To stay relevant, businesses have to change as their customers change. New innovations can drive sales and create convenience, and the truckstops and travel plazas of the future will embrace improvements that will enhance the customers’ experience. Some early adopters are all ready rolling out technology and new designs that may eventually become the norm.
Purchasing At The Pump
Time is becoming a more important factor for professional and four-wheel drivers alike. To help speed them on their way, a number of companies are developing technology that will allow customers to purchase food at the pump.
Vendgogh has developed a vending machine that integrates with a store’s point-of-sale system. Customers can pay for beverages at the same time they pay for fuel at the pump and pick them up from a vending machine adjacent to the pump. The machines are already in use at some Kangaroo Xpress, Murphy USA and Wilsons Gas Stops locations.
Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO, said, “I think eventually you’ll see some type of a bell hop situation where the driver can order his food right at the pump and the food will be brought out to him. We are already seeing Wawa and Sheetz doing it for cars.”
“If you’re a truckstop today and you have people on the islands already, how hard would it be to turn that person into an order taker? You now have a way to give a driver something to eat. Trucks don’t have a drive through,” Schulte said.
Drivers Staying In The Cab
As technology has improved, drivers have been able to take care of more and more business from the cab. Drivers no longer have to leave the truck to make phone calls, watch television or send a fax. In the future, drivers may have even fewer reasons to leave the truck, which means truckstops and travel plaza operators will have to continue to find ways to compel drivers to come inside.
Increased Food Sales
Food service sales, particularly of grab-and-go items, are becoming a larger part of a location’s overall revenue. Learn more in Truckstop and Travel Plaza Operators Find Ways to Boost Food Service.
As customers look for even greater convenience, the number of drive-through locations at truckstops and travel plazas is likely to increase. NATSO member Jack Grewal, president of Grewal Brothers Corp., recently opened a drive through for four-wheel customers at the company’s location in Paulding, Ohio. Since it opened, a steady stream of customers has been coming through, Grewal said.
Customers can purchase anything at the drive through that is for sale in the store, be it a gallon of milk or a case of beer. “Beer and pop are the most popular, but our overall sales are doing pretty good, especially in the winter time because people don’t want to get out of their cars,” Grewal said, adding that the drive through has one dedicated employee.
The Weigh My Truck app from CAT Scale Co., based in Walcott, Iowa, lets drivers visit a scale, weigh and receive their information without ever having to open their door, roll down their window or get out of the truck. Drivers receive a copy of their ticket via email or access it online for six months. Drivers can also set their preferences, so a weight ticket is automatically sent to someone at their company.
Larger Beverage Selection
The drinks drivers are purchasing at truckstops and travel plazas have grown beyond a traditional cup-of-joe or a soda. Today, sales of energy drinks, teas and custom coffees have exploded and those within the industry said beverage choices are going to continue to improve. Learn more in Customization + Variety = The Future of Truckstop Beverage Sales.
Easy To Navigate Layouts
To draw customers in from the pump, locations have to be clean, safe and welcoming. Once customers are through the door, it is important that they can find what they want quickly and easily. Chuck White, vice president of brands and marketing for DAS, said the average c-store customer spends 140 seconds shopping. “Retailers must make it easier for customers to find their way, and more intuitively place the right products in the right place along the consumers' path-to-purchase,” White said. “It is clean sightlines and aisles and the use of way-finding signage—whether it is color coded or is the same shape with the same box—that allows people to use their senses to get to the right place faster. The drugstore CVS has a color-coded way finding system. It is adapting benchmarks across our shopping life and bringing them into a travel center.”
Customers Interaction via an App
More and more customers are using smart phones, and businesses are finding ways to use apps to improve their customers’ shopping experience. WaWa recently launched its mobile app. Customers can use the app to make mobile payments or pay with a Wawa gift card. They can also find a local Wawa, check fuel prices, view nutrition information and track their loyalty points.
A growing number of operators are turning to real-time information to help them improve their product mix and their overall atmosphere.
To ensure their restrooms are always in order, Coffee Cup Fuel Stops is rolling out surveys via iPads placed near the restrooms so customers can rate the restrooms and alert managers if a restroom needs service.
Gilbarco Veeder-Root has created a survey at the pump that allows business owners to learn more about their customers through the Applause TV with VNET system. Greg Erwin, vice president of Erwin Oil, recently tested the systems and used the surveys to ask customers about everything from their favorite coffee flavor to their favorite NCAA team. In return, customers received coupons. “By targeting Millennials with this feature, we were able to grow sales on targeted products,” he said.
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