n the current convenience retail climate, independent C-Stores habitually struggle to find ways to compete with their large-scale competitors.
While the ever-increasing popularity of electric vehicles and their charging facilities are no exceptions to this trend, businesses like the Independent Buyers’ Company (I.B.C) are teaming up with sustainability-focused EOS Linx to help provide EV charging partnerships to its 6,000 plus independent C-Store members.
Founded in 1993 in North Texas, the independent Buyers’ Co-op (I.B.C.) helps independent C-Stores to expand their markets, growing their business opportunities in order to compete with rivals in a variety of ways.
As well as providing C-Stores with quarterly retail rebates which can improve marketing strategies and thus returning customer rates, the IBC partners with C-Stores to offer over 100 programs. These include partnerships with nationally successful brands allowing for lower invoice pricing and consequently maximizing profits.
Most importantly, I.B.C.’s partnership with EOS Linx provides selected C-Stores with solar-powered EV charging kiosks. These kiosks are GPS-pinned, giving EV drivers ease of access to the charging ports and each kiosk is also equipped with two level-two chargers. This means that two vehicles can be charged at once allowing for increased throughput.
Our partnership with EOS Linx brings new EV charging and revenue generating opportunities to our members, enabling them to remain competitive and better serve their communities and customers,"…"These EV charging stations will become community fixtures at convenience stores for decades to come. I.B.C. Chairman and CEO Rob Knight.
Despite the promising opportunities, the independent operator EV charging prospect does come with its fair share of problems that this branch of the C-Store industry will have to overcome to compete.
First, independent C-Stores and larger chains alike must recognize the public concern over buying electric cars in the first place due to the lack of country-wide charging ports. Despite EV sales in the US increasing by over 40 percent each year since 2016, nearly half of US consumers say that battery or charging issues are their top concerns about buying electric vehicles.
Therefore, the lack of EV charging infrastructure across the US which is particularly limited in rural areas means that independent C-Stores will have to provide additional and tempting services to attract customers to their EV charging facilities.
While the mainstream use of electric vehicles may be far in the future, many of I.B.C’s 6,000 independent C-Store members are actually located in rural regions. This is a very promising sign for the future of EV charging, ultimately setting a precedent for wider EV infrastructure to be created.
Secondly, EV charging can take hours out of a consumers day compared to conventional fueling which takes as little as 5 minutes. With the purpose of C-Stores being their speedy service and an ‘in-and-out’ nature, independent C-Stores face an issue of conflicting interest by installing EV charging EOS Linx ports. Overall, lengthy charging and wait times could reduce the traditional ‘convenience appeal’ of a C-Store to consumers leading them to seek more interesting venues for EV charging.
While EV charging wait times could be considered a negative, they do allow customers opportunity to spend more time on-site and in-store. Therefore, C-Stores can utilise this waiting time by advertising their additional services to patrons meaning that customers will be more likely to spend in-store.
For instance, 75” advertising screens on each EOS Linx kiosk is one assist mechanism in this process. This digital display is strategically placed to give maximum impact to consumers, allowing independent C-Stores to exhibit their best deals, make creative changes in minutes and also create hyper-local targeting campaigns.
According to EOS Linx, 45% of consumers noticed place-based digital-out-of-home advertising (DOOH) on their charging ports. 70% immediately visit the store after seeing the ad and 89% made a purchase while at the store. These are promising statistics suggest that the advertising screens could aid independent C-Store sales enormously.
Next, the partnership with I.B.C and EOS Linx generally covers the cost of installation in for independent C-Stores which is another of their key aid mechanisms in this scheme. EOS Linx pay for costs of equipment, maintenance, utility bills and services. This means that there are no hidden start-up fees or financial risks for independent C-Stores that may be struggling financially as it is.
According to EOS Linx, this generosity is due to their commitment to EV growth and sustainability. Thus, the company wants to make the switch to EV charging kiosks as easy as possible for independent C-Stores in order to make driving technology more accessible and environmentally friendly.
Finally, C-Stores are set to be assisted by this partnership with I.B.C and EOS Linx because there are plans to create a more seamless EV charging experience in the near future. There will soon be an app which allows EV charging customers to easily search, rate and view individual EOS charging stations. The app will also allow consumers opportunities to earn free or subsidized charging for returning customers alongside loyalty points.
Largely, opportunities created by I.B.C and the increase in EV charging innovation provides unquestionably exciting prospects and business opportunities for independent C-Store retailers. Only time will tell whether the I.B.C partnership will be a success and if independent operator EV charging becomes the new norm.