From the blog Marketing Tips for Convenience Store Owners
Convenience store marketing will become more important than ever in the years to come.
A lot of convenience stores don’t market themselves effectively to potential customers. These stores rely on regular customers or foot traffic to stay successful, which is a risky proposition as more and more shopping happens online. In today’s crowded marketplace, you need every advantage you can get over the competition.
Visibility is one of the biggest challenges convenience store owners face, especially for stores that aren’t in prime locations. Marketing can help close that gap and put your store on the map for many of new customers. Most stores don’t have the overhead for big-budget advertising, which means you have to rely on creativeness and great customer service to get the job done. It’s not always easy, but here are some tips to help you get started:
Understanding Your Market
For convenience stores, there’s no single path to marketing success. Different factors such as your neighborhood, street, and local demographics will influence the approach you take. No matter what, understanding your market will play a major role in any push to improve your convenience store profits.
Some of the best insights you’ll get for marketing strategy may come from your regular customers. Ask regulars what they like about your store and make note of the products they buy the most. Is there another brand or product that they’d like to see on your shelves? These little insights give you a high level view of popular buying patterns among your most loyal customers. These small insights will eventually add up but without a marketing intelligence platform to record and track these insights, you’ll never be able to pair what actions, advertising or sales are attributed to these positive (or negative) insights.
You can also take a step back and think about what motivates your regular customers. Does most of your business come from commuters en route to the office? Perhaps they would benefit from some breakfast treats and pre-packaged fresh food options for days when they are running behind.
The Search for New Customers
Your second big target is a more difficult one: people who don’t shop at your store.
Non-customers are difficult to pin down, because you lack a direct connection with them. Most people like following certain routines, many of which are difficult to break. People feel a connection with their local convenience stores. Inspiring them to try a new one isn’t always easy.
To start, use competitor research to get insights in what your rivals are doing differently. Social media and Yelp are super valuable windows into what keeps customers coming back regularly – and can give you ideas to try out at your store, too. Local insights give you clues about whether or not something like a healthy pre-packaged food option could generate more interest.
Sometimes, making a shift in your offerings or how you present your store can make a big difference. Differentiators are important for standing out amongst the dozens of other stores in your city. Market your store using products you’re passionate about – quality sandwiches, unique imported treats, craft beer and wine, healthy alternatives – whatever!
Even in the digital age, direct mail is a tried and true tactic for getting new customers in your front door.
Direct mail costs money, so you only want to send it to well-targeted individuals. Make a strong pitch and include a discount or special offer that makes your store stand out.
When choosing a direct mail provider, be sure to shop around. Different companies will offer better rates or product services than others. Always use a clean and professional looking graphic and choose a high quality printing company to ensure there are no misprints.
Offer Information Online
When someone has a question about your business, the first place they’ll look is online.
For this reason, up to date information on Google and Yelp is critical to your success. Google search provides users with information on store hours, address, and customer ratings. When this information isn’t readily available via Google, a lot of customers will assume your shop isn’t open. Setting up your information is a quick and easy first step every convenience store owner should take online.
The next step to building out a strong online presence involves securing good ratings for your store. The two most important platforms for ratings are Google, once again, and Yelp. For a lot of stores, Yelp takes on a customer service role, allowing them to engage with happy (and unhappy) customers directly. Using Yelp actively means responding to complaints in a timely manner. Often, upset customers can be satisfied with a little direct attention – and bad ratings online can be changed to good ones.
Building up good ratings helps cushion against the occasional bad egg. Offering an incentive program – a one time discount or something like a free cup of coffee – for regular customers who give you a review helps motivate them to give you a rating.
Beyond that, your business should keep a professional website that’s kept up-to-date with new products and special deals. Many smaller shops today will focus on social media and Google rather than spend time building out their own web presence. However, creative marketers can use store websites to share special deals, help build an email list, and host helpful or informative content – including recipes, product reviews, and more.
Be Responsive On Social
Social media is meant to be responsive and conversational. Social platforms allow convenience stores to engage with the community around them, answering questions or chiming in on important local news.
Once you have a following built up on social media, use your profiles to get the word out on coupon promotions, new products, and other things that will interest your audience. If you want to build out your following, consider putting together a social media ad buy or promotion. For a very small investment, you can put your name in front of hundreds or thousands of locally-targeted individuals.
Another favorite for convenience stores, loyalty rewards give customers just one more incentive to choose you over a competitor. Punch card programs for coffee – “buy ten cups and the eleventh is on us!” – require little overhead and are popular with a lot of small shops. Host a small tasting to show off some of your most popular craft beers. Offer a special rate at the pump for customers who have a rewards card or pay in cash. Quite a few companies today are signing on with mobile rewards apps providers.
When you know your audience and use a little creativity, there are so many ways to show your appreciation for their regular patronage.