6 ways independent retailers can punch above their weight

by 29 November 2019

Competition within the world of convenience and fuel retail is becoming increasingly fierce. In days gone by, smaller independent retailers could rely on the strength of their customer relationships, a genuine sense of community and geographical proximity to provide the foundations of their offering, but times have changed.

Independent retailers are going head-to-head with major retailers and all that they represent – from better buying power, deeper discounting and online shopping to their appearance on the same high streets.

Similarly, every consumer with a smart phone in their hand can now order whatever they like, whenever they like, from the comfort of their own home. And should they need to make a shopping mission, they can seek out the convenience store or forecourt that best suits their needs before they’ve even opened the front door.

As such, smaller independent stores need to discover new ways to make their mark and, if you’ll forgive the pun, set out their stall in the minds of modern consumers and a new competitive landscape.

That’s why we’ve picked out 6 ways independent retailers can punch above their weight:

1) Reward loyalty

Consumers are increasingly looking for added incentives, and implementing loyalty schemes is a great way to keep them coming back to your store again and again. In fact, a recent study into loyalty schemes revealed that around 77% of UK adults participate in at least one loyalty scheme already, with 59% believing that every brand should offer some form of reward scheme.

Whether you’re introducing your own scheme or simply participating in national incentives, it’s clear that consumers will be more inclined to return to your site or forecourt when they feel like that loyalty will be rewarded.

2) Don’t miss the digital signage opportunity

As we’ve already discussed in a previous blog, eye-catching visual displays are one of the best ways to grab the attention of your customers, and proper use of digital signage is an easy way to innovate in the way you communicate in-store promotions and offers.

Modern consumers are bombarded by advertisements throughout the day and can become blind to more traditional in-store marketing like shelf-edge displays as a result. The only way to do your special offers, promotions and unique offerings justice is to ensure they are delivered in a way that captures attention. Incorporating digital signage allows dynamic, moving content to be used in promotions and indeed be changed or circulated as often as you choose. This presents brilliant opportunities to capture impulse buys and tag-on sales.

3) Jump on the food-to-go bandwagon

One of the hottest trends within convenience and fuel retail is food-to-go (FTG) with latest evidence suggesting that nearly 12% of convenience store visits are made with FTG in mind. Accordingly, being creative in the types of FTG you offer is critical.

That said, there’s much more to creating a successful offering than simply stacking your shelves with pre-packaged, grab-and-go products. Hot food in particular is proving to be a popular choice for consumers, leading some retailers to add recognised franchises and named brands to their sites. By fully embracing food-to-go, you can make your store or forecourt a genuine hot spot.

4) Offer outdoor payments

Drivers refuelling at your site are living increasingly busy lives and are keen to cut down delays to their journey as much as they can, including the time they spend at the pumps.

By adding outdoor payment terminals to your forecourt, you’re reducing the transaction time for fuel purchases and giving those drivers a reason to stop off at your site on a regular basis. As well as including payment terminals, you can also embrace the latest fuel payment apps where drivers can pay for fuel via their phone from the comfort of their car. As with the loyalty schemes we mentioned earlier, choosing the right fuel payment apps will give people an added incentive to fill up at your forecourt.

5) Embrace environmental initiatives

Sustainability is something that’s top of mind across several industries, and retailers are being encouraged to do their bit to help the environment. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by those consumers who are conscious of their own environmental footprint, so being recognised as a retailer that embraces some of the latest initiatives can undeniably set you apart from the rest.

Shopper demographics reveal that 18-34 year-olds are the most likely to drop in at your store or forecourt. Interestingly, this group is also the most socially responsible and therefore the most likely to respond to initiatives that demonstrate a focus on social, community and environmental causes. Free water refills, customer recycling bins and plastic-free options have all been implemented in stores throughout the UK with some success, so doing what you can to help could have the dual win of doing some good and attracting more customers to your store.

6) Build your online presence

Consumers are regularly starting their shopping endeavours online, whether that be through dedicated ecommerce sites, or simply checking store details before they make a visit.

It’s absolutely vital, therefore, that retail stores and forecourts are aware of their online presence, and do what they can to make themselves as discoverable as possible. It might be that you don’t need to go all-in with a brand new website, but by simply making yourself available on search engines, or creating a social media account, you can open up your business to a wider audience.

If any of the discussion points raised in this article are of interest to you, get in touch with one of the team.

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