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Building Your Brand With Social Media

April 3, 2018

By: Melissa Molnar, Digital Marketing Specialist

Do you use social media for your business? Have you ever considered using social media for your business? Why is social media worth it? Summed up, social media is the easiest way to connect with your customers, build awareness of your company, turn a prospective customer into a purchasing customer, and it’s free! Your customers are already on social media interacting with businesses, your company should be in that conversation too!

The main social media channels for businesses are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram LinkedIn and Yelp. However, when getting started it is best focus your efforts on just a few of those channels. If you are wanting to invest time in just one channel, Facebook is where you should be. Facebook has the most evenly distributed demographics, which means that your content will reach the most people. A Facebook business page is easy to set up, however you must have a personal Facebook profile to create a Facebook page.

After Facebook, Instagram is the channel that will create a great return on investment for your time. Instagram is used mostly by people ages 18-29*, so if you are located by a college campus or school, your customers are using Instagram even more than Facebook. It’s important to note that Instagram is best optimized for a mobile phone. You won’t be able to get the full range of features on a computer. Using hashtags on Instagram is key. Hashtags allow for people to find your content and follow you. For example, on a Harbor Instagram post we always include #HarborWholesaleFoods. We also will include hashtags relevant to the post like #Snacks #CStore #NewProducts so people outside of our organization can find the content too.

Yelp is another great channel to use- and chances are your business is already here. People can leave reviews for businesses on Yelp whether they have claimed their page or not. Therefore, it’s important to claim your page so you can respond to reviews, both positive and negative. Claiming your Yelp page is easy, you can start the process by visiting https://biz.yelp.com. After claiming your page, you can also add in store hours, location and photo.! If you have a foodservice or coffee program you can also add that information so when people are looking for lunch or breakfast your store pops up and they know to stop there.

Having an online presence is important and is a great way to make potential customers aware of your programs and services without having to invest a lot of money. So what content should you share? Here’s a great list for starting out:

Daily Foodservice item

Any deals or coupons

Coffee information

New items in your store

Customer appreciation

Employee spotlight

Items in your cold case & hot case

Bestselling items

Host a contest to gain followers

Ask customers to share photos of what they purchase from you

Local events you may be participating in

History about your store

It may take some time to figure out what posts really work well for your customer base, but spending time to create social media will help to create a loyal following for your store!

If you would like to learn more, talk to your Harbor Sales Rep and they will be able to provide the full Tradeshow Seminar presentation for you.

*Stats from wishpond.com

Small Steps Can Build Loyalty

February 5, 2018

As loyalty programs evolve, they’re working to reach customers in a more personalized, consumer-centric way.

A successful loyalty program comes in many forms. It can be a physical card, a mobile app or a credit card associated with a program. It can involve points, free items and special deals. But, what it absolutely needs is customer appeal.

“To be successful and meet the changing needs of the guest, loyalty programs have to be adaptable,” said Tyler Tanaka, director of digital and innovation at Pilot Flying J. “If something was working before but isn’t working now, it is important to walk away and try something new.”

Loyalty programs have long been a source of enticing and keeping customers. And while they began with just the basics of earning a set goal based on spending, they have expanded to include segmentation, customization and choice.

“Loyalty programs have their beginnings in the airline, hotel and banking industries,” said Bill Hanifin, practice leader, customer engagement and loyalty, at Impact21. “Early adopters in these industries had success with these ‘spend and get’ models. But to connect with today’s highly-informed and digitally-connected customer, loyalty programs need to be transparent, accessible and experiential.”

This means that as customers become more engaged, they desire greater flexibility and ease of achieving and redeeming rewards as well as the ability to easily understand the rewards and program terms.

“Thanks to ever-increasing consumer demands, loyalty programs have evolved to become more personal and more immediate than ever before,”said Sheila Murray, COLLOQUY editor-in-chief and assistant vice president of marketing, global solutions, LoyaltyOne.

“The influx of customer data and many sophisticated ways of analyzing it have allowed retailers to begin shifting from generic, one-size-fits-all rewards, sales and offers to the ability to provide customers with personalized discounts based on factors like their most commonly bought products. All of the data at retailers’ fingertips has also led to more timely communications and offers based on customer shopping patterns or important milestones like birthdays or anniversaries.”

It’s that customer-centric approach that breeds success, according to Tanaka.

“It is important to personalize offerings in order to better accommodate and reach our broad base of guests,” Tanaka said. “We are working to be more targeted with our offerings in order to deliver the one-to-one personalization that we are striving to offer our guests. For example, over the road drivers, regional drivers and RV customers all have very different needs, which change along their journey. Our myRewards offers and incentives need to reflect those differences and offer value to each of those guest types.”

GETTING STARTED
In the two years that Macfood Mart, which operates four stores in Indiana, has offered a rewards program, it has learned that customers enjoy having options.

“We have seen great success with our clubs—particularly any club that involves caffeinated beverages,” said Melinda McDonald, media coordinator at Macfood Mart.

“People really like the versatility of our program. For every gallon you pump or for every dollar you spend in-store, you earn two points that you can spend just like cash. We don’t pick the prizes, the customers do.”

For Quicklee’s, a 15-store chain in upper New York, the desire to gauge where and when their customers shop led to a three-year brand development effort launched in 2017.

“We felt we were missing something that successful retailers were offering—a customer rewards program designed to build customer loyalty and retain a larger share of the market,” said Ken Perelli, Quicklee’s vice president.

The goal was to make a stop at Quicklee’s more rewarding by allowing customers to earn points on any purchase except lottery tickets. The points are available for use for pump or in-store purchases and also feature random bonus points for swiping the rewards card, birthday deals and monthly drawings for gift certificates.

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Marketing at the Pump

November 20, 2017

By utilizing a savvy forecourt strategy, which includes messaging on dispensers, c-stores can push up in-store sales.

By Howard Riell, Associate Editor

Media at the pump—from digital gas-pump television advertising to pump-nozzle promotions—enable c-stores to gain in-store lift, differentiate their brands, build customer loyalty and even take food orders.

Advances in technology continue to draw customers into stores. For example, Gilbarco’s Applause TV promotes retailer-specific products and services with large color screens in the gas pump. It’s a turnkey digital marketing solution designed to entertain and engage customers while driving them into the store.

Customers can also select from a condensed food-ordering menu and pick up their items inside. The company cites research showing that the medium drove customers into c-stores and generated additional purchases with up to a 39% increase on promoted items.

RELEVANT DATA
“Getting the gas customer, both four-wheel guests and professional drivers, from the pump into the store presents a huge opportunity for retailers,” said Mike Rodgers, senior vice president, chief strategy and information officer for Pilot Flying J Travel Centers in Knoxville, Tenn. “The four-wheel guest is less likely to enter the store than professional drivers.”

Operating stores and travel centers nationwide, Pilot Flying J uses interactive technology built into the pumps that can interface with the personal devices of its guests. This presents what executives view as a tremendous opportunity to drive traffic into the store.

“That said,” Rodgers added, “the marketing needs to be relevant and timely to the individual guests. At Pilot Flying J, we see significant innovation opportunities in this area.” This new technology offers the opportunity to deliver directly to the consumer, both on the gas and diesel sides of the business, through its app.

Tyler Tanaka, Pilot Flying J’s director of digital innovation, lauded Convenience Store Decisions’ 2017 Chain of the Year award recipient, Sheetz, for doing a nice job with its forecourts. “Good creative, and (it is) changed by daypart and season.” The biggest mistake that Pilot Flying J’s management sees convenience stores making with forecourt marketing is that marketing initiatives are not dynamic enough to really grab the attention of the consumer, he said

“In the near-future,” Rodgers said, “we believe personalization via interface with the consumer through app and beacon technology will have a large influence on forecourt marketing.” In addition, he sees auto start pumps activated by the car itself playing a role. “Connected vehicles with apps built into the dash from the factory, personalizing the messages at the pump with relevant ads and content will help.”

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How Mobile Can Set Your Franchise Apart

October 23, 2017

Research shows that 65 percent of customers would choose one brand over another based on the appeal of a mobile app alone.

The competition among franchise brands is getting fierce. Many of the top-performing retail and fast food service brands are franchises, such as 7-11, UPS, and Krispy Kreme. As more enter the market, breaking through the noise and setting your franchise apart is critical. Franchise brands (or franchisors) sometimes make the mistake of viewing mobile as a tool that’s only for online businesses, and even as a tool that is their adversary. However, harnessing mobile to increase sales and enhance your in-store customer experience can be a defining decision for brick-and-mortar franchises.

Research shows that 65 percent of customers would choose one brand over another based on the appeal of a mobile app alone, and for customers and businesses alike, saving time and money is appealing. Although many franchise brands might have an app, it’s not about the mere availability of it, but the user experience and the benefit it can provide to customers. Here’s how franchises can use mobile to set their brand apart and the bottom-line benefits that come with doing so.

Empower your customers to order via mobile

Customers have seen how easy it is to place an order and pick it up without wasting time in line. They don’t want to go back. Brands that have been around for a long time like Dunkin’ Donuts or Domino’s see this growing trend and are already allowing customers to order ahead on an app rather than stand in line. And now, new franchise brands are popping up that incorporate mobile almost immediately. Soon after Blaze Pizza was founded in 2011, they launched an app that allowed for customers to order ahead, track reward points and get special deals. Blaze Pizza now has 173 franchise locations in 32 US states and Canada. By 2020, mobile ordering will account for 10.7 percent of all quick-service sales, which translates into a $38 billion business.

Recently, I spoke to Blaze Pizza CEO & president Jim Mizes about what mobile means for their business.

“Once our customers use our app they discover the benefits of loyalty and easy mobile payment. For example, we use mobile offers to surprise and delight our app users.” Mizes says. “We’ve made mobile a focus because we continue to see strong correlation between higher app usage and higher same store sales.”

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C-Store Industry Provides Job Experience

October 20, 2017

C-store jobs help workers create a foundation for their careers.

Nearly one in five Americans (19%) say they have worked in a convenience store and the vast majority of them found their experience to be valuable as a career opportunity, or in gaining workplace experience, according to a new national survey of consumers conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

The survey found that 84% of those who worked in a convenience store agree the job experience helped them develop a foundation for their careers. In fact, more than three in four (77%) say that they would recommend working in a convenience store to others, particularly as a first job. Here are some factors that contributed to their positive impressions:

89% learned a lot about how to work with different people

80% learned how businesses are run and what the challenges are

70% appreciated that their employer offered a flexible work schedule

69% found that the job offered pay consistent with their experience

Respondents said that flexible work hours helped them pursue additional education. Most (53%) said they worked at convenience store while in high school (24%) or pursued higher education like college (29%).

Among the survey respondents who said they had never worked at a convenience store, their perception of the industry also is positive, especially when tied to first jobs and gaining work experience. Nearly nine in 10 (88%) say convenience stores offer great first jobs and nearly as many (86%) say that convenience stores offer great summer jobs. They also cite the business opportunities the job can provide:

74% say convenience stores provide a positive workplace environment for workers who do not pursue a formal education

73% say it’s common for convenience store workers who are invested in the growth of the company to become managers or eventually own their own stores

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Americans Say Convenience Stores Offer Valuable Job Opportunities

October 9, 2017

Eighty-four percent of those who worked in a c-store think that the experience gave them a good foundation for their careers.

Nearly one in five Americans (19%) say they have worked in a convenience store, and the vast majority of them found their experience to be valuable as a career opportunity, or in gaining workplace experience, according to a new national survey of consumers conducted by NACS.

The survey found that 84% of those who worked in a convenience store agree the job experience helped them develop a foundation for their careers. In fact, more than three in four (77%) say that they would recommend working in a convenience store to others, particularly as a first job. Here are some factors that contributed to their positive impressions:

  • 89% learned a lot about how to work with different people
  • 80% learned how businesses are run and what the challenges are
  • 70% appreciated that their employer offered a flexible work schedule
  • 69% found that the job offered pay consistent with their experience

Respondents said that flexible work hours helped them pursue additional education. Most (53%) said they worked at a convenience store while in high school (24%) or pursued higher education like college (29%).

Among the survey respondents who said they had never worked at a convenience store, their perception of the industry also is positive, especially when tied to first jobs and gaining work experience. Nearly nine in 10 (88%) say convenience stores offer great first jobs, and nearly as many (86%) say that convenience stores offer great summer jobs.

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Increasing Impulse Sales

October 4, 2017

Take a look at your counter. What products do you have placed there? Are they items that would be considered ‘impulse purchases’? Stocking impulse items near high-traffic areas is a great way to increase sales. Consider what customers see first when entering your store, or when they may be headed to the checkout. All of these store locations are great places to strategically place impulse items.

Also think about customers that may be more prone to impulse sales. Do you have parents stopping in with their children? Do most people stop in for lunch when they may want something sweet? Some great examples of impulse items include ice cream, soda, candy, and even medicine. Placing candy and bottled soda in highly visible areas is a great way to catch the customer with a sweet-tooth. Placing medicine in high traffic areas caters to the customers who may not want to be caught without benadryl or ibuprofen. Impulse products customers may have a craving for, or forget they even needed, can easily be turned into sales.

Want to learn more?

5 Ways To Drive Impulse Sales Of Candy And Snacks

The Crave For Confections

Packaged Beverage Sales Flow

6 Tips For Boosting Snack Sales

Recruiting and Retaining Quality Applicants

October 2, 2017

Savvy retailers know how to find, attract, onboard and retain high quality employees. However, with some due diligence and persistence, you can do the same.

Convenience stores have long struggled with high turnover, but a few simple tips can help you hire well and improve your retention numbers.

First, c-stores should always be taking applications, even when they have a full staff.

Secondly, even if fully staffed, they should not only take applications, but each week every manager should interview at least two of these applicants. If you have options at your fingertips, you’ll be able to hire smarter and faster when you lose an employee.

With unemployment at record lows, making your jobs easy to apply for has never been more important. When job seekers have their choice of employers, most will take the path of least resistance. If you don’t have all of the “doors” that could gain entrance to your hiring system open, you’re sure to lose applicants to the competition. Here are some questions you should be asking:

• If you have a real door they can walk through, what hours is the door open and what will happen when a job seeker enters?
• Can they walk through your website’s door? How easy is it to find that door? Is the online application process simple and quick or complicated and lengthy?
• Can they walk through the social media doors?
• Can they open a door with a text message?
• Can they enter through your phone system?

Whichever door they choose, you’ll want to have a procedure in place to ensure whatever happens next in your hiring process makes applicants feel appreciated and gets each person fully engaged in your hiring process.

NEED MORE APPLICANTS?
When it comes to bringing in applicants, employee referrals are a key consideration. Consider giving an incentive to employees if they bring in a successful hire.

When applicants come in for the interview, in addition to past employer referrals, ask all job applicants for the phone numbers of three people they have worked with who can provide references on the candidate’s work ethic. This not only gives you good reference information but, more importantly, an opportunity to connect with three more employed people you can ask about your candidate as well as whether they may be interested in exploring employment with your organization.

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U.S. Consumers Embrace Freedom to Choose Cash

September 29, 2017

A new Cardtronics survey finds that 91% of consumers used cash in the last six months.

Cash still has an important place in Americans’ wallets and hearts, according to the Cardtronics Health of Cash survey. While people are adding digital options to their payments toolkit, there is compelling evidence that cash has formed a durable and enduring bond with American consumers, who embrace choice rather than cashless in the way they pay.

Cardtronics partnered with Edelman Intelligence to conduct the Health of Cash Study, which found in a wide range of payment scenarios that consumers continue to value choice in their payment and spending options, and continue to use cash as part of their broader payment mix.

The Health of Cash survey tracks consumer payment behaviors both in terms of which payment methods people have used in the past six months, as well as which is their most preferred. In both cases, the data is clear that cash usage is deeply woven into the fabric of Americans’ payment behavior. Regarding the percent of the population using each payment type for either purchases or person-to-person (P2P) payments in the last six months:

  • 91% used cash
  • 72% used debit card
  • 68% used credit card
  • 51% used digital (e.g. mobile wallet, P2P apps, retailer apps)

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Store Employees Valuable to Shopping Experience

September 20, 2017

ChargeItSpot study shows store associates matter to customers.

Automation may be threatening to change the face of the shopping experience, but consumers still value interactions with store associates.

ChargeItSpot, a provider of cell phone charging stations for major retailers, has revealed the results of its “Store Associate Report” study, which asked consumers their thoughts and feelings on the value of store associates at retail locations. ChargeItSpot collected responses from over 600 shoppers at malls across the country, using its integrated survey capability, QuickPoll.

The study revealed that more than 60% of shoppers say store employee presence is extremely important to their retail experience. Some 63% of all shoppers see store associates as extremely important, with an additional 28% saying that store associates are somewhat important. Only a combined 9% deemed associates as unimportant to their shopping experience. Interestingly, supposedly tech-savvy Millennials placed the highest value on store associates, while baby boomers were the most comfortable with doing away with that human interaction.

“Retailers strive to deliver rewarding experiences to shoppers every time they enter a store,” said Douglas Baldasare, CEO and founder of ChargeItSpot. “Store associates represent the brand and are there to help shoppers with their needs. Our survey found that even young shoppers see the added value of having a human interaction when they enter a store.”

Check out the chart below for a full breakdown – by age – indicating shoppers’ sentiments on the overall importance of store employee presence during their shopping experience.

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