Driving more customers and sales to your c-store doesn’t always have to be flashy or expensive.
In fact, some of the most time-honored strategies are quite the opposite.
So if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work, here are some of the cheapest ways to increase sales for your c-store right now.
1. Persuade existing customers to invite their neighbors, friends, and family
Image credit: CSP Daily News
Sometimes we become so focused on growth and reaching more customers that we forget about the ones we already have. And it’s a shame because they actually provide a much better return on investment.
In fact, HubSpot reports that it’s 5-25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Plus, existing customers buy more often and spend more than newer customers.
They’re also more likely to refer friends and family, doing all the work for you. All that adds up to the fact that just a 5% increase in customer retention can boost sales by 25 - 95%. Let that sink in for a minute.
So what can convenience store owners do for existing customers? First, if you already have a loyalty program or SMS database, start sending personalized digital coupons to members on a regular basis. You can also use gamification to engage with them. We recently ran a 100-day coupon scratcher campaign with Kwik Check and the results were astounding:
- Over 120,000 gameplays, averaging 10 plays per customer.
- Over 50,000 in-store redemptions and an incredible 41% redemption rate.
- The number of app users doubled during the campaign.
- 230% increase in mobile pay users.
- Social media engagement grew 4.8% on Facebook and 9.5% on Instagram.
If you haven’t dipped your feet into digital yet, low tech can also drive repeat business. Just focus on the customers that are physically in your store.
Nittany Minit Mart, for example, wanted to increase lunch sales of fresh pizza. So the stores used promotional signage inside and outside their locations and went directly to customers.
“When a customer buys a foodservice item, we put a stuffer in their bag showing the other foods we offer,” said Angela Gearhart, the company’s foodservice category manager. “We’ve been tracking our food sales numbers since we began our promotions and we have noticed a significant increase.”
2. Take a cue from Sheetz and go big on social media
Here’s the thing about social media… It’s free. And if you can figure out how to engage with customers, it’s an excellent tool to drive sales. Some brands rely entirely on social media, not spending a dime on traditional advertising.
The brands who do it best have developed their own voice, one that gets the word out without feeling too salesy or too corporate. Sheetz is an excellent example in the convenience store space. Their social media accounts, especially Twitter, are full of personality, snark, and humor.
They even use e-sports games to engage with customers, streaming the encounters on Twitch. And recently, Sheetz sent dozens of its fans wooden gift boxes with containers of its popular Boom Boom Sauce and retweeted all the photos the fans shared with their followers.
But you don’t have to be a behemoth like Sheetz to gain traction on social media as Anthony Perrinne, owner of Lou Perinne’s Gas & Grocery, could tell you.
When a polar vortex sent Midwest temperatures far below zero in 2019, Perrinne filmed a video while sitting outside. “I’m here to tell you, we deliver,” he said. “It’s way too cold to be doing what we’re doing.” Then he told customers to visit the website and use a promo code for free delivery. On Facebook, the video was viewed more than 13,000 times, received 50 comments and was shared by 219 people.
3. Prioritize promoting top-selling products
Image credit: Bang Energy
Another budget friendly way to increase sales is to focus on top-selling items, particularly those with high profit margins.
According to the most recent NACS State of the Industry Report, the top five margin contributors are packaged beverages (19.02%), cigarettes (13.92%), other tobacco products (5.80%), salty snacks (4.84%), and candy (4.34%).
Within packaged beverages, Bang is one brand in particular that may be worth prioritizing.
Relatively new to the category with its unique and innovative flavors, Bang increased its presence in the convenience channel by 15% last year. The brand’s Candy Apple Crisp flavor was a particular hot-seller last year, according to NielsenIQ data.
“Bang, in the energy drink segment, is a brand I still see on the bottom shelf in some c-stores, and it has performed very well on reports from data-tracking firms. That should be in a visible spot in a cooler set,” Bill Nolan, a partner with Business Accelerator Team, an Arizona-based consulting firm, shared with NACS Magazine.
As Nolan alludes to, one way of prioritizing top sellers is simply through merchandising. Once you’ve identified priority products, take a walk around your store. Are there any that could be moved to a higher shelf or more prominent location to help them stand out? Can they be placed near the checkout or at eye level in the cooler? These changes cost nothing but can have a big impact on sales.
You can also drive sales of popular products using special pricing and promotions.
For example, our data shows that energy drinks are strong trip drivers with above average redemption rates. Hard seltzer is another category that’s on fire right now, making it a good promotional item to draw customers into the store and boost foot traffic.
You can also use product pairings to drive redemption rates. Offering a free fountain drink with the purchase of a bag of Takis would be an effective offer. Takis are another hot item, with Millenials and Gen Z customers favoring hot and spicy flavor profiles when it comes to salty snacks. And foodservice, especially breakfast, is typically a strong pairing with energy drinks.
4. Target fuel-only customers with timely promotions
Image credit: Zoobiz
Depending on the study, anywhere from 48 - 70% of fuel customers never go in the store. And while that’s a pretty big range, even the low end represents an awful lot of missed opportunities to increase sales.
One way to turn this around is with pump-to-store promotions, which can take many forms. First, you have traditional (and relatively cheap) physical signage. Make sure your pumps have up-to-date signage with fresh, appealing looking products.
Many retailers are moving towards digital signage as well. A main advantage to this is that you can market by daypart, changing the signage according to time of day. 7-Eleven and Wawa both do a stellar job of driving customers into their store for breakfast by utilizing on-pump promotions of fresh pastries and coffee.
And if you already have an SMS database, you can send strategic at-the-pump push notifications to entice customers to come inside. You can start with a free offer, for instance, to motivate a change in behavior.
The next time, you can send a BOGO, followed by a discount. Soon, the customer’s behavior will be changed and they’ll routinely come into the store when they stop at the pump (at least that’s the goal!).
5. Turn up the lights (and clean the bathrooms)
Image credit: Royal Farms
Cleanliness, safety, and hospitality.
These are the big three when it comes to customer expectations for retail store experiences. And while it sounds pretty simple, we’ve all been to a gas station that failed miserably to meet even the most basic of these standards.
The good news, however, is that making sure your store doesn’t fall into that category is relatively cheap.
Furthermore, retailers that focus on customer experience are seeing results quickly. In first-quarter 2019, for example, GasBuddy found that c-stores with above-average outdoor lighting drove 25.9% more visits than their below-average counterparts.
25% more visits just because of lighting? You can do this.
6. Partner with CPG brands to run promotions
CPG brands are trying just as hard as you are to improve sales and profitability in c-stores. And a lot of CPG brands, especially the big ones, have deep pockets when it comes to promotional dollars. Even better, they’re ready and willing to partner with convenience retailers who want to promote their products.
Of course, navigating this process can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re new to the game. But that’s where Koupon comes into play. We help c-store retailers attract incremental promotional dollars, funded entirely by leading CPG brands. And you can launch these promotions across your own channels to grow sales.
The image above shows a CPG-funded promotion between Mars (Snickers) and Speedway. The digital BOGO offer is valid at participating Speedway locations for a limited time and customers can simply tap the red button to redeem.
Running a c-store? See how Koupon helps c-stores grow
Consumer behavior is evolving and it’s challenging retailers to grow and adapt. At Koupon, we provide the technology you need to reach shoppers, attract them to your store, increase sales, create data-informed strategies, and drive digital impact.
No matter where you are in your digital transformation for your retail business, we have the solutions you need to grow. We can help you:
- Collaborate with CPG brands: As we mentioned, we help you attract incremental promotion dollars, funded entirely by leading CPG brands like Mars, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, and more.
- Drive shopper engagement: Reach new shoppers beyond your current loyal base and gain a greater share of wallet from existing customers. Digital promotions help increase basket size and drive store trips.
- Simplify promotion execution: Don’t stress over the details. Our team takes care of it all, from offer set up to post-campaign analysis, and everything in between.
- Make data-driven decisions: Evaluate consumer patterns across products, stores, and channels. We’ll help you use these insights to benchmark, adjust and launch strategic data-driven campaigns.
Our solutions grow with you. So whether you’re just getting started or fully accelerating, we can help. Get in touch to learn more!