How to Navigate Drivers to Your C-store
Imagine a driver, stuck in traffic in an unfamiliar part of town, receives a low-fuel alert from her car. Her already-high stress level ticks up a few more notches as she wonders where the closest gas station is. Then she remembers…her car can tell her.
The vehicle's in-dash navigation system serves up a list of nearby gas stations. She prefers a certain brand — your brand — but she doesn’t see it on the map. So she pulls into the first option she sees, fuels up and heads back into gridlock for the rest of her journey.
Now, imagine your gas station is just around the corner from where she fueled up. In addition to filling her tank, she could have grabbed a drink and an energy bar to carry her through to her final destination. But your location didn’t appear on the map, so she didn’t even know you were there.
The connected car. Have you considered how it, along with GPS and onboard navigation systems, might be impacting your brand visibility and traffic to your convenience store locations? Maybe it’s time to get up to speed.
CONSUMERS WANT MORE
A recent survey by Strategy Analytics revealed that U.S. consumers are using all forms of navigation platforms — onboard in-car systems, personal navigation devices and smartphones — to map routes to their destinations. Among those surveyed:
- 58 percent of owners of embedded, portable and smartphone navigation systems choose their in-dash navigation system for plotting a course to a new address on at least a weekly basis;
- 47 percent said they use their smartphone; and
- 43 percent use a portable navigation device.
According to TomTom data, gas stations are fourth among the top 25 searched categories on navigation platforms. Related convenience store categories on the top 25 list include restaurants (at No. 5), ATMs (No. 8), supermarkets (No. 10) and car maintenance shops (No. 11).
As consumers come to rely more heavily on navigation systems, they are not simply looking for how to get from point A to point B. They are also looking for accurate point-of-interest information, such as hours of operation, phone numbers, price points and more.
The rise of consumer dependence on navigation systems, along with advances in connected-car technology, are contributing to a better user experience. However, old, inaccurate and incomplete data can leave consumers and retailers frustrated and “disconnected.”
If your local search marketing (SEO and SEM) efforts are not optimizing how your convenience-store brand and its locations appear in mapping and navigation systems, it’s likely you’re not only missing out on brand building opportunities, but you’re also leaving potential customers and revenue by the side of the road.
In the case of businesses like gas stations, convenience stores or quick-service restaurants, you may be letting your customers down right when they need you most.
OPTIMIZING YOUR BRAND VISIBILITY
Retail businesses are challenged to appear accurately across all navigation channels. This problem is multiplied for c-store franchises and multi-location businesses. While map providers are working to accelerate the deployment of real-time maps to benefit consumers and businesses alike, updates to the data in in-car navigation systems can be infrequent, making visibility slower to optimize. It’s also time-consuming and difficult to track, fix, monitor and maintain your visibility in navigation systems. However, it is possible to overcome these challenges.
Start by investing in a specialized GPS/navigation approach to your local search marketing and business listings management. Work with your GPS/navigation or SEO specialist to clean up errors in your business listings data and publish it across all map providers (e.g., HERE, TomTom, Google Maps, etc.) and into the principal companies involved in GPS and in-car navigation systems (e.g., automotive, personal navigation devices and smartphone navigation apps).
Add enhanced data to your listings, such as your logo and hours of operation. Consider advertising in selected navigation applications to drive even more consumers to specific store locations.
Innovation is accelerating advances in connected-car technology. So once you’ve invested in steps to optimize the visibility of your c-store locations across navigation channels, it’s important to continually monitor and maintain that presence as the channels continue to grow and evolve.
Remember to keep an eye on consumer trends as well. Knowing how consumers are engaging with the latest navigation technologies and platforms will better enable you to help them map a path to your stores for the long term.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.