Understanding the Customer with Gilbarco Veeder-Root’s Countertop Merchandising System: Impulse: Part 3 in a Series
Philip Kotler, the S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, is renown in his field. As c-store owners become increasingly sophisticated marketeers, competition will only increase — and that’s where Gilbarco’s Impulse countertop merchandising system can help you stay in step. One Kotler quote is instructive and sets the tone for this blog: “Selling starts only when you have a product. Marketing starts before there is a product. Marketing is the homework the company does to figure out what people need and what the company should make. Marketing determines how to launch, price, distribute and promote the product/service offering in the marketplace. Marketing then monitors the results and improves the offering over time. Marketing also decides when to end the offering.”
Extending Kotler’s sentiments to the c-store environment, it’s the entire experience (or packaging of the product/service) at the c-store which is important. It includes things like gasoline prices but also the cleanliness of the facilities, the condition of the forecourt, the lighting, the quality of the merchandise, and a friendly greeting from the counter person — and much, much more. These are often referred to as “touch points” in marketing parlance. In effect, your ability to influence customers’ perceptions and impressions of your operation start before he or she turns into your driveway — maybe by how visible and well maintained your lighted sign is from the street, e.g., no burned-out bulbs.
Learning what customers want or need can be expensive. Companies with large financial resources (e.g. Proctor and Gamble, think “Tide” Laundry Detergent) spend millions of dollars on focus groups and surveys to learn what customers want or need and then develop products accordingly. With considerably less resources and without an MBA, you can use Impulse, in concert with Gilbarco's Passport® Point-of-Sale system, to create and tabulate surveys that can give you valuable insights into your own customer base.
Gilbarco’s Impulse countertop merchandising (in lockstep with the Passport® POS System) system can help you improve the overall customer experience by allowing you to understand your customers better. The portal allows you to create and edit questions using a variety of formats, from multiple choice to cascading surveys wherein one answer stimulates a different question. Similar to the flexibility with promotional offers, each c-store site can host its own customized survey or carry a general survey. Impulse also captures and displays survey analytics in detailed or dashboard format, making the data easier for you to leverage in making your operation more attractive to customers.
Surveys are typically conducted at the end of the transaction on the Impulse display. Keeping the questions/surveys short and providing an incentive (via Impulse in the form of merchandise or a store credit for example) encourages participation and completion. Using Impulse to conduct surveys is easy and efficient and it relieves counter staff from the burden of posing questions or tabulating results. The survey results are displayed in numerical and graphical form on the Gilbarco Veeder-Root Passport® POS System portal to the Impulse unit.
The obvious extension of the data you capture about your customers is to understand what they want, need or prefer in terms of their c-store experience. You can have them “rate” which aspects of your operation are more important to securing their loyalty. For example, you might find that a large minority of your visitors stop by to get last-minute groceries — in which case the quality and freshness dates of that merchandise can be instrumental in driving future visits. Or, you might find that (perhaps due to your location) a large percentage of your customers also use your bathrooms just before buying coffee for a long commute. The obvious takeaway is to ensure your bathrooms are attractive and well maintained.
In short, the more you know about your customer, the better you can shape the appeal of your organization. After all, knowledge truly is power.