Three Ways to Turn Fuel Customers Into Store Customers
There’s no denying that 2018 was a great year for fuel sales. According to data just released at the NACS State of the Industry Summit, total industry sales rose 8.9% last year to $654 billion—driven largely by a 13.2% increase in fuel sales. Higher gas prices and fuel margins certainly helped. They rose 13.7% and 7.5%, respectively.
But it’s a mistake to become complacent and lose focus on the in-store offer. While in-store sales experienced slower growth at 2.2%, they represent nearly three-fourths of the industry’s gross profit dollars. Unfortunately, a similar percentage of customers drive away after refueling. At GasBuddy, we recently surveyed more than 35,000 consumers to learn more about what it takes to get them into the store.
Here are three takeaways.
- First Impressions Matter
The forecourt experience is the proverbial first handshake. Good or bad, it shows customers how a retailer conducts business. When surveyed, 82.54% of frequent convenience store customers say store design and upkeep has a strong or moderate influence on their opinion before going inside.
First impressions also affect brand reputations. Every smartphone-carrying customer is a critic with the potential to rate and review stores online. Just as few of us will show interest in a one- or two-star product on Amazon, consumers don’t get excited about retailers with poor ratings and reviews.
- Use the Restrooms Strategically
Restrooms are a great sales opportunity. They’re one of the few ways you’ll ever connect with customers who rarely—or never—visit the convenience store. The good news is that most consumers who stop to use the restroom are willing to make a purchase. When surveyed, 78.68% of respondents told us that they’ve done so. The bad news is that a similar percentage (65.72%) report having left a store go to use the restroom elsewhere.
The reasons were fairly obvious, with the top four being dirty restrooms (83.75%), outdated or poorly-maintained facilities (57.86%), a convenience store that was also outdated (40.82%), and restricted access requiring a key or access code. (37.57%)
There’s a reason why the stereotype of a dirty gas station restroom exists, but retailers can use this opportunity to “wow” customers and differentiate their brand. When surveyed, 75.13% of female respondents said they would be influenced to visit a store that promotes a commitment to quality restrooms.
- Personalize Your Rewards Programs—or at Least Make Them Relevant
Seven in ten (70.52%) of survey respondents said they belong to a fuel or convenience rewards program, but many rarely use them. A few reasons stand out. First, nearly half of them (47.50%) blamed minimal savings. A similar percentage (44.75%) said the discounts are for products they don’t normally purchase.
Personalization is essential. One solution is to let customers accumulate points and spend them on whatever they want. When respondents were asked what would change their mind, this was the highest choice for both female (71.76%) and male (59.97%) respondents. But there are also generic offers that resonate with nearly everyone—fuel savings in particular. Nearly two-thirds (62.97%) of female respondents said fuel discounts for in-store purchases would change their mind about using rewards programs.
Download Our Report to Learn More
For additional insights, download our full report by clicking here. To learn how GasBuddy Business Pages helps leading retailers drive more visits to their stores, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a demonstration.
Frank Beard is a speaker, writer, and industry advocate who serves as an analyst/evangelist for convenience store trends at GasBuddy. Beard regularly contributes to NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.