Much has been said about late Millennials and Gen Z, but the retail world has coined a phrase for what these young adults want; an authentic experience. But what does that mean for fuel retailers?
To understand that, we must look at the most significant trend on the high street for decades – the barber shop.
When I was growing up, the barber shop was still in existence but on the decline, with the more fashionable stylist as the place to go. Pictures and videos of successful men in those days featured clean-shaven faces and a relatively standard business-casual haircut. However, millennials have bucked that trend, embracing facial hair and even looking for a way to style it. Returning are such things as the handlebar moustache.
And who was best placed to do that? The lowly barber.
Suddenly, millennial men didn’t want to go to a stylist; they wanted an authentic experience at the barber shop. Traditional barber awnings and colour schemes, tailored services such as skin-care, eye-brow sculpting, to just sitting down with a single malt and chatting with your peers in a traditional setting.
Yes, it feels like you’re stepping back in time…or does it?
Obviously, the tools available today are a stark contrast to those of the past, and booking for a barber today usually involves checking a diary and selecting a time online or via a mobile app. You can even shop for grooming products on some.
The fact is, we want an authentic experience, but we want it with today’s benefits.
So in fuel retail, what does that mean for us? After all, what is an authentic experience when it comes to fuelling and shopping?
Fuelling seems like the easy one. From the simplest of ideas of the attendant filling your car, to windscreen washing, and small services such as checking tyre pressure, we can transform a modern experience, into an authentic one from the past. So why don’t we see all that?
Well, that counters with the idea of a quick stop for fuel and leads to blockages on the forecourt. Face it; there are a lot more cars on the road today than there used to be.
But the real authentic experience will be in the convenience store.
According to BCG, friendliness featured high on customer satisfaction differentiators. Many customers have local stores or stores they wish to visit regularly, and they want to be greeted and treated as a regular. Good people skills of the staff are critical, but problems stem from the fact that many cashiers are often part-time workers, or they don’t feel valued enough to make an effort, especially when they aspire for something else.
In Europe, we have a far bigger problem, a need for more staff. In Central Europe, where I am based, we are seeing a crisis of sorts, with a certain discounter offering starting pays far higher than the national average, and a very low unemployment rate.
Large IT companies have countered by offering solutions which promise to engage the individual, but how can you engage the individual, if you don’t know how the individual wishes to be engaged?
A good loyalty, or rather, customer engagement engine, should not only incentivise the customer but also the staff.
It should encourage every staff member to greet and treat the customer individually, remember and delight return and local customers. The experience of coming to a convenience store for a local customer should be just like the barber experience, a place to meet, grab a drink, and catch up on gossip. Regular customers should not feel rushed out of the store but should be inspired to grab a coffee and sit down, talk, and enjoy the experience.
Loyalty is earned, a statement often forgotten; certainly it is forgotten with the idea of collecting points! There we have it the wrong way around as if the customer is trying to earn the retailer’s loyalty. Today, we must invest in our customers.
Technology solutions for customer engagement must look at ways to give stores autonomy and allow managers to make adjustments based on the needs of the community around them; they must provide thousands of combinations of ways to interact and connect with customers at all levels.
They must help train staff, to help them understand who they are talking to and why. For the younger, more social media-driven customers, engage with them at their level, find out what they are hash-tagging, and encourage influencers to spread the word through online personal benefits.
Rewards and discounts don’t need to be handed out like candy but instead given at precisely the right moment, for the right reason. More important is making the customer feel like a friend of the store, a friend of the brand.
Look to the past, the local stores, and the sense of community, get the staff onboard and excited to serve your customers, and then augment it all by giving the power back to the customer via today’s and tomorrow’s technology.
Talk to us today to discover how our tailored Cloudics Customer Engagement Engine can help power your business and provide your customers with authentic experiences.