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The Habits of a Gas Station Customer

Gas Station

Almost 40 million Americans fill up their gas tanks every day.  How they drive, consider gas prices and determine whether to shop inside a convenience store for food and beverages has a profound impact on the gas station industry. Here are some habits to take into consideration for your gas station business.

Gas Buying Behavior

Gas buying times vary by demographic.  So, understanding your customer’s demographics and buying time can help you with your marketing strategy to improve sales.

Those most likely to purchase fuel in the morning are consumers ages 35 to 49, so there may be an opportunity for convenience stores to expand their breakfast food service to this segment of shoppers.  While those 65 and up tend to purchase gas midday, which a campaign about slowing down to enjoy a snack might appeal to this demographic.  The idea is to look at their habits and build marketing campaigns on what will appeal to them and add more sales to your gas station.

Price Shopping

Price dominates where consumers choose to purchase fuel.  With the rise of mobile apps, price checking for gas is easier for a potential customer.  Most people want to find the best price, in fact, 2 out of 3 customers will choose a station based on price.  However, price is less important to a person who shops inside a store and they will choose based on the convenience store or additional services offered.

The Quality of Store and Employees

The quality of the store’s food selection and employees’ influence where consumers choose to go.

It is said that 44% of gas customers also come inside the store.  In-store sales make up two-thirds of a store’s overall profits, it is vital that customers buy additional things to fuel.  Customers go in to buy food and beverages, however, other draws that bring them in are ATMs and restrooms.  Once they are in the store, if you offer excellent choices in shopping or have deals, there is a higher chance that they will purchase.

Employee interaction and customer service can make or break any retailer.  Gas stations are no exception.  Focusing on your customer experience will make a difference in keeping customers returning to your location over others.

Experience at Gas Pumps

How a customer perceives their experience at the gas pumps will influence their decision on stopping at your location.

The appearance of your gas station outside is a consideration for getting return customers.  Also, are the gas pumps fast pumping and in good condition?  No customer wants to stop and fuel at a dirty slow fueling station.  If your gas pumps or dispensers are old and not working like your competitions, it may be time to upgrade.

Safety is important to customers, whether it is lighting at night or safety of credit card terminals.  For very early morning and late evening traffic, bad lighting will deter them from stopping.  With all the worry of credit card skimming, feeling confident paying at the pump is a huge factor.

Studying Your Customers and Your Gas Station

While many of these habits and preferences are general, it would be worth the time to take note of your customers.  What are their habits?  What do they like or ask for?  Is your business giving them the customer experience that will keep them returning?  Looking at your demographics, their habits, and your station’s appearance and staff will help you make smart business decisions to improve your bottom line.

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Clock is Ticking for Gas Station Owners as EMV Deadline is Approaching

Gas Station

Gas station and convenience store owners have until October 2020 to make their payments at the pump card readers EMV complaint.  Card skimming fraud is rampant at gas stations, exposing consumer payment data to thieves, hurting fuel retailers’ reputations, and costing card issuers an estimated $400 million a year.  Which is the reason that gas stations need to conform to EMV? For gas stations and convenience store owners who want to stay competitive and protect their revenue, they will need to implement an EMV plan.

What is EMV?

EMV is a payment method based upon a technical standard for smart payment cards and for payment terminals that can accept them.  They are smart cards or commonly called chip cards.

While EMV does not prevent breaches, it helps cut down on counterfeit frauds.  EMV cards help prevent fraud because their sensitive data cannot be stolen and used repeatedly like traditional swipe credit and debit cards.

Why Aren’t They Already at the Gas Pump?

EMV upgrades are disruptive for gas stations more so than other retailers.  In some situations, older pumps may need to be replaced before adding chip readers.

Data cables, wireless routers, and servers may also need replacement or upgrades.  Each payment terminal in the pump must be upgraded with the software and the hardware to support the dip slot for the EMV chip cards.  Gas pumps will also have to be connected with wired or wireless connections that meet PIC standards for security.

Inside at the convenience store, it is easier to have EMV point of sale (POS) systems. However, customers are not going to want to go inside to pay.  It will lead to a decrease in customers.

An Option if You Need New Gas Pumps

If you need new gas pumps but you do not have the budget instead of only upgrading one gas pump or dispenser, consider reconditioned gas pumps or dispensers. You can upgrade your older equipment to more modern equipment for a better price.  Reconditioned gas pumps or dispensers come with warranties, so the maintenance will decrease as well.

Gain a Competitive Edge

Gas stations that convert earlier will have an immediate competitive edge over gas stations competing with them.  Fuel prices tend to be fairly universal within a radius. Whereas the competition comes from other sources, convenience stores, services, and security.  It also gives the option of adopting new payment methods like contactless cards, mobile wallet systems like Apple Pay.  These can be draws for customers.

The Effects of Not Converting

Beginning in October, gas station owners that haven’t modernized their gas pumps will face liability for any card fraud that happens at their business.  The burden of the card fraud will shift to retailers who fail to upgrade pump readers to the new more secure technology.  In short gas stations will have to take full financial liability for chargebacks.

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A Guide to Being Prepared for the Gas Station Inspection

Gas Station

Gas station inspections are a regular occurrence both for stakeholders and customers to provide a safe environment for business.  While there are some variances within the inspection, there are many things checked everywhere.  Being prepared for a gas station inspection is perfect so that you never have a problem.  Here is a guide so that you can pass and pre-prepare to avoid any problems or business issues.

Emergency Procedures and Numbers

Be sure to have emergency procedures for fire, spillage, accidents and equipment failure.  All of your procedures should receive assessments monthly and updated when necessary.  It is important that all your staff maintains training and awareness of the procedures so that they can handle all situations in a timely manner.

All emergency phone numbers need to be put together in a list and prominently displayed at the central console.  The list of numbers should include fire brigade, ambulance, and police.

Emergency Stop

There must be a main emergency stop that cuts the power to all the gas pumps and dispensers.  This emergency stop needs to be in an accessible place and not blocked by shelves or racks.  The emergency stop must have prominent labeling and tested monthly to ensure that it works properly.

Safety Equipment

In a natural gas station, the most important piece of safety equipment is a fire extinguisher.  Gas station requirement is to have at least two-powder type fire extinguishers.  The fire extinguishers need to be adequately labeled and in a place from which they can be accessed without any danger in case of an emergency.  They need to receive service every six months to remain effective.

Spill kits are another piece of safety equipment that is a requirement.  Oil spills can spark a fire in no time and have to be dealt with immediately.  A spill kit is critical for a gas station’s safety.

Risk Assessment and Site Plan

Risk assessments and site plans should receive preparation and regular maintenance.  This also includes taking inventory of the goods on-site, in particular, the dangerous goods, such as flammable liquids and combustible gas.

A risk assessment ensures that the property owner is aware of all the potential dangers present on the site and the proper steps are being taken to diminish those risks.

Gas Pumps and Fuel Tanks Safety

While all the other inspection and safety tips can be managed by a gas station owner the gas pumps and fuel tanks require a professional inspection.  This maintenance needs to be done regularly to be sure that there are no potential dangers and anything that could lead to danger will be fixed beforehand.

It is important to have records and documents of everything including inspections easily accessible in case there are any questions that arise during the gas station safety inspection.

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New Year’s Resolutions for Gas Station Owners

Gas Station

Like all resolutions made most fail by mid-February.  So perhaps thinking of them as resolutions to increase your profit line is a better way to think of building your gas station business.  These are some ideas that will help you grow your business and get you ready for a successful 2020.

EMV Compliance

The EMV deadline will not be budging anymore.  For gas stations that are not complaint yet or started the process, this is your #1 priority.  With so many gas stations requiring equipment upgrades or new equipment, there is a huge demand for technicians.  This means that the wait time may be a while so planning now is necessary.  You do not want to miss the deadline and face the financial risk with the liability shift.

Fast Forecourt

Are your gas pumps running slow?  There is nothing that bothers a customer more than a slow gas pump.  If you are finding that your gas pumps and dispensers are running slow, then you will need to either find the problem or upgrade.

Start with checking your filters, they are the most critical element when it comes to fuel flow.  If you are not changing them regularly, it is time to implement a schedule.  Routine maintenance goes a long way with keeping your gas pumps flow at optimal speed.

If this is not a fix, and you have checked your nozzles, then it is time for you to look into getting new gas pumps or dispensers.  While this may not be in your budget, for full replacement, an alternative option is to purchase reconditioned gas pumps and dispensers.

Assess Your Services and Convenience Store

If you haven’t added new products or services in a while, January is a great time to kick off the year with a new exciting option for customers.  Consider the requests that you have received within the last year.  Do they make any financial sense?  Launching a new service or product can bring renewed customer interest and purchasing.

You can also market current products or services with a spin, adding new life to it.  Incentives to the car wash you already have.  Offering a buy 1 get 1 or punch cards for coffee.  Sometimes it is just about offering a deal that will bring a customer in from the gas pump into the store.

Equipment Upgrades

Upgrading your equipment can make daily operations more efficient.  It can also bring in new business.

Improving your point of sale (POS) system will make your convenience store run faster and smoother.  Which is certainly a positive for the customer experience.

Upgrading your gas pumps and dispensers is another improvement whether it is for modernizing or branding.  There is the option for upgrading with reconditioned gas pumps and dispensers, which makes more financial sense as the cost is better for your budget.  You will also gain warranties for the new equipment so your maintenance margins will decrease.

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How Upgrades Can Make Your Gas Station More Profitable

Gas Station

With a new year on the horizon and businesses looking at new goals and revenue, it is time to consider some upgrades to make your gas station more profitable.  In a time when it’s a challenge to pull in a ton of profit on gas alone, you will need to upgrade.  Attention to details and added customer experiences can increase your gas station business.

How Does Your Convenience Store Rate?

If you have a convenience store, is it clean, is it always stocked, do you have a good selection of food and beverages?  Improving your variety of products adds to your store’s perceived value. There are many opportunities to upgrade a convenience store, and the average revenue will improve significantly.

Upgrading customer loyalty programs or initiating customer loyalty programs with purchases.  Discounts on consistent purchases, like coffee cards.  Some convenience retailers like 7-11 have apps that customers earn points on purchases and can redeem for beverages or snacks.

Overall Customer Experience

If a customer feels that they are getting what they need and in a timely manner, they will return.  An upgrade that can be made in improving customer service.  Are the employees friendly and attentive?  Are the outdoor and indoor areas clean?  Is the gas station well-lit at night?  Many of these are training fixes which will not cost much to improve but will make a profitable difference for your location.

Offering More Services

By offering air and vacuum machines you are going to generate more stops and customers.  Whether it is for a small fee or free to them it is enticing for them to stop.  If they stop for a service, they are more likely to fill up and stop in the convenience store.  Car washes also are a draw and having a premium one is best to compete against other locations.

Signage

Advertising and marketing is not the way to add more value that you will not make back.  However, prominent signage from the street or from the highway letting locals and tourists know that you are there.  Adding more signs in key intersections will draw traffic to your gas station.

Invest in New Gas Pumps

Tanks, monitors, and pumps are important operational elements that need regular maintenance.  Having pumps that are malfunctioning is the fastest way to lose the loyalty of customers.  The main reason someone stops is for gas and if that is the worst part of the experience then you lost them no matter how amazing all of your other services and product are.

Are the parts showing wear and tear?  Is the flow slow?  Then it is time to invest in gas pumps and parts.  If budget is a consideration, then purchasing a reconditioned gas pump or dispenser is an economical way to upgrade your gas station.  It also makes it more affordable to invest in replacing multiple gas pumps and dispensers and unifying your gas stations look.  If you are thinking of upgrading to a more advanced or technology-savvy series, this can be a way to economically do it.  The options with a reconditioned gas pump or dispenser make upgrading feasible and more profitable.

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4 Ways to Reinvent the Gas Station Experience

Gas Station

Refining the customer experience has become a critical focus across all industries in both the service and product industries.  It has become essential that the fuel and convenience industry take a look at how it wants to engage, interact and transact with its customers or else fall to the wayside with the competition. A gas station has a valuable opportunity to offer solutions that improve the overall customer experience and incorporate new customer journeys.  Here are four ways that you can reinvent your gas station to an elevated consumer experience.

Provide Overall Pump Satisfaction

This is the first step in the customer experience at a gas station.  Top gas stations like Sheetz have found themselves to be at the top of the list because they are maintaining customer pump satisfaction.  A customer does not want to deal with slow-flowing gas pumps.  While this may be fixed by changing the filters, the nozzle, or other equipment.  It also may mean that you need to upgrade your gas pumps and dispensers.  Whether it is a new or reconditioned gas pump or dispenser a newer, faster option will appeal to your customer.

Are your gas station self-service pump areas clean, free of litter and trash essentially are they visually appealing?  This is a huge first impression when a customer comes to the gas pump.  Be sure to have employees trained on cleanliness and maintenance to obtain high-quality standards.

Convenience Store is a Destination

When your convenience store is clean, has a great food and beverage selection, and gives excellent customer service it becomes a destination stop.  The future should make your store a destination and not a “pit stop”.  When you streamline your in-store process and really focus on your stock and what customers are looking for, it is a game-changer.  It encourages customers to come back for more.

Unified and Personalized Shopping Experience

Adopting technology across the customer journey will enable you to offer a more compelling and frictionless experience.  This might be with a better point of sale (POS) system, kiosks, self-checkout stations, and mobile commerce.

Ease of payment and security of payment at the gas pumps and dispensers creates a better shopping experience for your customers.  While the EMV regulations are making it challenging for gas stations, improving security measures will make your location a positive customer experience.  Digital technologies are improving retail experiences.

Choices and Additional Services

Gas stations that provide additional services find that their foot traffic will increase exponentially.  Adding services such as car washes, air, water, movie kiosks, food courts, post offices and more will get people to stop and spend more besides just filling up.

The Benefits of an Engaging Experience

By reinventing the way your gas station and convenience store operates, it will lead to an increase in sales, a transformed reputation and operating efficiency.  By giving the customer an engaging experience, you will find they spend more, stay longer, and come back more often.

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How to Get Your Gas Station Ready for the Busy Holiday Travel Season

Gas Station

The winter holiday season is here.  This means that many families will be traveling by car to enjoy holidays with family and friends.  According to travel statistics during Thanksgiving, people will travel over 50 miles to their destination.  Thanksgiving is the most traveled of the three winter holidays., however, for Christmas or New Year’s people travel farther and stay longer. The good news is that there will be more traffic at your gas station around the holidays.  By preparing and focusing on details, you can affect how much customers will spend when they stop.  It also can improve your traffic during the year by having a reputation of the gas station in town.

Customer Experience

Having excellent customer service at your gas station will make a lasting impression, the easier and better the customer experience, the more customers will be loyal.

Opening on time or possibly even promoting the earlier opening times on heavily car traffic days can improve your bottom line.

Fast speed and good service will always outshine the competition.

Is Your Convenience Store Stocked?

While you need to be prepared at the pump, as that is a big reason for travelers stopping having your convenience store fully stocked and prepped is huge.  Drive sales from your convenience store.

Be a better choice than a fast-food restaurant by providing healthy snack options.

Think about stocking up on some last-minute gag gifts, stocking stuffers and phone chargers. Tourists like goodies and this will give them a few more minutes to hang out and walk around, thus improving your bottom line.

Signage at the Pumps

While a customer is refueling, do you have signage that showcases promotions, deals, or things that you offer inside?  Do you have a reusable cup incentive?  If you do, this may be the time to put it on display and market it to all the holiday traffic.

Optimize your signage opportunities at the pump near the entrance, on curbs near the street.

Food Promotions

Drive sales from the convenience store aspect by offering food promotions.  Convenience stores that offer food deals have improved their bottom line.  Breakfast is a huge part of the day and offering coffee and breakfast pastries.  Changing the food promotion that you have throughout the day to cover breakfast, lunch, and late-night snacks can draw a customer into your store.

First-Class Restroom Experience

A quick stop for a restroom is a huge reason that a traveling person or family will stop.  Then while there, they may refuel.  Make sure that if you have a public restroom, it is clean and a good experience.  Word of mouth is surprising when it comes to a superb restroom experience.

Be the One-Stop-Shop

With some planning and preparation, you can take more payments not only at the pump, but inside the store and truly be a one-stop-shop.  The busy holiday season is a great time to increase brand loyalty and gain new clientele.

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5 Best Practices for Making Your Gas Station Business Profitable

Gas Station

Focusing on best practices can take your gas station from a potential stop for customers to a destination stop.  Thus, increasing your customer traffic and your bottom line.  By focusing on the details in relation to customer service, convenience, and best practices, you will have a profitable gas station business.

Consistency with Opening Hours  

There is nothing more upsetting to a customer than to show up at a gas station during operating hours to find it is closed.  Make sure you hire prompt and timely employees for all shifts but in particular the opening shift.

Convenience Store and Added Services

Most gas stations have a convenience store, as it is a great way to increase profits.  Selling food items can draw and bring in more customers.

Supplementing your gas station by adding a lottery machine inside will bring more value for your customers.  With the jackpots growing, you could make a significant profit off the sales of lottery tickets.

Redbox Kiosks can be a great way to increase traffic to your location.  Movie rental kiosks are proven traffic generators, both causing existing customers to return more frequently and attract new customers.

Adding extra car services is another option within your gas station business.  A car wash, air, and water machines, maybe even a service shop, will be lucrative.

Not only will these added features add to your sales, but it also makes your gas station a one-stop-shop of convenience.

Signage to Promote Your Station

Having good signage is critical to bringing customers into your business.  You want to have signs in town as well as on main highways to promote that you are nearby.  Especially if you have a convenience store and other draws that make stopping at your gas station an all in one stop.

Stay on Top of Inventory

If your gas station has a convenience store, then maintaining your inventory and restocking is a must.  A customer wants to be able to stop and get what they need on top of putting gas in their car.  For your late-night customers, it is even more important to have the shelves stocked.  Your convenience store may be the only place open.  A customer will remember how easy it was to get what they needed at your gas station.

Inventory your station’s tank amounts as well.  There could be nothing worse than not having enough gasoline in your tanks.

Employee Safety and Security

Of course, security is always a need for yourself, the employees, and the business.  However, a lack of security can create a bad public relations situation for your business.  Bad security and PR will definitely mean a loss of business.

Have employees only keep a small amount of cash in the registers.  Install a drop safe under cash register so that it is easy and safe for them to drop excessive cash in it without having to leave the storefront, especially if there is one employee for the shift.

Excellent Service is Always A Must

It goes without saying that the two biggest pieces in making your gas station business profitable are having excellent customer service and well-maintained gas pumps and dispensers.  Above all, this will make your gas station a sought-after location.

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How to Protect Your Gas Station from a Natural Disaster

Gas Station

While all businesses must prepare for a natural disaster, a gas station has a unique set of problems.  Gas stations offer critical resources that are needed.  Customers will make sure that all of their cars have a full tank of gas before disaster hits.  Which leaves little time for gas stations to prepare.  Here is a list that will help you prepare before and after a natural disaster.

Prepare Your Gas Station Before Disaster:

Gas Pumps or Dispensers:  Make sure to double-check that gas pumps or dispensers are anchored to the island.

Shear Valves: Manually trip shear valves under each gas dispenser.

Dispenser Doors:  Ensure gas pumps or dispenser doors are closed and locked.  Check that seals are in good condition.  If you are unsure about a seal use waterproof tape to secure it.  All seals need to stay closed.  It is important that the interior is protected against rain and wind.

Cover: Any openings that your gas pump or dispenser needs to be covered.  Use waterproof tape to protect the printer openings, cash acceptor openings, or more.

Tank Fill Caps: Check all storage tank fill caps when flooding could happen due to disaster.

Underground Storage Tanks:  In flood conditions, you must prevent underground storage tanks from floating.  Keep tanks as full as possible before shutting down or evacuating.

Signs:  Remove any signs that are on or near the gas pumps or dispensers.

Secure or Put Away: Secure or remove any station equipment that could blow away, like trash cans.

Records: There is the possibility that you may lose all of your electronic records, totals, and data.  Print out any vital information that you will need to restore your station after the disaster.

Convenience Store Equipment:  If you can put all of the convenience store equipment on countertops, in case of flooding.

Power Down:  Remove all AC power from all of your equipment before leaving.  Use safety lockout procedures as well.

After the Disaster:

Power:  If it was not done before evacuating, turn the power off to all equipment at the station.

Technician & Electrician:  Have a technician and electrician check the equipment before turning the power back on.  This way if any repairs are needed before it can be done easily.

Check Tanks: Check the tanks for water.  If there is water, eliminate it before an attempt to dispense fuel.  If contamination is heavy, the tanks may need to be completely emptied, cleaned, and filled with fresh product.

Hydraulic System:  Do not use the gas pump or dispenser if there is any possibility of water getting into the hydraulic system.  Pumping water will damage it.

Emergency Generators:  Use generators solely for lighting: they can cause damage to electronic components.

Filters:  Install new filters.

Repair / Replace:  Repair or Replace all damaged parts.

If your gas pumps or dispensers have been completely submerged in water, they should not be used.  Using reconditioned gas pumps or dispensers and parts will help you save money.  In the end, protect your gas station as much as you can safely.  Graffco, Inc. can help you with the rest.

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Understand Your Gas Station Customers to Run Successfully

Gas Station

It goes without saying keeping your customers happy will keep them coming back.  It will also help with your word of mouth advertising.  They will tell everyone they know about how much they like your gas station business.  Understanding your gas station customers will help you run a successful business.

Understand Who Your Customer Is

The location of your gas station will set the tone for who your customer is.  Are you near a highway that gets a lot of out of towners or truckers?  If so, then maybe having some tourist products or personal care items will be your upsell.  Are you near a business area with morning traffic, then coffee could be a big draw.

Take notice of who is your regular customer, and it will help you in deciding what additional products should be on your counters and shelves.

Loyalty Program

One way to attract and keep customers is to make them feel appreciated.  Loyalty programs will keep customers returning to your store.  Look at grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants; they all utilize loyalty programs.  Freebies, discounts and exclusive offers can help drive loyalty.  Discounted rates per gallon or rewards on car washes also evoke return rates.

Convenience

A gas station that offers customers a place to stop and handle several needs becomes a go-to location.  Everyone is always so busy that being able to stop fill-up, get a car wash and grab a snack or a last-minute grocery item is enticing.  Saving your customer time and making it convenient for them is a draw.

Gas Pumps and Dispensers

Customers want to go to a station that has clean gas pump parts. The dispenser nozzles, covers, and handles should be kept up.  Maintain and check that the gas pumps and dispensers are working.  If the gas pumps or dispensers are older, it may be time to look into purchasing new ones or reconditioned gas pumps or dispensers.

Garbage cans are emptied regularly and that the supplies near the pumps are stocked and maintained.  Customers want clean and well-lit locations.

Competitive Pricing

Keeping your gas comparable to other stations is a great draw and to keep customers.  However, with some of the other points, this is a factor, but customers will pay more if it means that they are treated well, appreciated, and in a clean location.

Excellent Services for A Profitable Business

It goes without saying that excellent service and employees make it a pleasure for your customers, and they will be loyal if you have both.  Putting together a marketing plan is a crucial component. Incorporating the above points will set you up for a profitable business.  Once you know your customers preferences it will help make your gas station a sought-after location.