How do customers find you? Increasingly, it’s through online searches, which means convenience stores that don’t have a robust online presence or aren’t ranking when their customers search for important key words are missing out on increased traffic and sales. In fact, they are essentially driving customers to a competitor. “Our industry hasn’t been managing visibility very well,” said Lori Stillman, NACS vice president of research and education. “Today, people aren’t searching for places—they’re searching for things.”
To find out how consumer searches intersect with what convenience stores offer, Stillman conducted an informal survey. From inside c-stores or while in the parking lot, she voice-searched for products and services like coffee, beer, cigars and ATMs. Search results failed to direct her to the very stores she was near or inside, even though those retailers carried what she was looking for. “Online is how customers define convenience, and they use their smartphones and digital devices to discover what’s out there,” she said. Without a digital strategy, “You are missing the opportunity to grow trips and to grow baskets.”
With many convenience retailers overwhelmed by having to keep up with digital and online strategies, NACS, along with partner SOCi, developed THRIVR, an integrated social media, reputation and listings management solution designed to help retailers gain new customers, retain the ones they have and build basket size. The goal is to help retailers respond to “anywhere convenience,” shifting from simply surviving to thriving.
“If your store doesn’t show up on a search for fuel, gourmet coffee, fresh pizza and other things convenience stores are known for, you’re missing out,” said Stuart Greer, senior director of sales, regulated industries, SOCi. “We share the same vision as NACS—to create a platform built for the entire convenience and fueling industry.”
WHAT THRIVR DOES
With THRIVR, retailers with one store or multiple locations can keep their business listings accurate across nearly 150 networks, make real-time social media updates for multiple stores and improve local search rankings and manage their reputation on Google, Yelp, Facebook and more. THRIVR provides retailers with three key components in the digital space:
• Listings: THRIVR interacts with your Google Business Profile listing, which in turn feeds other online platforms. This includes key information such as who you are, where you are located, your hours of operation, your contact information and your products and services.
• Social media: THRIVR centralizes and helps you manage your social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, both at the corporate level and for individual store locations.
• Reviews: THRIVR also helps you stay on top of customer reviews, which shape your online reputation.
“THRIVR makes it easy for retailers to manage all of that through a single platform,” Stillman said. “If your forecourt light has burned out, people literally can’t see your store at night. If your digital forecourt light isn’t accurate, people won’t find you.”
The other important piece of THRIVR is its scalability—the platform works just as well for one store as it does for 500+ stores. “The beauty is we’ve designed a platform with our single, independent operator in mind as well as our larger chains,” Stillman said. “And it’s just as affordable for one store as it is for 2,000 stores.”
WHY THRIVR WORKS
Across the landscape of apps like Yelp, Google Search, Facebook or Instagram, plus a retailer’s own loyalty program or app, it can be difficult to make sure your store and its current offerings are accurate everywhere online. “THRIVR is more like the network hub that feeds all the other sites and apps,” said Stephanie Sikorski, NACS vice president of marketing. “Whether you have a social media team or not, THRIVR can make it seem like you do because of the way it brings everything into one place. It interacts with all of your digital and online touchpoints, so you can better manage your brand’s digital presence and marketing, and make real-time updates at the hyperlocal, state or national level.”
For Yesway, the fast-growing convenience store chain headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas,having one digital platform for multiple stores was vital to continued success of its two consumer-facing brands—Yesway and Allsup’s. “Convenience retail is highly competitive,” said Darrin Samaha, vice president of marketing for Yesway. “We knew we needed to stand out to achieve the overall goal of increasing Yesway and Allsup’s topline sales by driving more customers into our stores.”
Yesway signed up for the platform early, before it was branded THRIVR. The retailer chose the platform because it:
1. Created meaningful content to scale brand and local store presence
2. Enhanced the ability to run more efficient and targeted social advertising campaigns
3. Managed and scaled Yesway and Allsup’s multibrand portfolio of store listings and online reputation sentiments
“We’re also able to empower our team to respond to reviews quickly and easily and operationalize reputation and review insights with internal teams to improve overall brand sentiment,” Samaha said. “To us, the benefit is the ability to leverage the digital marketing trifecta—social content, search/listings and reputation/reviews—across425stores and two brands,” he said. “Simply put, we improved our social content so that customers can continue to engage with us in meaningful ways. We cleaned up our online services information so customers looking for our specific services can find us, and we also started to listen to and respond to their feedback so that we can improve our brand sentiment.”
WHY JOIN THRIVR?
THRIVR also provides retailers with a plethora of data, organized in a way that retailers can easily digest. “We’ve set up customized views of audits, direct reports and insights gathered across multiple digital touchpoints,” Sikorski said. “This snapshot helps retailers see where they are and where they want to be in terms of positive and negative feedback, discovery and visibility and customer interaction.”
While each retailer is unique in how it chooses to communicate with customers, these same customers have more touchpoints with brands today than perhaps they ever had. “Customers today can find you at all hours of the day through online searches. And they can engage with you at any hour of the day on social media,” Samaha said. “Because of this 24/7 communication, retail brands have to pay attention and get engaged to ensure they deliver a great shopping experience. In our view, one of the best tools is localized digital marketing, such as THRIVR provides.”
One thing NACS and SOCi kept at the forefront during the development process was ensuring that THRIVR would be affordable for retailers of all sizes. “We wanted to make it so a single-store operator could join as well as a multistore operator,” said Lori Stillman, NACS vice president of research and education. “NACS made a huge financial investment in the THRIVR platform to have a very robust tool for our industry.”
THRIVR costs $300 per retail location per year. “We like to say if each store sells only one more candy bar per day each year, it will cover the cost of THRIVR,” she said. “Since THRIVR will increase traffic and awareness, we consider it a win-win situation for any retailer.”
NACS offers free demos to any retailer wanting a closer look at how THRIVR operates. Contact Jen Johnson, NACS director of business development, localized marketing solutions, at (703) 518-4254 or [email protected] to schedule your closer look at THRIVR. Learn more at www.convenience.org/THRIVR.