‘Where Is the Closest Convenience Store?'

By Chrissy Blasinsky   read

Web searches reveal a lot about how customers are finding your stores.  

December 03, 2021

map-location-icon_lg.jpgSearching the web, or surfing if you grew up with AOL, is something most people do multiple times a day: “… it's estimated Google processes approximately 63,000 search queries every second, translating to 5.6 billion searches per day and approximately 2 trillion global searches per year. The average person conducts between three and four searches each day.” (Hubspot)

That said, here’s a fun story of how web users are currently finding NACS via search:

Amid search queries on gas prices, whether the president controls gas prices or the NACS Show, we noticed that a February 2014 NACS Daily story about a $5 lunch combo from Little Caesars spiked 1,260 pageviews, beginning in September. It’s a headscratcher since the story isn’t all that relevant to c-stores or current news from the pizza chain.

Sometimes there isn’t much rhyme or reason why older content is suddenly resurrected from the bowels of our site, but there is a lesson: If consumers can initiate a web search and find benign and old content on your website, how well can they find the content you want them to see?

On stage at the NACS Show, NACS President and CEO Henry Armour shared a video by Lori Stillman, our vice president of research, who toured some convenience stores in her area to find out how well convenience stores were “found” via voice searching. The results suggest how c-stores were not found, even as she stood next to an ATM and voice searched where to find the closest ATM, or stood inside a store with a substantial coffee program asking, “Where can I get a cup of coffee?”

The crux of the experiment was to strawman a new initiative to help customers find your stores among a sea of billions of daily web searches. Think of it as winning trips and building bigger baskets 2.0, because there are customers searching for your stores and their offers as you read this sentence.  

During a NACS Show education session, “Winning Search Along the Digital Path to Purchase,” Stillman talked more about why convenience retailers need to stake their claim in digital search results. “Does our shopper know we are more than gas?” she asked. “That we just put these great bean-to-cup coffee machines in? That we have an ATM?”

I think it’s a safe assumption that the path to purchase is significantly more digital today than just a few years ago and is rapidly evolving. That’s why it’s going to be a focus for NACS to help retailers define their offer in the digital space and make sure the next person who searches “Where can I get a pint of ice cream and wine” finds your store.

At the NACS Show Armour also commented that convenience is evolving to be an outcome or a state of mind, not just a physical location. Think about that. The outcome from a person searching for something they need—likely as they’re on the road in a moving vehicle—is finding a convenience store. They just bypassed your website and Facebook page, btw.

We know that customers want what they want, and they want it now. Unfortunately for some of them, NACS at 1600 Duke Street in Alexandria, Virginia, cannot help them take advantage of a Little Caesars lunch combo. If the “Pizza Pizza” chain were running that $5 lunch combo today, it might not want to see a 2014 NACS Daily story ranking as well as it is.  

Test it out. Stand in front of your store and search for the nearest gas station, where to get a cup of coffee, or something core to your brand. See what comes up. The power of searching and the results may surprise—or alarm—you.

While we hope the results encourage you, we’d like to continue the conversation. Share what you learned with Lori (lstillman@convenience.org) on how well you found your store. You can also fill out this form to get involved: convenience.org/winningsearch.

I could go into search engine optimization and algorithms, social channels and digital marketing strategies but let’s save that for another day. Those are all key factors to the big digital picture. Given that 63,000 search queries are performed each second and it took me about an hour or so to draft this blog and you 2-3 minutes to read it, let’s make sure the people who are looking for you—whether they know it or not—can find you.

Chrissy Blasinsky is the content communications strategist at NACS and tries really hard not to search for crossword answers that stump her.