Five Retail Trends Your Truckstop Should Be Adapting to and Exercises to Explore Them

In preparation for NATSO Connect, I took a fresh look at the trends influencing the industry. Truckstops and travel plazas should be adapting to each of these trends. Number 1: Rise of Experiential Retail According to the article, “The old model of in-store (and even online) retail strictly focused on products being sold. However, consumers have slowly but surely been moving away from strictly shopping for products, instead seeking a more engaging experience”. The trend was originally driven by younger consumers and their preference for experiences over price and product, however that no longer just the case. Young and old are less likely to spend money in places where the experience is poor regardless of how great the prices are. There is a growing feeling that my money is worth something and if I plan on spending it better be a worthwhile experience. “Even so, simply remodeling a store isn’t enough,” the article continues. Nearly 5,000 stores closed in 2018 and some experts believe another 4,000 are expected to close their doors in 2019, and “the brands that do survive will have done so by creating engrossing experiences”. What Should You Do: Get a pencil and pad of paper. Identify your three busiest diesel fuel gallon times and days. Schedule an extra employee on these days. Create a mini menu for breakfast and lunch of grab-n-go foods. During these identified times, the extra employee armed with proper safety gear should ask drivers while they are fueling if they can get them anything to eat and drink such as a breakfast burrito and coffee and or a PBJ with chips and milk. This will create a positive experience.
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In preparation for NATSO Connect, I took a fresh look at the trends influencing the industry. Truckstops and travel plazas absolutely should be adapting to each of these trends.

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Rise of Experiential Retail
According to 5 Trends That Will Redefine Retail In 2019, “The old model of in-store (and even online) retail strictly focused on products being sold. However, consumers have slowly but surely been moving away from strictly shopping for products, instead seeking a more engaging experience.”

The trend was originally driven by younger consumers and their preference for experiences over price and product, however that is no longer just the case. Young and old are less likely to spend money in places where the experience is poor regardless of how great the prices are. There is a growing feeling that, My money is worth something and if I plan on spending, it better be a worthwhile experience.

“Even so, simply remodeling a store isn’t enough,” the article continues. Nearly 5,000 stores closed in 2018 and some experts believe another 4,000 are expected to close their doors in 2019, and “the brands that do survive will have done so by creating engrossing experiences," the article said.

 What Should You Do:

  • Get a pencil and pad of paper.
  • Identify your three busiest diesel fuel gallon times and days.
  • Schedule an extra employee on these days.
  • Create a mini menu for breakfast and lunch of grab-n-go foods.
  • During these identified times, the extra employee armed with proper safety gear should ask drivers while they are fueling if they can get them anything to eat and drink such as a breakfast burrito and coffee and or a PBJ with chips and milk.
  • This will create a positive experience.

Preemptive Distribution
In the Top Predictions For Retail in 2019 [From Leading Industry Experts] the author explores preemptive distribution. “Preemptive distribution is being precisely where the consumer is at the right time, in the right channel with the right product and ahead of the competition. In Robin Lewis’s book, The New Rules of Retail (2014), he coined the phrase preemptive distribution and explained it in detail. He wrote that in an over-saturated marketplace where consumers have unlimited and instantaneous access to hundreds of equally compelling products, that to win a consumer requires preemptive distribution: getting to precisely the right consumer, when, where and how they want it, and perpetually, ahead of the hundreds of equally compelling competitors."

What You Should Do:

  • Get a pencil and a pad of paper.
  • Create a simple survey with two questions:
    • Why do you stop here?
    • Do you operate your own truck or operate a company truck?
  • Schedule an extra employee to survey drivers for a week.
  • The employee should observe driver activities and demographics and note them.
  • Take the knowledge from this simple survey with its powerful information and create a strategy and the tactics that supports and “speaks to” who your customer really is.
  • Example: You realize that your professional driver is overwhelmingly Eastern European and shops with you because of your speed of service. You could purchase a good-looking pastry case and position it either adjacent or on the fuel transaction counter. Instead of donuts you could work with a local bakery to make items such as mazurek, orehnjaca, kolaczki and bublanina. (Bonus: Utilizing your staff member who is servicing drivers with food offerings, you can also offer drivers these delicious pastry products while they are fueling or waiting to fuel.)

Better Data
In Top Technology Trends You Need to Prepare for in 2019 [By Industry], the author explores data noting, Better data is hitting its peak in necessity. Data tells us who our best customers are, where they spend their time, how we can best reach them, and what conversion methods work best. Without this data, marketing tactics will be misguided, broad, and much more expensive. Better data means better targeting and higher return.”

What You Should Do:

  • Get a pencil and a pad of paper.
  • Identify your three busiest fueling hours for each day.
  • Schedule extra employees to observe and document conversion rates from the fuel island. In other words, what percentage of professional drivers actually come inside and purchase something other than fuel?
  • Take the knowledge from this simple survey with its powerful information and create a strategy and the tactics to support you plan of action and or changes.
  • Example: Knowing that only 28 percent of the drivers that actually come inside purchase something other than fuel allows you to reposition food products, hot and cold beverages, retail, etc. to places in the store where it better fits their needs. (See a pattern developing here?)

Training and Safety
Top Technology Trends You Need to Prepare for in 2019 [By Industry] also explored training and safety. According to the article, “Advances in gaming technology have allowed game makers to create life-like gaming experiences and many companies have tapped gaming technology to create training simulations. Placing new hires in an immersive, virtual environment for them to experiment with and take risks allows them the opportunity to see and live through failures without putting actual equipment on the line, and above all it keeps the new hires out of harm’s way. Virtual training can even be combined with fully-functional replica consoles that mimic the operations of complicated machinery."

 What You Should Do:

Online and Digital Presence
Online presence studies show that the majority of individuals depend on social media and consumer reviews when making a decision and are more likely to trust those with active profiles and positive reviews. Properly managing this first level of engagement with potential customers is key to converting them into customers who will stop and shop.

Today Google algorithms can make or break your chances of gaining customers. I have read numerous times that more than 70 percent of visitors to your Google site or website intend to visit or contact you, but 83 percent check your reviews first. Many of those potential visitors will never make it to your location or online site if they see a poor review first. Digital presence management helps ensure you make the most of 100 percent of visitors to your Google site or website.

What You Should Do:

  • Get on your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop.
  • Type in your location’s name in Google, Trip Advisor and Yelp among many others.
  • Observe and note what your presence looks like and what folks are saying about you.
  • Take good pictures of the outside appearance, restrooms and food offerings and post them on these sites, especially Google.
  • Answer comments back, positive and negative. If you cannot respond yourself, hire a company to great auto-generated responses with thanks to the positive comments and your contact information in responses to those that had issues.
  • Make sure you respond back as that is the key!

Read Getting Your Truckstop Noticed on Google Maps for more on this.

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