When it comes to the retail industry, we can all agree on the importance of ensuring customers are able to get what they want, when they want it – a goal that is critical in this day in age. Looking at the name, it’s clear that convenience retail stores have always strived for this exact goal. While most shoppers don’t give much thought to convenience stores until they need to go to one, the convenience store’s prime purpose (in addition to offering fuel services) is to be a quick, one-stop shop for essential goods like drinks, hot and cold food or other household items like aspirin or toothpaste.
And believe it or not, convenience stores are currently experiencing a significant amount of growth and innovation.
Signs of a Growing Industry
While some believe that the brick and mortar retail store is in trouble, the numbers tell a different story in regard to convenience stores. In fact, last year we saw a 2% increase of U.S. convenience stores and the total number of stores reached a record 154,535, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. Also, U.S. these stores experienced an all-time high sales figure of $233 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, in the U.K., convenience stores are even outperforming larger supermarkets. Kantar Worldpanel reported in May 2017 that in-store concessions sales surged 7.1% year over year while overall grocery store sales only grew 3.8%.
With convenience retailing roughly doubling in size over the last three decades, it’s clear that these stores aren’t going anywhere. This is good news for the industry and those of us who need to make that quick stop on a road trip or around the block for an immediate demand and fulfillment.
Increasing Convenience with Technology
With this growth, convenience stores are investing in technology to further their success. For example, Esso in the U.K. recently launched a new mobile payment app that also acts as a reward incentive program. Meanwhile, 7-Eleven has introduced an Amazon Cash option to nearly 8,000 of its U.S. stores. This program allows un-banked and under-banked customers to more easily shop at 7-Eleven, thus increasing the store’s sales and customer satisfaction.
In addition to these in-store innovations, eCommerce has begun creeping into the convenience store world. Last year, Amazon launched Amazon Go – a cashier-free and check-out free store. The concept allows shoppers to simply walk in, pick up what they need and leave the store – truly offering a frictionless purchase experience for the customer.
Another way convenience stores are improving the in-store experience is through the use of digital signage. These displays can be used to capture the attention of shoppers who may be in the store for a drink but then realize they want a breakfast sandwich once they see an eye-grabbing sign. ESLs in particular can have a transformative impact on convenience stores:
Cutting Labor Costs – Convenience stores typically have small staff numbers that are charged with various responsibilities. When associates are forced to manually change prices every day, productivity decreases and customers don’t get the help they need. With ESLs, prices can be updated instantly, allowing staff to take care of customers, while saving the store money.
Dynamic Pricing – Many factors can affect store traffic and the amount that customers are willing to pay for products. With ESLs, convenience stores can utilize dynamic pricing to adjust pricing based on the weather, expiration dates, local affluence and more. This assures that products are moved from shelves while optimizing store profits.
Product Information – Today’s customer wants to know more about the products they purchase. With ESLs, stores can clearly display product information in an attention-grabbing manner. This flexibility also helps stores meet the labeling laws on products, including tobacco.
In an otherwise tumultuous retail industry, convenience stores have been able to boast ongoing growth and success. In order to stay ahead, it’s essential that they continuously strive to meet shoppers’ demands for increased convenience. The adoption of ESLs and other technology can significantly increase convenience stores’ abilities to take advantage of industry growth and provide an enhanced in-store shopping experience. By embracing these solutions, convenience stores will become even more innovative, successful and convenient for customers.