Large retail brands outside the c-store industry are placing an increasing emphasis on selling an experience first and a commoditized product second as a strategy to create brand loyalty and drive repeat customers. This concept, known as the “Experience Economy” was coined by Joseph Pine, a renowned marketing author, speaker and consultant, and was recently discussed on NPR’s Ted Hour, “What Consumers Want.”
During the show, Pine talks about how brands such as Starbucks invest a lot in creating a specific experience for their consumers, in essence, making the experience of going to a Starbucks both memorable and authentic. How do they create such an experience? They create the Starbucks experience by the store layout to the earthy green and brown store colors to how the baristas talk about the coffee beans. One of Pine’s main points is that it is the more the experience that brings customers back, not always the coffee.Visiting a c-store should be looked at similarly. Although there are many different brand strategies that both large and small c-store retailers use to create their c-store experience, the most impactful is how a fueling consumer experiences the forecourt. Approximately 2/3s of fueling consumers never enter the store, which means the 2-3 minutes of fueling is the best opportunity to create that memorable experience with the goal of bringing consumers back for specifically that experience.
One way c-store retailers are creating that “experience” is to engage consumers at the pump through the screen, often referred to as “media.” Media at the pump (content playing on the screen) is not just advertising, but a combination of advertising and entertaining content, and when a consumer is standing idle during the fueling transaction, providing relevant news and entertainment creates an engaging experience.
Just like Starbucks brand creates a unique store experience or using Apple products is often associated with creativity, a c-store with media creates a differentiated fueling experience and a pump with media is associated with technology. As “media” at the pump becomes more popular (see Gilbarco’s Applause TV solution), more and more consumers will be looking for a gas station that offers an experience first and a commodity second.