Perspective: Shockingly Social

As an industry, convenience stores show a forward-thinking mindset

Published in CSP Daily News

By
Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

NEW YORK -- Social media can be a tough nut for convenience store retailers … and retailers in general. We at CSP see it quite a bit--in our readership polls, in our own social-media outreach and in conversation. The industry, on the whole, has been slow to adopt these new tools of marketing: Twitter, Facebook, apps, etc.

When we asked in a CSP Daily News poll recently "How would you characterize your organization's official use of social media in the last six months?", 45% of respondents answered "nonexistent." And yet others have broken down the barriers to find success (see Related Content below for some examples).

And so, it was with some amusement that we spied a column on Forbes.com with a headline blaring: "Does your gas station have a mobile site too?"

The columnist's shock at finding out about his gas station's mobile site unfolded thusly: "Why did this get my attention? Because my company, a technology consulting firm, did not have a mobile website. But the mechanic did. Was I missing something? Clearly yes. Something important. … What is this madness when my local gas station is more tech savvy than my tech consulting firm?"

It seems the author would be surprised to find how advanced some of the convenience store industry's retailers are, both chains and independents. With these thoughts, we share this abbreviated version of the column by Forbes contributor Gene Marks ( click here to read the complete story).

Last month I got a big surprise from my local gas station.

It wasn't just that the price of gas had significantly dropped (contrary to what so many of the forecasters were saying earlier this year). Or that my family's minivan with 125,000 miles on it needed a new transmission. Or that, while in the midst of replacing said transmission a service technician found a half filled juice box wedged between the van's back seats (my kids are teenagers and haven't used a juice box in at least a decade).

The big surprise came when I went to call the gas station to check on the status of our repair job. I forgot their phone number. So I went to look it up on my Droid. Oh, I found the number alright. It was on their website. Their mobile website. My local gas station has a mobile website. Let me repeat: My local gas station has a mobile website.

Why did this get my attention? Because my company, a technology consulting firm, did not have a mobile website. But the mechanic did. Was I missing something? Clearly yes. Something important.

The guy who owns my local gas station isn't blind. He sees, like we all do, that everyone's using mobile devices. You know the numbers, right? Mobile phone access now reaches three quarters of the world's population.

Here in the U.S., a recent Pew study found that 55% of U.S. adults use their mobile phone to go online. And more research shows that there are 331 million mobile users here, which is actually more than our total population. This must mean that somewhere, somebody's dog is ordering a pizza on an iPhone as I write this.

And yet, according to research done by both Google and their mobile partner DudaMobile, less than 10% of small businesses currently have a mobile site.

Like my business. What is this madness when my local gas station is more tech savvy than my tech consulting firm?

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
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