What convenience stores can learn from restaurant omnichannel experiences

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Convenience stores can engage customers in ways that generate additional revenue and build brand affinity.

Faced with increasing competition from dark stores and third-party aggregators, today’s major convenience stores are focusing on ways to win customers with personalized and branded experiences. By aligning digital features with ideal customer journeys, convenience stores can engage customers in ways that drive incremental revenue and build brand affinity.

A recent research report from Hathway and Paytronix surveyed 164 convenience stores and found that more than half lack the digital capabilities to support features such as contactless payments, online ordering, loyalty and/or or even customization.

Consider three typical convenience store customer journeys and the different assets your brand will need to ensure each journey is seamless, convenient, and personalized.

Refuel or Recharge

The impact of your technology stack begins even before customers choose to visit your store. Having the right technology can mean the difference between a customer refueling/charging their vehicle at your station versus one nearby.

For example, a branded mobile app can use geofencing to send an automated message (with a personalized offer) letting customers know they’re near a store. It may even be related to the car’s infotainment systems which monitor fuel or battery levels and direct the driver to the nearest gas/charging station.

After arrival, customers can speed up time spent at the pump or charging station with contactless payment options and seamless reward redemption. A mobile app with a loyalty program allows customers to monitor loyalty offers, track their progress, and redeem rewards. For added security, a digital wallet allows them to pay without having to store a credit card number for the transaction.

At the pump, mobile apps can send offers designed by artificial intelligence (AI) to drive customers into the store. If a customer simply decides to get back on the road, sending a “thank you” message with a reward increases retention.

Store visits

This can be the start of a new customer journey or the continuation of a journey started at the pump or at the charging station. It is advisable to develop a strategy around both. Having a loyalty program that combines at-the-pump rewards with in-store rewards can make your customer experience smoother. For example, you can send an offer for a free coffee while a customer is at the pump, or you can allow customers to accumulate points that they can redeem at the pump and in-store.

Using machine learning, your mobile app can send customers an offer on additional items that pair well with those in their cart. While a customer is waiting in line to buy pretzels, the app can offer them a deal on pretzels and a large soft drink.

Finally, consider the checkout process. A payment terminal, fully automated or assisted by a clerk, allows a consistent and personalized customer experience. A thank you message, with space to leave comments, is an effective way to conclude this customer journey and encourage the next one.

Mobile Order Pickup or Delivery

According to the NACS Last Mile Execution Report, the most frequently offered last mile service is mobile orders for in-store pickup. Providing a personalized mobile experience can help your brand stand out from the competition. The best mobile apps have an intuitive and user-friendly interface optimized on all devices. Customers can create profiles, access loyalty benefits seamlessly, and save their favorite orders and payment options to easily reorder next time. The best mobile apps allow customers to fully interact with brands on the go.

If a customer chooses to order for pickup, be sure to put up appropriate signage both in-store and outside. If they choose to order from a third party for delivery to another location, don’t lose control of their experience. An order taking tool such as Paytronix’s Handoff captures third-party orders directly into your POS system. With Handoff, brands can track inventory and sales data from one place, while updating inventory and menu prices across all third-party apps in real time.

The key is to provide a consistent customer experience across all points of interaction. For most customers buying a drink or a sandwich, it’s not about ordering over the phone or paying at the counter. It’s about how your brand puts its customers first, saving them time and money and giving them an experience they’ll remember.

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