Think you’re not losing customers to online stores? Think again. While many retailers are scrambling to compete with online competitors or develop a booming online sales strategy, convenience stores have felt mostly insulated from the threats of e-commerce. After all, convenience store customers are most often seeking immediate gratification: walk in, get what they came for, walk out. It’s true that online shopping might not be a threat to your customer base, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to its effects. The proliferation of e-commerce has changed the way consumers shop, even for quick convenience items.
Expectations of Today’s Convenience Store Customers
Simple electronic interactions are what today’s convenience store customers crave. They want to shop at your store the same way they bank, travel, and buy music — with clicks, taps, and swipes. While you’re not necessarily competing directly with online stores, you are competing with the expectations online stores have created in the minds of your customers.
Expectations about how to pay. Mobile wallet usage is on the rise. A survey by Business Insider estimates that mobile payments will total 128 billion by 2021. Mobile payments are giving convenience store customers even more options, with pay-at-the-pump smartphone apps and the ability to add purchases such as quick picks at the point of sale.
Expectations about value. The proliferation of online shopping has created customers who are addicted to value. In the real world, this has translated to customers who won’t even go to a store without some sort of deal or discount attached to their visit. To compete with that mindset, many large convenience store operations have created their own apps that engage their customers, provide feedback opportunities, and offer customized in-store discounts.
Expectations about loyalty. Gone are the days when a punchcard for a free coffee will create customers for life. Loyalty programs are now driven by technology, offering personalized loyalty benefits based on past purchases, visit frequency, location, and more. For convenience stores to keep up, they are increasingly using social media and custom apps to engage customers on multiple levels.
Service Expectations Remain High
Will all this technology lead to the end of personalized service? No, and here’s why: Service will always be the most important thing you sell. Your new app that provides personalized offers aimed at making customers feel important will fall flat if those customers are met with indifference inside your store. If a customer has trouble with your pay-at-the-pump mobile app, and your staff can’t help them, customers aren’t likely to give it a second chance. Make sure your training program aligns with your technology tools. Every employee should be familiar with the deals and programs offered through apps, social media, and other technology services so they can exceed customer expectations at every level.
Convenience Store Training for Customer Expectations
Your employees won’t instinctively know how to meet and exceed the expectations of your convenience store customers. You have to train them. To create a foundation with online training, start here.