Boost Truckstop Sales by Attracting Women
May 1, 2012
Women are an important part of the nation’s consumers. They represent a significant amount of buying power and can be among the most loyal and supportive customers a business has.
“About 80 percent of all the disposable income is spent by women,” said retail expert Chris Harris, Retail Strategies. “There are very few successful retail operators that ignore women.”
As an added bonus, retailers that strive to attract women can also boost overall sales. “We find that if you set up your store to appeal to women, it will also appeal to men,” Harris said.
There are certain things women look for in the businesses they frequent, with cleanliness and safety topping the list.
“Women judge the store from its ability to be tidy and clean. That is not at the top of the list for men,” Harris said. “Women don’t like going into places that are reeking of smoke, that have trash all over the place, or that are dirty or disorganized.
While the majority of professional drivers are men, truckstops also do business with the traveling public and the local community. In addition, more women are taking to the road either as professional drivers or to travel with their partners.
“Truckers are increasingly having partners ride with them and there are some women truckers out there,” Harris said, noting that about 13 percent of truckers have partners with them.
To attract female customers, Harris recommends operators focus on the consumer value proposition (CVP). “If you improve the CVP for the women and attract more women, you will also attract more men,” he said.
Little things, such as cleaning pumps every day or plastic nozzle covers each month, add to the CVP, Harris said. “Women don’t like to touch dirty, mangy, old plastic covers,” he said.
Ray Newton, Rochelle Travel Plaza, said it is the little things that end up being the big things. Rochelle Travel Plaza has a full-time maintenance staff devoted to keeping up the inside and outside of the building. They focus on the details, such as air vents that need to be cleaned, light bulbs that need to be replaced or debris that should be cleaned.
Newton and other NATSO members shared dozens of ways they keep up the appearance of their location in this issue’s Operator to Operator on page 26 and in the March/April Stop Watch issue.
Appearance and Atmosphere
Holly Buchanan, marketing expert and co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth — Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys, said women value bright lighting and parking that is close to the building. Clean and convenient restrooms are paramount.
Newton told Stop Watch that women traveling with children prefer to have family restrooms available. In the summer months when the Rochelle Travel Plaza has an increase in the amount of four-wheel traffic coming through, they let customers use one of their shower rooms as a family restroom.
“Moms traveling with their sons appreciate it and so do dads who are traveling with young daughters,” Newton said.
The location is planning to build family restrooms in the area that has housed their phone booths.
Rochelle Travel Plaza has also created two restroom areas in the location — one in the front of the location that is tailored to fourwheel traffic and one in the back of location tailored to professional drivers.
“A lot of times drivers like to freshen up before they sit down for a meal, so this way they have some privacy,” Newton said. “The traveling public may not be used to seeing someone in the restroom with his shirt off brushing his teeth.”
Women also value customer service, Buchanan said. “Look up and smile at me at the end of a transaction and say, ‘Have a nice day.’ Women notice that, but men will like it as well,” she explained.
Music can also add to the atmosphere at a location. “It creates a warmer, welcoming environment,” Buchanan said.
In an effort to appeal to women, many companies are installing brighter signage that utilizes curves, which Buchanan said will also appeal to Gen Y. “Holiday Inn changed their logo to a brighter green and more of a scriptive H. It is a classic example of updating their logo to a more female-friendly design,” she explained.
A Broader Product Selection
In addition to the appearance of the store, women value what’s inside. Buchanan said an upscale gourmet coffee offering can attract women. “The upscale gourmet coffee options with a clean station should be front and center,” she said.
Healthier food options are important to women as well. Nutritious snacks, such as nuts, fresh fruits, yogurt, cheeses, veggies and protein bars, all appeal to women on the go. Those same snacks also appeal to men looking for healthy choices, Buchanan said.
Tristen Griffith, Sacramento 49er, said she carries some products tailored to women, such as jewelry and souvenirs. “We have an area in front of our restaurant that is a woman’s section,” she said. “Black Hills Gold is a big seller, so we have quite a bit of that.”
Not only do women represent significant buying power, they tend to be loyal customers and often don’t mind paying one or two cents more for a product, Harris said. “There are people who are going to be more price sensitive, and you can’t stop them, but they generally aren’t an important part of the total mix,” he said.
However, women are only loyal if the brand really does live up to its promise. “If that experience doesn’t live up to it, she is going to notice. Women are more demanding, but because of that, when you make the extra effort, they notice it and they appreciate it,” Buchanan explained.
Customers Who Communicate
Women help generate word-of-mouth marketing because they are more likely than men to write online testimonials and reviews, which can be a good way for operators to take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing.
“Women absolutely are the majority of all the social media users and it’s women of all ages. Women 50 plus are among the fastest growing users of social media,” Buchanan said. “Women share their experiences about brands online because they want to alert other women that they will have a good experience there.”
No matter how locations choose to enhance the customer value proposition, Harris advises his clients not to try a gimmick. “They think putting in an antique truck or a new gizmo inside the store will attract the customer, but it doesn’t fundamentally change the consumer value proposition,” he said.
A common mistake some companies make is to create a one-off campaign instead of making a companywide effort. “Women sniff that out,” Buchanan said. “It has to be a holistic approach.”
By making a genuine attempt to attract women, locations can improve their overall operations.
“When you create the shopping experience women would like, men will like it better as well,” Buchanan said.
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.
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