Reinventing the C-store for the digital future

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When it comes to convenience, convenience stores today only offer it in name.

The first convenience store was launched almost 100 years ago to make life more convenient, before you could do anything or buy everything on a smartphone. But there has been a long dry period of innovation. Biggest impact on convenience stores pay at the pump occurred in the 1980s. Pay-at-the-pump technology, made possible by the rapid growth of consumer ATM cards, changed labor requirements and allowed convenience stores to add more. fuel, giving birth to the convenience store model we know today.

Mobile technology and e-commerce have revolutionized the way consumers buy goods and services in even deeper ways, but the convenience store industry has not responded.

The current convenience store format could meet the same fate as video rentals in today’s digital world, obsessed with convenience. The channel is ripe for disruption, and yet current investments are in improving food and beverage options, leaving broader trends and technological possibilities on the table.

CHALLENGES WITH TODAY’S PERSPECTIVE

Today’s business model is vulnerable, especially after the great convenience improvements in traditional retailing due to the pandemic. An August 2020 study by Convenience store news illustrates the extent to which the vulnerability, with 52% of consumers easily deleting convenience stores from their directory. Sure, online grocery shopping grew by 40%, and 42% of shoppers said they were looking to consolidate more of their trips overall. While convenience stores may meet basic but limited needs, they do not take full advantage of their proximity to customers.

A major weakness of today’s convenience stores is that buyers are increasingly looking for contactless solutions. Getting out of the car to buy something is obsolete. With all the improvements needed over the past year (BOPIS, drive-thru, curbside pickup), the convenience store advantage has been stolen. Consumers have embraced the power of digital tools to book time, check occupancy, and pre-order based on their individual preferences.

Most importantly, our vehicles are becoming a sanctuary of security and control with increasingly sophisticated connectivity. Expanding the smartphone via CarPlay, Android Auto and built-in Alexa, our cars have become portable addresses when we are not at home. Our cars, not Starbucks, have become our “third place”.

The future of convenience stores boils down to shifting the current reliance on snack-focused round trips to a broader, redefined view of convenience using a mix of new technology and ultra-convenient, focused shopping experiences. on digital. The use of the physical site must be completely redesigned to redefine today’s convenience.

THREE NEW DIMENSIONS OF CONVENIENCE FOR TOMORROW’S C-STORE

The convenience store of tomorrow must be the leader in how consumers define “easy” by redefining and innovating the business in keeping with the rising tide of convenience across retail and e-commerce.

There are three areas where convenience stores can find their convenience advantage:

1. Expand the store as we know it

Consumers increasingly expect their buying decisions to be made when they need them rather than in a retail space. The smartphone has become the main intermediary between a desire or a need and its acquisition, because it is the store that is always with you.

This forces convenience stores to go beyond physical purchasing, opening up an opportunity for innovation to also be the place where digital sales are made. Areas currently used exclusively for editing, displays, and queue and even a second level could also be used for high density product stocks.

By using interactive technology, wireless connectivity and automation, convenience can be taken to a new level. Close to your place of residence or work, the convenience store’s greatest asset place allows it to become an outlet device for the goods and services that make up your daily needs. As a high-quality printer for your documents, you can digitally send your everyday and impulse retail needs.

The physical c-store expands to become the app on your phone, Alexa skill in your car’s infotainment system, a driving kiosk, and artificial intelligence (AI) based on your vehicle’s proximity by relative to location and time of day. Instead of going in for shopping, your merchandise is sent to you via multiple drive-through pickup lanes that anticipate your arrival.

2. Use AI to expand and adapt the assortment

By focusing on fulfillment versus merchandising, the physical footprint can support a wide assortment of grocery categories to complete, such as baby, pet, and personal care needs that are not. not achievable in today’s retail space. Shifting to a digitally driven purchasing model can provide the data needed to tailor assortment to local shoppers’ demand.

This new convenience store approach can also be an aggregator of other local online shopping to create a central BOPIS collection point. Nearby retailers can expedite orders there for easy pickup in a super convenient location.

Convenience is also about grouping, which means additional time savings for customers who also need a refueling or a quick charge. Customers can use the app or the kiosks on the fuel island for items that are shipped to their location. Impulse items actually available for purchase at the pump could be easily marketed with “just walk” technology like that used by Amazon Go. And for a contactless experience, your car is your wallet, thanks to vehicle technology. connected.

3. Competitors Out-Q QSR

When it comes to driving frequency and sales, there is no substitute for food and today no one has solved the challenge of delivering healthy and tasty food to consumers in a drive-thru. quick. Relying on the idea of ​​a multi-lane drive-thru, combined with reallocating physical store space with an efficient kitchen, may be the answer.

Menus can be larger and service can be faster with a mobile-only ordering model. Orders, including meals and freshly prepared kits, could be sent to one of multiple drive-thru lanes for quick pickup instead of funneling all orders to a window like most service restaurant concepts. fast (QSR).

Convenience stores today no longer have a monopoly on convenience. Now every retailer is in the game. As the options expand and e-commerce grows, what tomorrow’s convenience store can do best is give us back time instead of time. ‘just be a place for cokes and cigarettes.

With over 150 million locations today, this can take a long time.

Bill Chidley is a Partner and Executive Director, Strategy and Outlook at ChangeUp. His extensive experience includes helping Fortune 100 clients succeed as both strategy and design leaders. Whether developing new retail concepts or integrating new digital and mobile experiences, Chidley has worked with Home Depot, AT&T, P&G, Dunkin ‘Donuts and John Deere, using strategy and creativity driven insight to imagine winning ideas and bring them to life.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Convenience store news.


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