How much do you know about your regular customers? The people that stop in every week — or every day?
Your most dependable customers are a big reason for your store’s success. According to NACS, almost half of America lives within a mile of a convenience store. Many probably live or work near several of them. But your regulars choose to visit your store for their quick shopping trips.
Wouldn’t you like to know why?
Oct. 21 is Get to Know Your Customers Day. It’s a great excuse to start doing a little informal market research about some of the people who are so critical to your success. The most successful companies and brands know a lot about their customers: what they like to buy and why they like to buy it. They know what makes their customers happy and what irritates them.
Those same principles can be applied at your C-store. Odds are it’s more than just a great location that makes your most loyal customers shop at your business. Learning more about your customers and why they stop by can help you build on that loyalty and grow your customer base. And more customers means more sales.
Here are five things you can do to make the most of Get to Know Your Customers Day.
Start the conversation
You don’t need to depend on the calendar to begin learning more about your customers. You can start right now. You probably recognize your most loyal customers. They’re the ones who stop in every morning for a coffee and doughnut, a lunchtime sandwich, or a hot to-go meal on the way home.
Ask their names. Find out what they like about your store. Why do they stop in? What items do they like to buy and why? Not everyone will want to talk, but if it’s not too busy, it’s worth taking a few minutes to learn more about them. The information can be valuable as you decide on product mix or whether to add or cut back on what you carry.
Get active on social media
Does your store have a Facebook page? An Instagram account? Are you on Twitter?
Do you have any idea what customers are saying online about your business?
This isn’t 2007. Social media today is too important to ignore. More than 70% of the U.S. population has at least one social media account. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are great for communicating with customers, learning what they like and how you can meet their shopping needs. Many customers like getting to know more about the stores they frequent and the people they buy from.
And consider this: If you’re not active on social platforms, your competitors probably are. Don’t let online chatter about your business be a one-way conversation.
Create an online customer newsletter
Start asking your customers if they’d like to know about sales and other promotions at your store. Ask if you can get their email addresses. Let them know they’ll be receiving a newsletter from your store soon. Store newsletters give your best customers the insider information they’re looking for.
Creating a newsletter doesn’t have to be difficult. A simple text email could work. Or you could use one of the many free online or low-cost templates to create a more professional newsletter with pictures or illustrations.
When it comes to newsletter content, there’s a lot of options. You can start by discussing weekly or monthly store discounts and promotions. Everyone likes to know what’s on sale. If you want to offer more varied content, consider tying in some of your articles to the seasons or holidays: foods and beverage suggestions for Fourth of July BBQs or summer graduation parties. Some store owners have success sharing recipes (Be sure to pick ones with ingredients that you carry) or gift ideas.
Remember that making an email marketing list comes with some responsibilities. Because no one likes to have their inbox overrun with messages they don’t want, be sure to quickly honor any opt-out requests. Also ensure your store complies with any appliable laws related to email marketing, and make sure you have permission to use any images or content you include.*
The idea is to create a newsletter that your customers will find useful, look forward to receiving, and share with their friends and family.
And here’s a tip to improve the chances they’ll open and read it: Use their names. An email that starts with “Hi Sally!” or “Hey Bob!” is a lot more likely to be read than one that has a generic “Dear customer” at the top.
Offer subscriber-only discounts
Once you have a healthy number of newsletter subscribers, reward them with a special discount. It doesn’t have to be large; a few percent off regular prices can make customers feel special and drive traffic.
Consider making the discount only good during days or times when customer traffic is slower. Not only will that help you or your staff process the price reductions, but it might also give sales a lift.
Mentioning the extra discount a few days early on social media could encourage customers to subscribe. And reminding them after the event will tell customers that they missed out. And the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful sales motivator.
Send out a questionnaire
What better way to get to know your customers than by asking them a few fun — or helpful — questions? They can be funny (“What’s the weirdest snack flavor you’ve ever seen in a convenience store?”) or all business (“What product do you think we should carry?”).
Many customers won’t want to answer a bunch of questions, so keep it short. Three to five questions are ideal.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t receive a lot of replies. Consider offering a small discount to boost participation, especially if you’re using the questionnaire to help decide on products to carry.
Not certain that you’re ready to launch a newsletter or offer extra discounts? Not every idea is right for every store. But you can’t go wrong learning more about your customers. It’s a good practice any day of the year. And it’s good for business.