Convenience stores that have been in business for the last few decades will agree that to stay ahead in this business and remain competitive they have had to change marketing and business strategies every few months or years. With growing demand for fresh food outlets and in dwindling sales of cigarettes, convenience store chains are looking at improving their food storage equipment and facilities.
To meet the demand of food service offerings stores are depending on local suppliers to have fresh produce and reduce transportation related damage. Multiple services are offered by convenience store chains today like ATM, fast food outlet and book store too besides the old gas station cum convenience product outlet as people in remote areas use these locations to meet and spend quality time together.
Services evolution – To retain customers for a long duration c-store chains have evolved into multipurpose retail outlets which provide almost every product that would be required by an individual or family driving by on a tour or just driving home. Offering these services is not easy for stores as now they have to maintain cold storage equipment for food and identify demand before they occur to make the most of it.
Multi-channel evolution – This refers to varied techniques available to c store chains and grocery store chains to improve customer demand and sales. Every small and large store now has presence across multiple sales channels like brick and mortar stores, website, mobile applications and also multi-product catalogs. This helps in connecting with customers seamlessly and helping them to engage in interact with stores of their choice and use varied channels to buy a product of their choice if it is not available on one channel. But just making all these channels available to customers is not enough to remain competitive. A retailer should also know how to fuse their utilities together to expand business.
Innovation in payment facilities – With expansion in business opportunities and implementation of technology in every sphere of life the payment industry has also undergone a sea of change. The earliest alternative for cash payment was card payments followed by food coupons and customer points which are now being replaced by mobile wallet. Though some grocery store chains still swear by traditional methods of cash and card payments it will only take them a few more years to adopt this technology. With growing dependence of people on smartphones and increasing use of mobile solutions to carry out their daily tasks even banks are being forced to transact business through mobile applications.
In store innovation – For driving in the right kind of traffic c-store chains are increasingly using data mining and customized promotional plans. From setting up quicker checkout counters to designing store layout and managing inventory, grocery store chains are depending on information technology to stay up to date. This use of sophisticated software and networking inventory distribution across stores increases efficiency and ensures security from shoplifting by employees and customers. Though technology brings ease of functionality it also brings dangers of data breach by determined cyber criminals who steal confidential information of customers to make fraudulent transactions. C-store upgrading to a more tech savvy work and service structure have to now invest in appropriate technology which will protect customer data and help them provide customized service.
Adopting new concepts in retail industry – Convenience store business is constantly changing and adapting itself to retail landscape to stay in business. While some are increasing their products on display others are specializing on few goods to remain profitable. The ones who have remained in business for the past few decades have been able to recognize that customers do not love convenience stores, they are in love with the convenience of shopping for all their requirements in one place. Though there is a marked shift towards online retail and people are increasing buying goods online it still remains limited to electronic and branded items. As shopping malls of the future convenience store can be brand ambassadors for national and international firms and can become partners in profit.
They will now support a larger number of services based on communication networks to make checkouts an easy affair for their customers. With online virtual stores customers can order their requirements online or through mobile applications on their way to the store and can find their baskets packed and ready for payment when they come to the store. Food service is the fastest growing business category which all large format convenience stores are adopting to stay in business and attract millennium generation. Other offerings could be Wi-Fi for customers and travelers along with digital signage with in-store promotions at vital points around town to optimize sales. Automated inventory management is another field where store owners with multipoint retail stores are adopting to check stocks quickly and shift inventory across stores on need basis to avoid wastage.
Convenience stores as community centers – With large number of convenience tying up with fast food chains and farmer markets to offer fresh foods items to their customers it would not be long before these places become like neighborhood coffee stores wherein locals can hangout out during evenings. To cater to this growing tendency of families to relax on roadside convenience store outlets has encouraged many to have a food court within the store with easy to carry food items like sandwiches, ice-creams, milkshakes, burgers which they can either be eaten at a cozy corner or be taken along. They will thus become a unique part of local communities but also a part of global brands which people from varied locations can expect to be stocked at these outlets.
To remain competitive convenience stores now have to set their priorities and marketing strategies in place as knowledge and technology is changing customer tastes at a rapid pace. They have to understand market conditions before adopting a marketing strategy to increase business as customers are today’s tech savvy customers are evaluating every purchase for utility before making an investment. News of new large format grocery chains taking over small chains are common and we see how new ideas and business culture is helping them expand business in new locations.