During the COVID-19 outbreak, convenience stores and gas stations have not only proven essential, but resilient in ways no one knew.
So many new ideas have cropped up to safely serve customers. Some of those ideas are just temporary measures, but others will likely become permanent.
As some states allow businesses to reopen as soon as Friday, owners and operators will be forced to consider what the new future looks like for all of commerce – including gas stations.
BEACON FOR BUSINESS
Before the shutdown, nearly 40% of fuel customers never stepped inside the store. The odds are good that more people will stay outside at the pump for the foreseeable future.
As much as consumers like to complain about them, 86% of people watch or listen to gas pump screens, according to a study by GSTV. That captive audience is a powerful opportunity to better serve consumers in this new age of socially distanced retail.
Applause Media offers flexible options to communicate with your customers at a distance. Use it to provide important messages or advertise services like delivery, curbside pick-up, drive-thru, or full service, if you offer it.
With the outbreak causing declines in brand loyalty, retailers can use dispensers to promote their apps and loyalty programs to capture new customers.
Retailers may also consider offering certain in-store items and food service for sale at the pump using CRIND merchandising with Passport® Point-of-Sale.
For gas station owners who have those vibrant 10.4” color screens on their fuel dispensers, but never set them up with a strategy – now is the time.
ENSURING SAFE FUELING – NOW AND FOREVER
Just like windshield squeegees and paper towels are staples on most retail forecourts, businesses may choose to make disinfectants like hand sanitizer available as a permanent standard.
Increased cleaning cycles should also become a permanent practice for all retail fuel sites. Guidelines for cleaning dispensers can be found here.
CONTACTLESS IS KING
Contactless was always a growing payment trend but now it’s becoming a necessity – inside and outside the store. With payment methods like Visa Tap-to-Pay or Apple Pay, in-store customers may not have to touch the PIN pad at all.
And when you turn off receipt printing, you eliminate almost all person-to-person contact with the customer.
When consumers know a business is up-to-date on payment options, they feel more comfortable going inside the store in the future.
#FlattenTheCurve Tip: Minimize contact with gas pump payment devices using Tap-to-Pay cards or other forms of contactless payment like Apple Pay https://t.co/wHUATRsoaS#Gilbarco #Convenience #Cstores #RetailFueling #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/EZH6XM0qt0— Gilbarco Veeder-Root (@gilbarcoinc) April 8, 2020
Businesses that have completed their outdoor EMV upgrade likely already have this feature installed on their fuel dispensers.
THE FUTURE IS FOOD SERVICE
Another pre-virus trend that has proven invaluable is food service.
It was already a successful strategy, seeing a 4.4% sales boost in 2019, representing 25.4% of all inside sales, according to NACS.
“Considered essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience stores are often the only and/or closest location for much-needed fuel and food and grocery items, particularly in smaller towns," said Isabelle Gustafson in a recent CStore Decisions article.
Even owners of stores where food service isn’t feasible are finding local partnerships to meet this consumer need.
CONSUMERS CRAVE CONTROL
Whether it’s for food ordering or checkout, self-service kiosks are drawing high-demand.
87% of consumers said they would prefer touchless or enhanced self-checkout options and more than 70% are already using them as a response to the pandemic.
Passport Express Lane™ and Express Ordering integrate seamlessly into the Passport Point-of-Sale ecosystem. More info on implementing these strategies can be found here.
One thing on the C-store landscape that hasn’t changed (and won’t) is retailers’ common mission to serve the community. The value of a local convenience store has never been more apparent.
Thanks to all the people working on the front lines to keep this essential industry, and the world, moving as normally as possible. We know that whatever the future brings, you will be right there helping to fuel what’s next.