How content can drive customers inside

By : NCR Retail

September 23, 2018 11:00 AM

With only 3 out of 10 gas station customers buying inside the c-store, the addressable market value of the remaining seven is massive – even increasing c-store visits to 4 out of 10 could make a profound difference to your top line revenue. Want to learn more? Get our free eBook for more info on how to use customized content to drive engagement, loyalty, and revenues.


Get them hooked


If you view your gas station as two products – gas and c-store ­– you can break them down into necessity (gas) and luxury (c-store). And while nobody’s about to suggest that a giant bag of cheesy snacks is a “luxury,” it’s certainly more of a considered purchase than gas.


When a customer pulls up to your pump, they’re not just filling the gas tank, they’re giving themselves a way to get to work, finally taking that road trip or doing a boring chore now so they can sleep late tomorrow.


It’s never about wanting to buy gas, it’s about wanting what a full tank gives them access to.


While gas is the key to something more rewarding, it’s more difficult to see “luxury” purchases in the same way. Luxuries, we think, are the reward: the bowl of ice cream for eating your peas; the gold watch for years of service; the new car for passing your driver’s test.


You run into the store to buy a soda and snack while you fill up because you need lunch, even if it’s not healthy, because you’re busy and don’t feel like you have time to make a different choice. The reward is getting back to work in time to give your killer presentation, the means to that reward is the c-store visit.


In Hooked by Nir Eyal, the author suggests that consumers use a product because they’re triggered to want the reward the product gives them access to. We see a Facebook post of a friend at a circus. So we get tickets and go. The trigger was the Facebook post, the reward is the feeling of being at a circus, which we get to access to by buying tickets.


Eyal proposes that once we’ve experienced the reward, we’re more likely to seek it out again if we invest a little in becoming more familiar with it. So if, after the circus, you go online and learn about tightrope walking or juggling with a partner, you’re more likely to repeat your visit to the circus to see what you’ve learned in action. It’s why gamification – where you offer consumers a way to “level-up” with their loyalty – has become so popular.


Visits to the gas station don’t get people hooked on the experience. But they could.





Needing to fill the tank is a trigger, but the reward – the forecourt experience – is usually so pedestrian it doesn’t drive consumers to stop at every gas station they see to enjoy that experience. And the c-store experience is typically no better.  


Eyal’s framework has become a broadly-adopted model for companies wanting to build habit-forming products. And this cycle can be used on your forecourt to move consumers from responding to a trigger and taking a necessary action – filling up their tank – to being retriggered and getting hooked on the luxury of your c-store.


What does forecourt content look like now?


You have content all over your forecourt, but you may not see it as content. From pump toppers to swing signage to window clings, you have more space than you think to serve up content to trigger that desire for reward.


Currently you’re probably using these spaces for ads for:

  • Seasonal drink and snacks deals
  • Branded credit and loyalty cards
  • Other forecourt services like carwash


Your sign for soda and ice-cream is less effective on unseasonably cool summer days or early in the morning, so that signage space isn’t working for you across all days and day parts.


These pieces of physical collateral need to be changed out and lack personalization, so they only speak to a limited number of customers at the pump.


Digital signage, which you can change – or set to change automatically – based on the time of day, the weather or even how busy the roads are, presents consumers with content that’s much more relevant to their experience now, and when it’s relevant to their experience, it’s more engaging.


The need for fuel draws your customer into the forecourt, using targeted content to trigger a desire for a more luxury purchase will increase your doorswings.


What sends customers inside?


Messages aimed at other people don’t trigger us to anticipate being delighted because we don’t recognize the product offered as a reward. If you see an ad for cola, but you don’t drink sugary drinks, it’s unlikely to get you excited – it’s not relevant to you. But an ad for flavored carbonated water might be. Behavior change is difficult to accomplish, leveraging the ways people already behave to deliver bigger baskets and doorswings should be easier.


As technology drives the forecourt into the future, this more targeted personalization is a reality. When a customer runs their card at the pump, machine learning and big data can help you trigger your customer to head inside the c-store – not by asking them to change their behavior, but by leveraging existing behaviors suggested by data about customers just like them.


The biggest brands have mastered the Hooked framework and use it to increase basket size and customer loyalty. Apple and Starbucks offer luxury products that create considerable anticipation: we all remember lines and shortages at the Apple store when new phones are launched, and conversation about fall’s pumpkin spice lattes begins before summer even ends.


The reward in these cases isn’t the product. If it was, Dunkin Donuts and Samsung would have similar numbers of enthusiastic advocates. The reward here is tribal or community identity. It’s the feeling is being one of us, not one of them.


If your c-store experience can make people feel connected to your brand in this way, your content will be much more effective at driving them back inside next time they visit.