The National Association of Convenience Stores show just wrapped up in Las Vegas, and the show was filled with industry leaders looking for tools to move their businesses forward.
Convenience store owners and operators have suffered from image problems for years. Rather than being cluttered, dirty and unsafe, many convenience stores are embracing new products and technologies.
Let me give you an example. Recently, I was driving through Texas with a friend of mine. It was a long drive, and we stopped for gas and a break at a convenience store. The place was immaculate outside and even more impressive on the inside. It was the size of a small big-box retailer and had a 30-foot counter of fresh, hot food. Items were organized and clearly marked. The bathrooms were clean. Make no mistake about it, that store was a professional operation.
So what does this have to do with digital signage? Digital signs have the power to do something the owner of that convenience store in Texas told me he's craving — draw attention to what's amazing inside his store. Digital signs can do three important things convenience store owners need:
Give your store an image boost.
C-store owners know that customers will consistently choose a clean, updated station or store over an older, run-down one. Industry research has shown that the cleanliness of a c-store can influence shopper behavior: Customers won't stick around in a dirty store. But if store owners make them feel comfortable and safe, customers will reward them. LED signage can help them do that: It can be clearly seen and reliably updated, and it represents the very latest in energy efficient technology. Bright, clean LED signs help a convenience store show its best face.
Show off your products.
The convenience store market is a highly competitive mix of national chains and independent operators. Owners often create niche markets to set themselves apart. The trouble is that customers have to be in the store to see those efforts. Digital signage gives c-store owners the ability to advertise what makes them unique: clean restrooms, food service, low prices, specialty products and services.
Digital signs, including LED gas price signs, also help draw customers away from competitors. Since an LED gas price sign is visible from up to a quarter-mile away, it can help a convenience store or gas station owner reach down the street to grab the attention of customers who might otherwise go to a closer competitor.
Drive sales to your profit centers.
Convenience store owners will try just about anything to move customers from the pump into the store, even plastering their front windows with signs for all types of products. Because the store is the real profit center of the business, driving merchandise sales is a smart strategy. The 2011 NACS State of the Industry Report says that, while average profit margins for gas are only 5 percent, c-store owners make an average profit of 29 percent on merchandise and 50 percent on food service.
But putting signs all over can make a store look cluttered, not clean. That's where digital signs can help. Digital signs are a great tool for showcasing products and services and can draw customers more effectively than any window sign or letter board ever could. And they can help a c-store's balance sheet in other ways. By advertising perishables on the sign before they have to be thrown away, operators can cut down on red ink. Because they can feature more than one product at a time, digital signs can help a c-store operator maximize co-op dollars, too.
As anyone who spent time at the NACS show will tell you, convenience stores fill an important retail niche. That's why it's good to know that digital signage can make such a difference for them.
Pearman is a U.S. sales manager for LED sign and digital billboard manufacturer Watchfire.