C-Store trends Evolving as a result of COVID-19
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing a huge influx in technology providers stepping up to the plate and offering solutions that can be implemented fairly quickly to meet the demands for contactless shopping. Some of these solution providers are even able to implement their solutions in a matter of weeks by augmenting the existing infrastructure. This is especially true for Buy Online Pickup in Store (BOPIS), curbside pickup and Scan & Go. Convenience retailers need to implement these low/no touch solutions wherever possible in order to gain customer confidence and to better protect employees and customers alike.
Grocery chains have been offering online ordering for some time now. While the adoption had been slow, due to COVID-19 it has exploded, and now chains are implementing the BOPIS option because deliveries simply cannot happen fast enough. With all the current chaos, this provides new opportunities for C-Store retailers. CSP reported this week that several c-store retailers are rolling out limited mobile ordering with curbside pickup option. 1
Safety options for fueling
Several retailers are also offering Full Service fueling in several states to provide a touch free environment for their customers. It goes without saying that in order to offer this service, retailers must have the necessary employees available to pump fuel while ensuring employee safety. However, this does present a new opportunity for c-stores to hire to keep the economy humming along while providing a new service to customers. Retailers need to plan properly and ensure they have the proper processes in place to ensure a smooth transaction, including the ability to take payments safely and touch free.
For c-store retailers that may not have the necessary resources to offer full service fueling, another trend that is popping up at self-service fueling stations is disposable plastic gloves being made available for customers to use for self-service fueling. Mountain Sky, a retailer based in California, has always been at the forefront of offering this service. Post COVID-19, this simple change can make the difference in incremental fuel sales. If plastic gloves are not offered, the retailer needs to make a concerted effort to ensure that paper towels or other safety measures are available. In addition, depending on availability, operators may want to offer hand sanitizers at the forecourt going forward.
Review your daily checklists for frequency of sanitation tasks and hygiene practices
Prior to COVID-19, how often did you pull up to a fuel station only to find paper towel holders empty or nonexistent? A higher level of focus on details such as this will have to be made across the industry.
Now that the dust has settled a bit from the earlier days of the pandemic, retailers need to take a step back when available and ensure that their standard operating procedures (SOPs) are updated with the latest sanitation tasks and hygiene practices.
Existing checklists should be updated to include the frequency of the sanitation tasks. A review of how often high touch areas such as cooler doors, pin pads, doors, should be cleaned is needed. The checklist should include cleaning any new safety measures such as sneeze guards or plexiglass shields placed at the POS to protect cashiers and customers. You are starting to see this trend popping up at grocery stores and C-Stores.2 In addition, retailers need to include the frequency for checking all the health safety items that are provided to customers in the self-service areas both inside the store and at the forecourt. Last but not least, they need to remember to stock up on cleaning supplies.
Obviously, these SOPs and checklists need to be monitored to ensure the ultimate customer experience in this environment.
Eﬀective communication is key
How stores communicate to their customers that they are taking precautionary measures with their sanitation efforts can make a big difference.
One option to consider is to secure a third-party surface cleaning service provider to conduct a complete sanitation service by applying an antimicrobial surface coating that will kill microbes upon contact for up to one year. Displaying decals and signage in prominent locations of the store will highlight that the store has been cleaned and sanitized to inform employees and customers that the store has been treated effectively. That’s a small investment for big gains.
Perception can be a diﬀerentiator
All of these changes will send a clear message that the retailer is serious about the cleanliness of the store inside and out, as well as the safety of its employees and customers. There has been a lot of focus related to grocery retailers closing early to restock and sanitize stores; however, many c-stores are still operating 24/7. Regardless, ensuring employees are sanitizing the store during business hours will showcase to customers that the store is focused on cleanliness. Encouraging a perception of cleanliness and hygiene will drive repeat business.
For more information about a cost-effective antimicrobial surface solution or any of the low/no touch technologies that you can quickly implement, please contact us!
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