Why Online Ordering Is Now Essential for C-Stores

It’s not news to any c-store owner that competition for customers and spend is higher than ever. In addition to the many direct competitors in the industry, convenience stores have to contend with fast-food restaurants, big-box retailers like Walmart and Target, and even online giants like Amazon.

The c-stores that continue to thrive despite these challengers will be the ones that best adapt their businesses to meet new consumer trends, wants, and needs.  

In addition to offering reward programs, one of the biggest requests by customers is online ordering and delivery. In the past, c-stores might have thought implementing an online ordering system wouldn’t apply to their business – but times have changed and this is only the beginning.

Here are a few eye-opening statistics that should catch any c-store owner’s attention:

  • 60% of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout once per week.
  • 34% of consumers spend at least $50 per online food order.
  • 20% of consumers say they spend more on off-premises orders than on dine-in/on-premises purchases.  
  • The increase in digital ordering and delivery has been 300% greater than that of dine-in traffic since 2014.
  • 52% of millennials indicate that they would purchase more often from c-stores if delivery were offered.

It couldn’t be clearer that in order to effectively compete for the consumer dollar, convenience stores need to incorporate online ordering (and if at all possible, delivery) into their strategies.

But how does a c-store implement a proper plan? Which elements are essential and which ones can be skipped? What kind of customer data needs to be captured, and how should that data be used? Most importantly, how do convenience stores choose the right online ordering platform?

We’ve put together a free, on-demand webinar to answer all of these questions and many others.

Titled “Why C-Stores Need Online Ordering,” the session will provide even more statistics and facts to prove just how critical online ordering is to the success of convenience stores. It will also give you an action plan to begin mapping out an online ordering system for your c-store.

Click here to watch this free, half-hour webinar now.

Create a Restaurant Online Ordering Platform That Wins

Online ordering is a significant part of restaurant success. Getting in the game and scoring big depends on implementing the right restaurant online ordering system. According to a National Restaurant Association study, 37 percent of restaurants now offer online ordering and the same percentage of them consider customer ordering to be the most important area of technology development over the next five years. Online and mobile ordering is especially popular with millennial and Gen Z customers, who are predicted to account for 70% of delivery orders by 2020. What’s the best game plan for providing the convenience, speed, and accuracy that your guests want? Achieving the following seven objectives will help put your ordering and delivery strategy in the end zone.

  1. Easy Order Flow

Making the ordering experience as easy as possible for your customers increases the likelihood that they will order from you again. Guests should be able to indicate whether their order is for delivery or pickup at the beginning of the process, rather than at the end, especially if some items are not available via one method. It’s also helpful if your online ordering platform auto-adjust for different browsers and devices. Addresses and payment methods should be stored to save the time of reentering information, and guests should be able to select a past order so they don’t have to call an audible. An easy-to-use online ordering system enhances customer loyalty all while driving more sales. 

  1. Intelligent Cross-Selling

A common way to boost sales is through cross-selling. While it’s easy to suggest a beverage or a dessert if there’s not already one in the customer’s cart, you can score big with recommendations backed by machine learning. Rather than offering suggestions that broadly apply to everyone, your online ordering platform can learn over time which items are frequently purchased together or by an individual guest. For instance, customers may typically order a side of guacamole with a burrito, or a particular guest might like to get bruschetta when ordering an entrée.

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How to Create a Restaurant Loyalty Program That’s Right for Your Brand

Building customer loyalty can be a challenge, but if your goal is to motivate guests to visit more often and spend more when they do, then creating a restaurant loyalty program that works for your brand is essential. Because guests aren’t all the same, the ways they want to interact with your brand will vary. Before you start creating a loyalty program to boost incremental visits and revenue, there are four key areas to address: 

  1. Determine which loyalty program will best engage your guests. 
  2. Discover the type of program that best aligns with your brand concept.
  3. Decide what kind of program your staff can effectively execute.
  4. Establish which program will help you best achieve your restaurant’s financial goals.

First, you will want to arrive at the type of rewards program that will resonate with your guests. This is unique to each restaurant and will be influenced by brand concept, menu, server interactions, and business needs. Keeping those factors in mind, you can then start to create your customer loyalty program, which consists of these three main elements: 

  1. Core Program: This is the heart of your loyalty program and defines the rewards as well as how they are earned and redeemed. Successful core programs will motivate guests to visit more often and spend more of their dining-out budget with you. The format of your core program can be one that automatically rewards guests for accumulating a set amount of points or one that rewards them after reaching a certain number of visits. This is where picking the program that best aligns with your brand and your business objectives is crucial to your success.
  2. Layered Programs: These are additional benefits that run concurrently with the core program. Examples include rewarding guests on their birthday and donating a portion of an individual’s spend to a selected charity. These layered programs can differentiate a brand and strengthen your guests’ connection with it.
  3. Promotions: These are targeted offers sent to boost traffic during slow periods, increase guest spend, or even win back lapsed guests. A means of influencing buying behavior, promotions can be fun one-off interactions that create urgency and drive sales.

By giving careful consideration to each of these three elements, you will be able to structure your loyalty program in a way that appeals to your guests. A fast-casual restaurant wanting to increase visits may choose a core program of visit frequency that includes birthday rewards and promotions like double points and visit challenges. Meanwhile, a restaurant looking to build relationships may opt for a core program of bankable points layered with limited-time offers and surprise-and-delight rewards. Aligning your program with your business goals and your customers’ behavior will provide the best results. 

To learn more about the various types of loyalty programs, download the article “Choosing a Loyalty Program That’s Right for You.” 

Will Your Holiday Gift Card Season Be Naughty or Nice?

Now is a great time to reflect on last year’s gift card sales. If the holiday season was naughty because it was too hard to navigate reports, you had a fraud instance, or sales just weren’t where you wanted them to be, a provider switch is probably in order. With just 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, you need a gift card program that delivers results and a new partner that can make this holiday season truly nice. Here’s a checklist that will help prepare you to be live by November 1.

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Click through this slide show to move through your holiday gift card checklist!
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