Great truckstop operators know that no shortcuts exist to retail success. The closest failsafe is to know your truckstop and then build a customer experience using what you know. The best way to do that is to know and engage your customers, crunch the numbers and use your data, and curate an experience.
Know and Engage Your Customers
Operators often report that truck drivers are different from the rest of us, but this is only as true as it is to say that we are all unique. However, as humans, we have common needs. Regardless of occupation, gender or socio-economic status, people all have the same basic needs: food, air, water and shelter. In our industry, this essentially converts to breaks, bathrooms, food and fuel. We have to remember that these four activities create opportunities and it is an operator’s job to convert these opportunities and individual visitors into paying customers.
When you know your customers, you should be able to identify what they want and explain how you know what that is. The world is changing and assuming that your customer is a truck driver because you run a truckstop is not sufficient and also could create a missed opportunity. You need to understand the different types of professional drivers and four-wheel customers. You need to know if they’re local, regional, long-haul or part of the traveling public.
For an operator to truly know what their customer wants, they should ask questions and observe behaviors. Understanding the customers’ needs starts with asking and listening. Wanda Sheffield of Miller’s Oil puts the principle of asking into practice by hosting a monthly dinner for a group of drivers she’s assembled to help steer her understanding. Sheffield uses this group as both a sounding board for her ideas and a source of inspiration for improving the business because the drivers feel comfortable telling her what they want and need.
Asking is only half of the equation. The other half entails observing customer behavior to learn what customers are not saying or may not even realize.
Apple utilizes beacon technology that talks to the Apple Store app on a customer’s iPhone to track their path around the store and then aggregates the data to determine optimal product placement based on customer behavior. Apple’s usage of an experiential retail experience (see more below) fueled by its utilization of data is a large part of the retail success equation that allows them to average $5,546 in sales per square foot...
Photo: Stop Watch editor Amy Toner visited the Tesla showroom.
Photo credit: Taryn Brice-Rowland/NATSO