Technology/Services

Why C-Stores Need an App

Tech experts give tips on where to start with a digital application
John Nelson, Jeffry Harrison and Chase Thomason speak at NACS
Photograph by CSP Staff

CHICAGO — Having an app isn’t just a nice perk for convenience stores to offer—it’s mission critical.

John Nelson, CEO of Chicago-based Vroom Delivery Inc., an e-commerce solution designed specifically for the c-store industry, said a digital application is a long-term business investment.

Nelson spoke Wednesday at the 2021 NACS Show in Chicago with Jeffry Harrison, co-founder and president of St. Louis-based computer software company Rovertown, and Chase Thomason, CEO of mobile checkout firm GoSkip Inc., Salt Lake City, to advise c-stores on why they need an app and how to get started.

An average U.S. consumer in 2020 spent more time using apps than watching TV, according to data from Social Media Today, Harrison said. And c-store apps are the fourth most frequented e-commerce apps by consumers, according to Clutch Co.

“You have to start now because each day that goes by, you’re going to lose that engagement opportunity with you customers,” Harrison said.

Key reasons why a c-store could benefit from an integrated e-commerce app include standing out in a highly competitive market, community engagement, brand recognition, being able to give customer’s the beset value and being able to develop consumer loyalty programs, Harrison said.

Historically, there’s been a narrative that c-stores are competing with each other. But that’s not necessarily the case anymore, Thomason said. Companies like Gopuff, DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon are c-store’s top competitors, he said.

“They want tot take any transaction in-store and on-site and have it become their transaction,” Thomason said, so c-stores need an e-commerce digital strategy to stay relevant.

So where can c-stores that want to add an app get started?

First, determine what drives visits and what could drive more at the c-store store, Harrison said. Then determine who is being reached now, and who the c-store is trying to reach. C-stores must also determine how the store will provide messaging for its app and justify its return on investment (ROI).

Once a company has decided it is ready for an app, it must decide which app development strategy it will use, Harrison said. It can be a white label app, a custom app or an app platform.

Finally, consumers need to have good value on their apps, whether it be through promotions or loyalty programs.

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