NORTH CANTON, Ohio—With Americans driving less and the demand for fuel remaining low, how will convenience and fuel retailers keep consumers engaged? Michael Schulte, vice president of product management and retail software for Diebold Nixdorf, offers four ways in Chain Store Age
’s latest report.
- Look Beyond Fuel. “It’s time to move from ‘fuel plus…’ to ‘…plus fuel,’” he wrote. “This shift in perspective reflects evolving market forces related to customer journeys.” Fuel retailers seeing much success expanded with electric chargers, curbside pickup, delivery, and pharmacy hubs. They’ve made their stores about all of these things plus the addition of fuel, not the other way around.
- Streamline the Shopping Experience. “A new era for retail is dawning, and the role of physical stores is changing as consumers’ preferences shift increasingly toward digital shopping journeys,” Schulte wrote. “Today’s consumers expect a seamless shopping experience that can begin at home or on-the-go, and then continue at the fuel station. In order to deliver these experiences, retailers must have the capability to integrate online and offline consumer journeys.”
- Remove Friction Points. “Visiting a convenience store can be much more than just a pit stop, especially during a pandemic. Now more than ever, consumers are looking for quick and safe shopping options,” he said. With convenience stores less crowded and designed for quick in-and-out visits, retailers need to invest in technology that simplifies the shopping journey to differentiate themselves from the pack.
- Invest in Flexible IT Infrastructure. “The key to thriving in the modern retail era is flexibility: flexibility in inventories, flexibility in store locations and layouts, flexibility in opening hours and flexibility in the level of self-service available to accommodate a variety of consumer preferences,” Schulte wrote. IT solutions should be adaptable, flexible, have integration capabilities, be easy to scale up or down, support all in-store and outside service, and be cost efficient.
“The fuel and convenience store segments of the retail industry weathered a number of challenges in 2020, and 2021 represents a critical moment for these businesses,” he said. “To thrive going forward, fuel and convenience retailers must embrace flexibility and agility, as well as implement customer engagement strategies that allow them to respond quickly to evolving shifts in consumer demand.”