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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.

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“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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