General Merchandise/HBC

Tips for Making the Transition to Off-Premise Sales

convenience truck
Illustration: Shutterstock

Online ordering has long been a staple of the restaurant industry, but for many convenience stores, off-premise ordering and delivery remains a fairly novel concept. Even so, industry leaders like 7-Eleven, Wawa and Circle K have already dove headfirst into that realm in an effort to provide customers with the ultimate in convenience. Consultancy King-Casey predicts that in just three short years, more than half of c-store brands will offer ordering and delivery.

C-stores face unique challenges as they venture into the order-and-delivery market. A major one is creating the digital equivalent of the impulse purchase – a cornerstone of the c-store industry – since 79% of those purchases happen in a brick-and-mortar store.

The key to making the transition is effective cross-selling, which can be as simple as adding a “recently purchased items” interface to the ordering platform. A more complex method involves using machine learning to suggest the perfect complement to a customer’s cart, every time. The idea when cross-selling is to suggest the right item at the right time, and to make it easy for the customer to add the item to the cart, virtually replicating a traditional impulse buy.

The easiest means of doing this is through simple tactics, like taking the brand’s most commonly purchased items – think of a Slurpee at 7-Eleven – and highlighting these items, either with a banner on the online ordering platform or by using a pop-up after the customer has placed a different item in their cart.

But it’s with machine learning that things get interesting. Intelligent cross-selling essentially takes the customer data that is captured through a loyalty program and uses it to make the perfect suggestion.  Through analysis on the check-level details of many customers’ purchases, the brand — and the machine working behind the scenes — can begin to understand what items pair well together, and will continually tweak these pairings for optimal success as it collects more and more data over time. For example, customers who buy hot drinks are more likely to purchase bakery items.

The ideal cross-selling algorithm will take into account what item the customer has selected, then use the data it is constantly collecting with every purchase to decide what new item that customer is most likely to buy on impulse. The online ordering platform can then offer that guest the item they may already be craving, and with a single click, the item has been added to their cart and the check size has increased. Plus, Paytronix data shows brands that combine online ordering and loyalty see an 18% increase in order frequency.

The c-stores of the future may look much different than those of just 10 years ago, but their commitment to their namesake convenience will remain paramount. As the industry moves forward, one thing is clear: convenience is online.

This post is sponsored by Paytronix