Omnichannel integration is a top priority for convenience retailers around the world.
The overall vision is to make it easy and seamless for people to shop the way they choose. That could mean staying in your car for a drive-thru-only experience, using an app to have a delivery driver deliver food to your house, or walking into a store and grabbing a seltzer and pistachios while shopping. your evening commute.
Convenience businesses usually want to create a trip so simple that their customers barely notice how it all went. Sometimes, however, there is potential for apps, flat screens, contactless vending machines and the like to do things Following cluttered and confusing, no less.
Digital solutions have a real impact on the physical space. When delivery drivers line up to pick up orders, it can annoy coffee-sipping regulars who like to stand at the till to trade jokes with your cashiers. It would be equally inconvenient if customers queuing for scan-and-go stations or contactless vending machines blocked the aisles. And does a migraine sufferer who’s had a miserable day really want to see a video screen playing commercials as she pumps her gas, with no way to opt out of the experience? Probably not.
Here are some tips for taking a more mindful approach to omnichannel integration:
As you pursue your strategy, consider increasing collaboration between all parties involved in the design, branding, operations, and management of your stores. — not only the c suite, but also your internal and third-party experts in areas such as data science, technology and restoration.
Imagine a technologist at one such meeting describing a nifty new approach to tackling labor shortages with cashierless payment. That’s great, but your design and branding team can stress the need to maintain the traditional “neighborhood feel” and human touch there as well. Store designers are increasingly using lighting, signage and merchandising to smooth out some of the rough edges caused by technology programs.
Likewise, your architecture and engineering (AE) experts, after listening to a vendor rave about a new automated touchless app-ordered takeout meal delivery system, will want to ask some tough questions about space requirements. The AE Company could provide some practical ideas for reclaiming the square footage you might need for this initiative, perhaps taking more compact and efficient approaches to mechanical engineering or refrigeration elsewhere in the store.
By including more expert voices in your planning and discussions, you’ll get a clearer picture of what’s possible in everything from aesthetics to pedestrian flow to capital budget over the course of the next exercise.
“The future of convenience stores” can be exciting to read, the way new Ford or BMW concept cars can be fun to ogle at major auto shows. But for most of us, a turbocharged Batmobile just won’t work for ferrying kids to and from football practice.
That’s why we encourage our convenience customers to imagine a Venn diagram with two converging circles: one titled “Sustainable Site and Store Design Principles”; the other labeled “Emerging Technologies, Trends and Opportunities”. The goal is to live where these two circles converge.
Consider this a red flag if the discussion about where your stores might go starts to feel disconnected from industry roots, market realities, and what has worked in the past.
For example, a cashierless form of payment like Scan-and-Go may be viable for some of your stores. But we are far from the idea that all convenience stores will be totally cashierless any day now, or that driverless cars are about to make gas stations and parking lots totally useless.
Stay on top of new trends
None of this means futuristic daydreaming has no place. Clearly, today’s convenience store operators need to look for ways to gain competitive advantage by getting ahead of their competition on emerging opportunities.
An example here is the rise of third-party micro-fulfillment center (MFC) companies such as Israeli start-up Fabric, which already uses robot-run MFCs to service multiple convenience stores, grocery stores, and drugstore chains within a designated radius, allowing them to run lean and quickly restocked locations.
We are working with several convenience store operators who want to optimize square footage by taking advantage of these new approaches to managing prepared food, grocery and alcohol inventory.
MFCs would once have been considered wild guesswork, but this market could be worth around $10 billion by 2026, according to some projections.
As for locations, a growing number of convenience store operators are clearly starting to integrate curbside pickup into their planned and existing stores, and so parking is changing, even if driverless cars are never up to snuff. hype.
In other words, convenience stores really need to consider the effects of emerging trends on site logistics and the customer journey: where will these compartments be placed for online pickup orders in the store? How many square feet will they need? How will they affect foot traffic throughout the building?
Mindful approaches to site and store design can help you answer these questions, harmonize the customer experience, and propel your growth.
Joseph Bona is founding partner and president of Bona Design Lab, which enhanced the retail experience for convenience store customers such as Shell Select, Alltown, Migrolino (Switzerland), Ipiranga (Brazil) and Adnoc Oasis (UAE). He can be reached at [email protected]
James Owens, AIA, NCARB, is Vice Chairman and shareholder of HFA, which draws on decades of experience in architecture, engineering and design to find solutions for convenience store leaders. The company’s client list includes Love’s Travel Stops, Kum & Go and EG America, to name a few. He can be reached at [email protected]
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience store news.