Sam’s Club, Costco, Kroger, Wal-Mart: Does hearing these names make you feel sick to your stomach? Maybe they make you feel a bit angry? Regardless of your feelings towards them, the fact is that they are taking your customers and your volume wherever they go. As the petroleum industry begins to see more and more of these “Big Boys” moving in (Wal-Mart just announced plans to open 2-5K fuel locations), C-store operators are left behind wondering how they can compete.
Competing against the “Big Box” Retailers can be tough, but the good news is it’s not impossible! You have many advantages by being a C-store but in-order to successfully play with the “Big Boys”; you must have a game plan for differentiation. Most retailers realize the need to differentiate themselves but fail to create a plan for success. Fighting back with the “Big Boys” is all about differentiation! This doesn’t mean going to battle on fuel prices; it means going back to retailing basics, but doing them better than anyone else. For C-store operators, this is best achieved though creating an outstanding customer experience. The customer experience is essential in ensuring that YOUR customers will be willing to pay a little more to keep coming back to your location. Here are the top 3 tips to improve your customer experience:
- Provide Great Customer Service
- Have A Remarkably Clean Store (Outside & Inside)
- Offer Convenience
1. Provide Great Customer Service:
Providing great customer service is a quick way to differentiate you from your competition and especially the “Big Box” retailers who are not typically known for providing the best service. Three ways to improve your customer service & experience:
- Learn your customers’ names and greet them individually
- Personally interact with your customers through friendly brief conversations
- Better understand and meet your customer’s needs and values
2. Have A Remarkably Clean Store:
We all know that clean bathrooms are important to providing a great customer experience but have you considered why your customers would choose to use your bathrooms in the first place? The first interaction your customers have with your location is at the fueling areas, and typically your store’s exterior says a lot about the condition of your store’s interior. Innovative retailers that focus on having a clean fueling area will see more of their fueling customers coming into the store. Cleanliness is incredibly important to your customers and having a remarkably clean location will definitely give them a reason to keep coming back!
3. Offer Convenience:
Being a “convenience store”, you are already offering many aspects of convenience to your customers. How then can you take advantage of the fact that your customers don’t want to wait in line for 20 minutes to save a few cents on fuel? Did you know that in many cases, C-store retailers in very close proximity to a Big Box store have actually seen a lift in volume? The Big Box retailers tend to drive a lot of traffic by their sites and people who value their time over a lower price will shop your store instead. Take action and make sure you give them another reason to keep coming back! The reality is that the Big Box retailers appeal to specifically low-price consumers, which leaves a lot of other value propositions for C-store operators like you. So play to your strengths and let the “Big Boys” be the low-price leader while you focus on being the customer experience leader.
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