Only 22 percent of convenience store customers make it from the gas pump into the store — a perennial challenge for c-stores. But savvy operators know they can increase foot traffic by becoming a friendly, convenient destination for gourmet coffee, prepared foods and grocery staples, turning their stores into much more than just refueling stops.
To do this, however, convenience stores must have a well-trained workforce to ensure the coffee and prepared foods are fresh, the shelves are stocked, signage is clearly displayed, and customers consistently receive a friendly welcome. Without proper training and management, c-store operators won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities at hand.
They must streamline operational excellence at scale and consistently deliver a great customer experience. That is where digital management tools and processes come in.
Create Welcoming, Personal Experiences for Each Customer
Creating a compelling customer experience is a matter of pure economics: consumers are loyal to their favorite convenience stores, with 93 percent of customers shopping the same c-store brand and location. Keep customers happy and they’ll keep coming back.
Employee training and management are essential to maintaining this balance. Since most c-store customers are looking to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, associates must be trained and informed.
With digitization, store information, ranging from product details to where the product is located, can be available on an employee’s mobile device. This allows them to provide customers with helpful insights and relevant information, creating a friendly, informed shopping experience and making customers feel valued.
Ensure Efficient Processes Are in Place
Using digital management tools, convenience retailers can create a one-stop spot for store operations, such as task management, communications and social collaboration. Information can be tailored to the needs of district or regional managers, store managers or employees, giving every role the information they need to do their jobs.
For example, managers can access store performance data to troubleshoot issues quickly and effectively, while in-store employees can have a central location to communicate about tasks and quickly get the answers they need.
Cleanliness is a top priority when customers choose which store to visit. By digitizing store operations, associates can efficiently handle tasks such as cleaning restrooms or mopping floors, and guarantee that areas are well-kept and clean.
As a whole, convenience retailers can be assured they have consistent operations across all their stores, creating the best customer experience regardless of location.
Take the Stress Out of Shift Scheduling
Many stores still rely on outdated methods to schedule shifts and assign tasks, such as having shifts written in a binder or on a white board in a back room. By digitizing employee management, convenience stores can ensure staff allocation is organized in real-time, so the store isn’t overstaffed or understaffed.
Going digital also gives employees access to quickly view their schedules, and managers can easily create balanced schedules and change employees’ shifts when needed. For example, if an employee calls out sick, managers can instantly search and get in touch with employees who aren’t on the schedule that day.
C-stores can use digital management processes to allocate the right number of staff for tasks that best serve shoppers at any given time. This helps ensure that convenience stores are properly staffed at peak times, shelves are stocked, and prepared foods are fresh.
Make Convenience Stores More Than Just Convenient
Sixty-four percent of shoppers spend less than $15 (excluding gas) during their visit to a convenience store; however, having well-run, appealing stores can help ensure that retailers make the most of every store visit.
Digital task management is more important than ever to help c-store retailers take advantage of the opportunities to turn their stores into repeat destinations.
C-store operators have an opportunity to use digital management processes to make the store be more than just convenient, improving the customer experience by ensuring tasks and processes are handled efficiently, and associates are friendly, well-informed and helpful.
Gary Stonell is senior vice president of sales and operations at Opterus. He has 20 years of sales management and business development experience in CPG and SaaS. Opterus’ mission is to provide an efficient, cost-effective store information and execution management tool that increases productivity and improves retail enterprise communication.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.