“This is a really significant transition in how we operate,” he said. “It’s affecting you whether you know it or not.”
Creating a Design Experience
Of course, the meeting wasn’t just about collecting insights on different consumers. It was also about learning how best to engage consumers across the board. According to David Weinberger, associate creative director of New York-based brand agency CBX, one major obstacle for this channel is standing out from the competition.
To exemplify this issue, Weinberger began his session by playing two videos in which he interviewed consumers immediately leaving a c-store, asking at which chain they’d shopped. In one video of a generic-looking store, not a single consumer could name the brand they’d just exited. The second video was set at a brand-new Wawa location; the consumers in this video not only knew that they’d shopped a Wawa, but also waxed poetic about many of the company’s signature items, from hoagies to coffee and décor.
“It’s necessary to give people something to associate with your store,” Weinberger said. “More than most retailers, c-stores have permission to change. Design really does create an experience, giving people a reason to engage.”
Weinberger had several examples of retail chains recognizing the importance of design. McDonald’s recently invested significantly in a design overhaul, testing new chairs, different lighting, earthy greens vs. the company’s signature red-and-yellow color scheme, and natural-looking roofs. Similarly, New York drug store Duane Reade went from a chain New Yorkers loved to hate to one that’s completely focused on a “We know New Yorkers” message, exemplified by store décor, cleaned-up locations and a proprietary Duane Reader publication that advertises the brand’s private-label products in a style mocking The New York Post.
Of course, there are plenty of examples of c-stores using design as a way to engage consumers. Take Weinberger’s video star Wawa: When the Wawa, Pa.-based chain made its move into Florida, it looked to residential areas near its new locations to inspire store designs. And Wawa’s innovative design isn’t limited to new builds—it’s also using social media to inspire simple promotions and advertising in its stores.
“A lot of interesting design things Wawa is doing are happening on their social-media pages,” said Weinberger, citing the brand’s Hoagiefest and Parched Madness Facebook campaigns, which are now advertised in-store as well. “If you’re doing things that are resonating on social media, think of how you can bring it into the store.”
More Than ‘Likes’
Weinberger’s points on Wawa’s social-media success hit on a key question many retailers have struggled with: how to convert social media “likes” into real-world sales. According to integrated digital marketing communications executive Steve Goldner (also known as “Social Steve”), when it comes to social-media ROI, it’s not about “likes” but engagement.
Goldner shared two important figures to support this point: On average, engaged consumers spend 30% more, and when a consumer is referred to a brand through social media, there’s a 71% likelihood they’ll make a purchase.
“A pinnacle point of social media success is when you get people recommending your business on social media, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be on your page,” Goldner said. “Social-media marketing is not just about engaging with your audience, but getting them to talk with one another to influence brand awareness, purchase decisions, customer loyalty and brand advocacy.”