Little Things That Count
By Carter Hammett
It’s spring in tiny Hastings ON, population 3,000. A bustling c-store welcomes customers into its brightly-coloured environs. Shoppers browse. Locals mingle. But wait: along with the standard cigarettes, milk and fast-food items, your eye comes to rest on a rather unique item: worms.
That offering makes sense. Hastings is the gateway to Rice Lake, a popular go-to fishing spot in eastern Ontario. It’s also indicative of how well the store knows its customers. Along with the standard products sold virtually everywhere, many smaller c-stores tap into their demographic, seeking out value-added products and services that create reasons for customers to return.
When you talk to pundits, no matter where they are or what size their outlet, a common theme emerges: It’s the little things that count. This means details and personalized touches that imply the difference between simply being a store or a shopping destination.
This can take many forms, says marketing consultant and founder of Barrie ON-based marketing firm Collaborative Haus, Nicole French. “Adding value is about understanding your customer and putting them first,” she says. “If you know your customer and understand what their lives are like, what their needs are – their pain points – you can offer ways to solve their problems and become invaluable in their lives.”
And, adding value is about two things, says French: Bringing customers into your store and keeping them coming back.
“An attractive entrance with enticing products on display can help to trigger the reminder of a need or initiate an impulse purchase,” she says. “Seasonally, you can carefully select products to display that you know are needed. In the spring and summer put out flowers and plants, last minute sun toys and beach items, bug repellent, sun screen, fly swatters, etc. In the winter have shovels, snow brushes, blankets, windshield wiper fluid and other items that you know are essential. It’s communicating to the public that you have these items and it’s a quick stop rather than a full shopping commitment at a larger store.”