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LS Retail | 11 August 2023

How to drive more traffic and boost sales in your gas station

How to drive more traffic and boost sales in your gas station

Gas station managers are all too familiar with the challenge of attracting customers to their establishments. With fuel prices leaving little room for differentiation, the gas station store and food service become the key areas to focus on in order to stand out from the competition. But how can you drive business to these services without resorting to price cuts or compromising your margins?

To find the answer, we turned to forecourt managers and experts who shared their 9 top tips.

1. Differentiate your product offering

When your gas station carries the same products and brands as your competitors, it becomes difficult to attract shoppers to your chain. To set yourself apart, it's important to find a unique product niche that other stores in the area do not carry. Consider offering uncommon snacks, premium car items, or a wide selection of magazines to attract locals and passing drivers. If you want to draw in tourists and visitors, focus on premium items that have a connection with what the area offers. For example, if there are popular fishing rivers nearby, stock up on baits or flies. If there are wooded areas where people go bird-watching, add binoculars, guidebooks, and seeds to your inventory. Alternatively, if your gas station is located on the road to a stadium, make sure to stock up on the local team's jerseys and merchandise for fans stopping by on their way to the game.

2. Give the right first impression

Cleanliness is of utmost importance to customers. The condition of your gas pumps on the forecourt is the first impression customers have of your establishment. Dirty or damaged pumps may lead customers to question the cleanliness of your restrooms and kitchen. To make a positive impression, ensure your fuel pumps are in excellent condition by regularly cleaning the nozzles, buttons, and display. Additionally, it is essential to keep your restrooms spotless. Regularly check their status throughout the day and promptly address any spills, used paper towels, or graffiti. A clean and well-maintained restroom is crucial, as no customer wants to recall an unsanitary public bathroom scene like the one in Trainspotting when entering your establishment.

3. Think about the products’ placement

Many gas stations often overlook the importance of product placement in their convenience stores. It's not uncommon to find motor oil sitting next to the candy bar section or cleaning products sharing a shelf with kids' toys. Unfortunately, this lack of attention to detail can deter customers from exploring and browsing the store. However, by simply rearranging and organizing products, you can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your retail space. Encourage impulse purchases by strategically positioning complementary items together in your minimart. For instance, place chips and salty snacks next to the beer and soda section, and position charcoal near the lighter fluid and grilling spices. By creating a functional layout, you make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for, and perhaps even entice them to add a few unplanned items to their purchases.

4. Spice up your food service

Don't let the gas station stereotype limit your food service offerings to mundane options like hot dogs and lackluster salads. Expand your menu with delicious and unique dishes that will keep local customers coming back for more. You don't need to hire a world-renowned chef, but investing in a skilled local cook who can bring bold flavors to your table will definitely pay off. Stand out from the competition by offering dishes that other local diners don't have, whether it's a mouthwatering signature apple pie, a selection of irresistible pretzels, or a homemade sauce that transforms your burgers into unforgettable culinary experiences.

5. Offer special deals 

Offering special deals can be a powerful strategy to attract customers and boost sales. To maximize profitability, consider discounting items that are frequently purchased alongside high-profit products. For example, you could have a promotion on small bags of chips, and strategically place cans of soda nearby to encourage additional purchases. The frequency of these offers is also important. Research suggests that pop-up deals, which surprise customers with unexpected discounts, tend to be more effective than regularly scheduled discounts, such as every Monday.

6. Do something nice that customers will want to reciprocate

According to psychology studies, receiving something for free creates a sense of specialness and often inspires individuals to reciprocate the gesture. It doesn't have to be something extravagant; even a small complimentary chocolate with a cup of coffee can have a significant impact.

In my hometown, there is a gas station that always offers a free windshield wipe while customers are refilling their tanks. Despite not being the cheapest or most conveniently located option, I always make a point to stop there for gas when I'm in the area. Similarly, in Seattle, USA, a local gas station gained popularity by entertaining passers-by with clever and humorous messages on its roadside readerboard. By brightening people's day, the owner not only received free publicity but also cultivated a loyal customer base.

7. Offer a loyalty program

 “Convenience store shoppers are familiar with loyalty programs from grocery and drug stores but fewer shoppers participate in c-store loyalty programs. There is definitely an opportunity to expand,” says Chris Quam, consumer insights manager at General Mills. When you plan your loyalty program, make it worthwhile for participants: plan well your rewards, how people can attain them, and include surprises (for example, every now and then you may reward loyalty card owners with a free snack, or 10% off gas) and personalized offers. To make the program more attractive, reward customers for shopping with you at the pumps, in the c-store and at the diner. This is easy to do if you use a unified system to manage your whole forecourt business, rather than separate systems for each activity. A comprehensive loyalty program is more interesting for users, and for you, too: you can collect a wide range of information on your customers’ habits, and use them to guide your purchasing decisions, and to design tailored offers.

8. Create a safe experience

When gas stations appear in the news, it’s often for one of two reasons: robberies, or rising fuel prices. It’s therefore important to ensure your station is safe for both your customers and your employees. Keep the forecourt well lit, and install well-visible and good quality security cameras. If your forecourt is bright and well surveilled, you will increase the chance of people stopping by during off hours. To increase your staff members’ safety, instal shatter-proof glass, electronic doors, a security system and a drop safe for cash.

9. Let service set your store apart

Great customer service can set your gas station apart. Select employees who are punctual, reliable and have a knack for customer service, and train them not only on what they have to do, but also on how to greet customers, and on how they should deal with various situations. Don’t take your best employees for granted: reward those who are giving exceptional service. A happy and satisfied employee is less likely to leave, and more likely to deliver high-quality work.

Do you want to turn your gas station around? Contact our experts to get help on how to make your gas station popular and profitable.

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