marketing & Sales
When it comes to transforming your business and sales, market research is key. Learning the tools and strategies for effective market research can change the trajectory of a brand’s success, both in the short and long term.
One of the largest parts of market research is consumer feedback and customer data. This can be general, such as their interests and preferences for a wide range of products, or it can be specific such as color, ingredient, and packaging questions.
Market research can be as simple as creating a survey or as elaborate as continuously monitoring customer behavior throughout the store. Either way, the goal is the same — to understand the needs, wants, and behaviors of customers.
This includes gathering data on the following:
- In-store marketing strategies, including displays and promotions
- Planogram or shelf-set changes
- Product packaging
- Product placement
VR market research
When it comes to market research, businesses typically employ techniques such as focus groups, customer surveys, and even general store observations in order to gather feedback on things like store setup, product placement, and specialty item placement.
However, these things can be costly and time-consuming. Virtual store research on the other hand, uses these standard research techniques with an entirely simulated 3D store experience that is generated by a computer. It crafts as close to a real shopping experience as possible and allows test consumers within the virtual environment to interact with store merchandise and make purchases in a way that is similar to in-store behavior.
This not only makes it easier to get and track data but it also increases the data pool as you are able to run significantly more tests at the same time.
With virtual store research, you can test the following:
Virtual market research allows you to observe a new product or new packaging the same way future shoppers will and experiment with as many packaging ideas as necessary.
Virtual market research allows you to identify which pricing combinations are the most successful with potential shoppers.
Business owners can test their latest marketing content through a no-risk VR experience and get the full picture of how it looks without spending the resources it would take to create real-life versions.
The software allows you to view 3D models of new shelf arrangement proposals in a virtual environment where you can make small adjustments and test out an unlimited number of arrangements.
Virtual market research is a fast and cost-effective way to innovate convenience store layouts and create shopper-approved setups for customer satisfaction.
Customer loyalty programs
Convenience store loyalty has been historically difficult for gas stations. That’s because people often choose gas stations based on fluctuating gas prices, as well as the distance from their current location.
That means there must be additional driving factors to make people continually frequent a particular establishment and create brand loyalty. Loyalty programs can help create trust, incentives, and repeat customers.
These programs provide not only financial benefits to customers (such as discounts and “earning” free products through purchases) but also drive additional business for gas stations.
This is even more so for people that drive electric vehicles, as they are more likely to be particular about the establishment they choose to visit since they will spend more time there than the average customer.
In order to create a successful gas station of the future, business owners need to adapt to the growing and changing needs of their customers, and creating one-stop, convenient locations is just the beginning.
Learn more about retail innovation with InContext
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