Firstly, I would like to encourage everyone to jump into 2023 with open eyes as the convenience channel continues to evolve at significant pace.
I am old enough to have been a consumer in the ‘chocolate bar and cola’ era and when loyalty started to be created with collectibles in the late 1970s in the UK. I got to experience national petrol stations (owned by bp) launching Smurf Figurines (Smurf comic characters) as the first kids friendly collectables. This was early ‘pester power’ and the market went crazy for these little figurines. Family driven fuel brand loyalty had arrived in the UK and the traditional gift with purchase (GWP) of branded drinking glasses had been challenged.
Now being part of the convenience channel for more than 20 years, I am charged with helping create brand loyalty around the products that we supply at Pacific Optics and driving loyalty into all energy and convenience retailers.
The grocery channel has done a great job with collectables around loyalty. Last year, we saw both ‘Fix-Ems’ and ‘Magical Builders’ and I expect we will see more this year. How will the likes of metaverse and TikTok be used in the next campaigns? Can convenience be that blend of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ and stay relevant? I certainly believe we can.
As these lines between grocery and convenience get more blurred, how do we stay relevant and create stronger loyalty, not only to each banner but to the channel? We must remind ourselves that convenience is still convenient, that is ultimately our ticket to sustained growth. Convenience is the largest channel in Australia with more than 7,000 outlets, we serve gourmet food, great coffee, grocery items and a great selection of general merchandise. Many of our sites offer 24/7 service and even support delivery. We offer many forms of energy from retail automotive fuels and oils, electricity, LPG, and hydrogen.
We are now in an era where staff shortages will be common. Will the ever-changing face behind the counter effect customer loyalty? Can interactive customer automation help or hinder engagement? What do Gen Z and Alpha expect from this channel? So many questions and very little answers. We still don’t know if we could power the targeted amount of EVs in the planned timeline of federal governments. What does the future of the service station look like? Personally, I believe we will see non-corner energy sites disappearing and corner sites truly becoming the satellite collection of groceries, dry cleaning, parcels, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol, in addition to energy for transportation. Non-fuel stores will offer these, obviously without the fuels.
How do suppliers play their part? I expect to see a greater expectation on suppliers in their education to retailer staff and automation systems as well as purchased data driven decisions to improve shopper experience.
Ultimately, we are convenient, we are local, we offer loyalty through discounts and memberships. These have helped the channel become more value driven and become the retail offer of choice. The opportunities are expansive, and I look forward to being part of the transformation.
This article was written by Andrew Poore for the Feb/Mar issue of C&I Retailing magazine.
Andrew Poore is General Manager Sales for Pacific Optics in Australia and Signature Marketing New Zealand. He is also a committee member of NZACS.