uring the pandemic, the retail industry made a significant leap, and people were forced to maximize the use of technology to fulfill their needs. C-stores had to emphasize mobile strategies and customer engagement if they were to generate their desired revenues.
Today, c-store mobility plans and c-store loyalty programs are more than just a preference of customers; it’s a requirement. Even when things began to ease down, c-stores observed only a minor decline in online ordering, mobile app usage, and curbside delivery. As these trends are here to stay, it’s only logical that c-stores focus more on their mobile strategies to guarantee customer satisfaction.
“I think it's critically important for a retailer to engage with their guests on mobile and have a clear strategy on how they are going to do it. The mobile device has emerged as the key touchpoint for most customers, especially in the last year. Customers are simply used to interacting with the world through their phones." Said Jeff Hoover, Data Insights Strategist for convenience store brands at Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix Systems Inc.
Before the pandemic embedded itself in the lifestyle of people, mobile accessible systems and apps with online delivery, payments, and curbside delivery options were only used by tech-savvy customers. This means only a fraction of the total population were making use of c-store mobility plans.
However, as the pandemic took its root, the customers were left with no other option but to make full use of mobile-accessible systems offered by c-stores. People of all demographics, skill levels, and ages started to shift towards mobile apps for their needs. There was a spike in online grocery delivery and curbside pickups. According to research conducted by Mobiquity, 44% of consumers agreed they were more likely to purchase from a c-store with a curbside pickup than one without.
As the pandemic started impacting retail operations and consumer behavior, c-stores were left with no option but to invest in better mobile strategies to benefit their customers. C-stores had to revamp their online delivery, ordering, and curbside pickup to engage this imperative.
C-stores worked towards building more efficient mobile apps and mobile-optimized websites to engage their customers and facilitate the use of technology for purchases. “At minimum, you should have a mobile-optimized website since that's where most customers will be interacting with your brand. Ideally, you would focus on a mobile app, but this can be a much larger investment, although there are many good white-label app providers out there today that can at least get you in the game." Advised Jeff Hoover.
There was also a spike in c-store loyalty programs as c-stores struggled to retain their customers while boosting customer satisfaction at the same time. C-store loyalty programs are a great way to keep c-stores informed about the changing requirements of their customers and provide usable data stores to optimize c-store mobility plans at the same time. “Modern loyalty is no longer about points and discounts. That ship has sailed and is antiquated. If you have 10 million consumers, you need to have 10 million loyalty programs today. They need to be personalized." Emphasized Shyam Rao, the CEO of Punchh.
In a survey conducted by Mobiquity, it was found that 50% of the respondents said they'd used an app to order groceries. In the current environment, c-stores must develop robust mobile strategies to ensure their share in the market.
At the core of sound c-store mobile strategy is the creation of user-friendly and user friendly mobile apps for your c-store. Mobile application user interface design is paramount and needs to interact with the users in a personalized way. The user interface should be engaging enough to make the user want to avail themselves of the promoted services. Moreover, the products you're selling should be easy to order, offer fast pickup or delivery, and should be customizable by the user, in so far as possible.
“Mobile unlocks a tremendous opportunity to drive more consumers into the store and encourage them to buy more items, spend more money and come back more frequently," Believes Charlie Lang, an Executive Vice President of product and marketing at Koupon Media.
A potent mobile strategy also offers rewards and loyalty programs directly in the mobile application. C-store loyalty programs can collect valuable data about customers and reward them by generating personalized offers.
Furthermore, nothing pleases customers more than c-store mobile apps offering contactless payments. You can use gateways like Apple Pay and Google Pay to help you with that. Apple Pay remains the top mobile payment player, with approximately 43.9 million users as of today.
Hoop, a successful startup created by a group of parents who wanted to take the hassle out of finding activities for their children, failed due to not having a potent mobile strategy. During the lockdown, the company’s activity-booking app became obsolete. Hoop introduced some new features on its app to tackle this, but sadly, this wasn't enough to cover its loss. After a difficult six months, the company announced its closure on 6th July 2020. The company didn't mention the loss in revenue, but they were likely significant.
On the other hand, Kum & Go is a star when it comes to c-store mobility strategy, planning, and execution. Earlier this year, it launched its free &Rewards program on its mobile app. This program's mobile app lets customers earn points by purchasing items they buy every day, such as fuel, food, soft drinks, coffee, and more.
The company will also “surprise & delight” its &Rewards members with pop-up offers that include fuel discounts and discounted and free snack items. This rewards strategy encourages the customers and mobile app users to purchase more things and makes Kum & Go stand out when it comes to mobile strategy and c-store loyalty programs. Not to forget, their mobile app is straightforward to use and user-friendly with exemplary user-interactivity capability.
According to NACS, 21% of c-stores have shifted to curbside pickup, while 14% are focused on drive-thrus. In any reasonable future assessment; these trends are here to stay.
36% of c-store consumers view loyalty as the best way to encourage customers to adopt online ordering behaviors. In 10 to 20 years, we can only expect this to remain the case. As people rely more and more on their mobile apps for their c-store shopping, a core of devoted customers has been created – this will only expand.
In the future, c-stores might consider adding digital menus with search bars and vendor promotions through their mobile apps. C-stores are also considering placing more effective restrictions on age-restricted products such as alcoholic beverages.
Consumers can even expect even greater integration between online ordering and c-store loyalty programs. This will allow the customers to earn and redeem their points while ordering online. “Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years. What is coming at us is bigger than the original internet and you need to understand it, get on board with it and figure out how to transform your business.” Said Tim O'Reilly, Founder, and CEO, O'Reilly Media.
All in all, tech-friendly c-store strategies will continue to evolve in the near future. You can only expect them to evolve over a period of the next 10-20 years to serve newer, different demands in the future – and perhaps revolutionize even more C-Store to customer interaction.