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Twelve Travel Plaza Customer Insights from Coca-Cola
Fuel may be the primary reason drivers stop at truckstops and travel plazas, but getting them inside is crucial. During The NATSO Show 2015, Stephanie Kowitz, senior manager of shopper insights for Coca-Cola and J.T. McMahan, sales director for Coca-Cola shared their expertise and highlighted several ways operators can help move customers from the fuel islands to the cash register.
Solve a Problem: Overall, traffic counts are down and shoppers are continuing to consolidate trips, but that creates an opportunity for truckstops and travel plazas to provide the convenience they are known for. McMahan said, “When [shoppers are] in our environment, what else can we do to solve their problems?” It could be offering grab-and-go foods, some shelf staples or a deal on bottled beverages when someone purchases a fountain drink, encouraging shoppers to make a purchase for now and later.
To help meet customers’ needs, it is also important to understand their “need state.” Are they there to get a quick drink or snack and looking to get in and out or are they taking a break from the road and looking to spend more time either shopping or relaxing in your store? “The more that we can do to make it pleasant and helpful, we will meet that need,” McMahan said. For example, combination bundles can add convenience for shoppers and are most important for midmorning snacks, lunch and midafternoon snacks.
Entice Shoppers Inside: The right messaging at the pump can help draw fuel customers inside. Priority placement for signs can include the tops of pumps, outdoor window and door clings and pole signs.
Provide Value: The economy is improving, but quest for value continues. Truckstop and travel plazas can tap into the trend by offering specials, bundling products and providing low prices on certain items.
Focus on Food: Cigarette sales down, but food service sales are off the charts, Kowitz and McMahan explained. Shoppers that purchase food also typically purchase a beverage, providing add-on sales.
Allow Customization: Today more than ever customers are looking to create exactly what they want and customization is king. Offering flavored syrups or the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine are just some ways operators can give customers more control over what they are purchasing.
Create Experiences: Today’s consumers are beginning to value experiences more than things. Operators can tap into such things as taco Tuesday or family meal night to promote offerings. They may also be seeing an increased number of drivers embarking on road trips.
Be Aware of Increased Competition: Retailers that haven’t traditionally been with a truckstop or travel plazas’ space are starting to creep in. Walmart Express, Target Express, Walgreens and CVS have all started adding convenient grab-and-go food and beverage offerings, Kowitz and McMahan said. The industry should also keep an eye on Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts and Panera, which do a good job connecting with customers in terms of why they serve the food they serve, where it came from and how it was farmed. “These have created differences that make them special and make them connect with that shopper,” McMahan said. Operators can learn from their tactics and possibly apply them to their own operations.
Be sure to check out our earlier blog post regaarding Coca Cola's The NATSO Show session, Twelve Travel Plaza Customer Insights from Coca-Cola, here.
// Learn about The NATSO Show 2016 here.
Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO
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