Should C-stores Tap Into the Power of Beacons?

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Should C-stores Tap Into the Power of Beacons?


ANNAPOLIS, Md.  — The  educational portion of the 2015 Conexxus Annual Conference concluded with a look at beacons, one of the hottest technologies available to convenience store retailers today.

In fact, two back-to-back educational sessions focused on beacons. The first, “A Digital Journey in the Physical World,” featured Rob Canterbury, vice president of business development for Gimbal, who discussed what beacons are and how they are used.

Available for both in-store and outdoor forecourt applications, beacons receive shopper visit data, allowing convenience store retailers to send targeted offers to customers’ smartphones in order to increase loyalty and frequency of visits. Beacons often cost about $25 to $30 each and are most often powered by four AA batteries, which last an average of 18 months.

Beacons are touted to be quite accurate, providing precise information about where a customer goes at the c-store and how long they stay at that specific location.

Canterbury stressed that privacy is of the utmost importance. Therefore, no personal information about the customer is revealed, only their habits.

Thus far, beacons are popular at sporting venues, municipal transportation hubs, shops and malls, and museums and parks. Although currently several c-stores are only in the testing stage regarding beacons, Canterbury believes the technology will soon be “ubiquitous” due to beacons' affordable cost, small size and the potential for retailers to convert more pump customers to in-store customers.


Flash Foods Inc., a division of The Jones Co. and operator of 171 convenience stores in Georgia and Florida, will soon incorporate beacons into its GoBlue mobile app and loyalty program, said Chief Information Officer Jenny Bullard, who moderated the second educational session entitled “Beacons: How Will Beacons Drive C-store Business and Improve the Customer Experience.”

Offering an example of how the technology will be used, Bullard said the c-store chain could use the app to send an alert to a customer looking at a Pepsi product to try one from Coca-Cola at a discount.

Beacons are especially important at the pump, as two-thirds of customers drive off after they fill up without ever entering the c-store, noted Parker Burke, director at Gilbarco Veeder-Root, who joined Bullard in the educational session along with Brad Van Otterloo, vice president of product development for Koupon Media.

 Video offerings at the pump are crucial to driving in-store sales, and correlate directly to beacons, which will soon become an integral part of the pump at the forecourt, Burke added.

“Our research shows that [when filling up their tanks], people often go on their phone to look at other things,” said Burke. “They are consuming other content, not your content.”

Van Otterloo wrapped up the session by offering some recommendations for retailers that choose to implement beacons. At first, only offer targeted coupons involving private label products, he advised. “This way, you can adjust your coupon offers so you can get to your ‘sweet spot,’" the Koupon Media executive recommended. “Then, you can start looking at CPG [consumer packaged goods] offers.”

Another recommendation from Van Otterloo is to implement four or five beacons per c-store. The locations where these beacons should be placed will vary by store, but in most cases, the store’s entrance, coffee bar, register, pump and beer cave are the most likely places to install the hot technology.

The 2015 Conexxus Annual Conference concluded Thursday at the Loews Annapolis Hotel. 

In 2016, the Conexxus Annual Conference will take place May 1-5 at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz., the site of its 2014 event.