What would your ideal convenience store experience be like?
- Would you purchase everything at the pump, or order ahead on an app, and grab your purchases out of a self-service locker, never entering the store?
- Would you go in, select your items and then walk out as your account is automatically charged, never having to wait in line or stop at the register?
- Would you never have to get out of your car at all?
It may sound crazy, but all of these customer experiences are already available. On the other hand, we aren’t all Amazon or 7-Eleven. So what automation advances should your convenience store chain put in place this year to make your customers’ experience truly convenient?
The first step is to understand why your chain needs automation options. We made it through the pandemic, right? Aren’t things going back to normal now?
Actually, they’re not. It’s been estimated that the pandemic accelerated 10 years’ worth of innovation for convenience stores into five months. Looking around the industry, we see a lot of common issues convenience stores face this year:
- Your store associates can’t continue to carry the increased workload brought on by both the pandemic and the resultant labor shortage.
- Cleaning procedures, and food preparation procedures, can no longer wait for the end of a shift.
- Your customers’ behaviors – and your store procedures – have been transformed by public health concerns. Items that used to be left out for public use no longer can be. Some things that have never been self-service suddenly are, and other things that always have been self-service now seem like germ traps.
At the same time, convenience stores have to recalibrate how they’re going to define “convenience.” At minimum, your stores must provide faster service than grocery stores and food options that are just as good or better than fast-food restaurants. As has been noted elsewhere, “What would have been deemed a luxury just 12 months ago is now table stakes.”
Automation is becoming popular in convenience stores because it does a few important things:
- It does get customers in and out of the store more quickly. In fact, 66% of consumers recently surveyed recognize that automation can improve their shopping experience.
- It does streamline a lot of detail-oriented administrative tasks like inventory and ordering.
- The technology of automation plays well with the Internet of Things, so sensors and other “smart” devices can interact directly with monitoring systems rather than require human attention.
If adding any of these advancements sounds useful, you certainly shouldn’t put it off. Almost 60% of convenience store operators report they now use technology to a great extent to automate aspects of their operation — more than twice as many as last year.
Your Best Automation Options
Many of today’s most obvious automation tools are customer facing. For instance, 64% of C-store operators in the U.S. now offer in-store mobile pay, and others now offer mobile pay at the pump. Other popular advancements include self-checkout and providing customer information through QR codes and touchscreen flat panels.
As far as their next step, many convenience store operators are planning to add app-based order ahead, “order at the pump” shopping, digital loyalty programs, and even self-service pickup options.
Considering all of these possibilities and all of the new regulations, it’s incredible to note that around 40% of convenience store operators are still using paper-based administrative and documentation procedures such as checklists and clipboards. Similarly, their training manuals are still encased in dusty binders, unnoticed in the manager’s office. This is happening at a time when there are almost 300 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone, representing more than 85 percent of adults. And we won’t even get into your young employees’ digital nativity.
You need a digital, mobile solution that plays to the strengths of your employees and procedures while it automates. MeazureUp cut its teeth on the exacting operational requirements of the restaurant industry and now works its magic in the convenience store sector. With one cloud-based app actively customized to your chain’s needs, your operations can:
- Move all your employee training online and customize it by job responsibilities.
- Make all training materials, instructional guides, how-to videos, etc., available to everyone within your organization at all times. No one ever has reason to feel isolated or out of the loop.
- Standardize all your paper-based checklists, forms and internal audits and move them to the app, where any employee can access them at any time.
- Have your employees fill out all checklists at the right time, with a few swipes, taps, and even photos or video. Data is automatically recorded with the employee, date, time and location, and uploaded to the app’s dashboard in real time.
- Check on the status of any operation within any store at any time – no matter where the manager, trainer or other officer is checking from.
- Use the easy-to-understand dashboard to note any operational deficiencies within hours and take immediate action by assigning action plans, complete with deadlines, reminders, and automatic notifications upon completion.
- Use the app’s data analysis and reporting capabilities to uncover trends across locations – subpar performance can quickly be addressed with additional training, and best practices can be easily transplanted to other stores.
This level of automation means your paperwork is fully transparent and is always complete, safely saved to the cloud. All the necessary actions are taken on time, every time, and by every shift in every location. Your employees never need to spend hours or days preparing paper trails for audits or to otherwise establish regulatory compliance. And the data you need to make fact-based decisions to support the success of your business is always at your fingertips.
MeazureUp: Easy Automation
So maybe you’re never going to have an unmanned, fully automated convenience store. But it’s time to take a look at what’s out there and make some decisions for your chain’s future: What will work on the scale you have, and what will best support your employees as well as ensure a consistent customer experience? It’s common to assume a solution like MeazureUp must be too expensive to consider. However, considering the time your employees can take back, as well as the budget and physical space that doesn’t need to be taken up by office supplies, it actually makes good budgetary sense.
For more information about how MeazureUp can automate your c-stores’ operational processes, contact us today.