HOUSTON -- Consumers are still obsessed with convenience, and that’s good news for gas-station and convenience-store owners across the nation. According to data from NACS, U.S. convenience stores experienced record in-store sales of $233.0 billion in 2016. Of course, there is always room for improvement in this competitive industry, and electronic signage can offer stores an edge.
It’s no surprise that many proprietors invest in digital sign technology hoping to increase their revenue, but an outdoor message board is only as effective as the strategies that drive it. Here are seven quick ideas for how to use signs to increase sales in-store …
1. Practice timely advertising every day
Keeping advertising fresh and relevant is key in attracting attention. You can run the same set of specials for several weeks in a row to track performance, but ads should still be rotated based on time of day. The beauty of electronic signs is that they can be updated remotely, either from inside the store or even over the web, at multiple store locations. This means retailers can change their signage to offer a coffee and doughnut combo for morning commuters, then pizza and soft drinks at lunchtime without affecting your advertising budget.
2. Attract repeat business with special deals
According to a survey reported by the Small Business Development Centers, 43% of women and 35% of men say they are more likely to shop or increase spending at a convenience store that offers coupons, and about one out of four consumers is interested in loyalty programs. Use an outdoor message board to encourage shoppers to sign up for coupons and reward programs—and be sure to have cashiers follow up to help consumers through the signup process. These simple steps can boost repeat store sales over time.
3. Incentivize purchases with freebies
Chances are, coffee is brewed at your store every day whether people buy it or not. This means you have nothing to lose by offering it as a giveaway. In fact, advertising free coffee to drivers who purchase a full tank of gas not only boosts sales at the pump, but also drives more traffic inside where impulse buys occur. Offering a low-cost item such as a bag of chips for free with the purchase of a high margin product such as a 12-pack of soda is another smart tactic.
4. Become known as a dining destination
A report from researcher MarketForce suggests that consumers are turning to c-stores to meet more of their daily dining needs. “With everything from freshly made salads to built-to-order hoagies, convenience stores and gas stations have upped their foodservice offerings and are stealing market share from quick-service restaurants,” a recent report says. Tempt hungry customers with electronic signage that describes the newest food offerings using words such as “fresh” and “healthy” that appeal to today’s consumers.
5. Prep customers for payday
Is Thursday a slow day for your store because your customers are waiting on a weekly paycheck? That just means there’s time to build up some anticipation. Right before Friday rolls around, target this audience to let them know your store is the most convenient destination for items such as a six-pack, tasty snacks or a lottery ticket that will help them wind down for the weekend.
6. Look to competitors for inspiration
You’re probably already aware of competitor pricing, but why not check out the online reviews for other local stores to find ways to differentiate yourself as well? There’s a reason GasBuddy offers ratings on everything from the cleanest bathrooms to the best coffee in gas stations across the nation.If your store excels in these areas, use electronic signage to invite customers inside to experience how an establishment should be run. It never hurts to remind people that convenience should be enjoyable.
7. Use your signage to socialize
Your store is an important part of your community, and thoughtful signage can help strengthen connections with customers. From time to time, use electronic message boards to wish the high school sports team well on game day, show support for local charities or provide an uplifting message for commuters. Putting a human face on your business is a great way to give people one more reason to stop by and shop.
As with any marketing strategy, finding the optimal way to use electronic signs takes practice. Try different techniques, track results for in-store revenue and adjust accordingly.
Wolfgang Manz is the president and CEO of PWM Electronic Price Signs, Houston, where he has been driving innovation and growth since 2013. He serves on the board of directors of the Texas Food and Fuel Association and writes regularly on the topics of technology best practices and trends in the convenience-store sector.