Social Media Growing C-Store Sales
The use of social media—texting, e-mailing, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, just to name a few—with the new generation is exploding. It seems the world is getting smaller and communication is getting quicker. Everywhere you look, folks are on their electronic gadgets—smart phones, iPads, laptops, Kindles, and the like. It is increasingly obvious that this is what people are paying attention to, and this is how they are interacting with each other.
Given the growing use of digital communication in our society, many companies have modified their marketing strategies to take advantage of social media trends, and with phenomenal success. We all got a taste of this on 7-Eleven Day: SEI decided to advertise the event via social media and we had a flood of guests in our stores looking for free Slurpees. You can confidently say it had a huge impact on our businesses, and serves as compelling proof that social media is a very effective way to market our stores.
Realizing the intrinsic value of this method of advertising, SEI has been working on several programs to utilize social media to our advantage, and one of them involves creating Facebook pages for each individual store. This program would allow franchisees to participate in what is displayed on their store’s page—promotions, specials, local events, and such—so they can create a following online that could be parlayed into a growing pool of regular, loyal guests. According to the iModerate 2010 study, Facebook has over 150 million active users in the U.S. and has proven its ability to drive business: users are 51 percent more likely casinos pokie machines to buy after “Liking” a Page, and they are 60 percent more likely to recommend after Liking a Page. These numbers cannot be ignored.
Already there are some stores that have created a Facebook page and have advertised specials that way, with fantastic results. Their customer counts are up and their sales have increased from 5-10 percent. The best part about social media advertising is that it’s not just Slurpee sales that increase for the day—it’s a sustainable improvement because those customers return and buy additional items.
Social media is different than advertising on the radio or in the newspaper because it’s more personal. Seeing an ad in the paper is very different than receiving a personal invitation for a free Slurpee through e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. It adds a personal touch.
Taking it a step further, SEI can use social media to tie vendor promotions to 7-Eleven promotions. For instance, if Nestle Confections has a “Cowboys and Aliens” promotion, they can also tie in 7-Eleven as a supplier of the products. That would mean additional advertising for our stores. To encourage franchisees to use social media to promote and sustain Slurpee sales—as another example— stores could run a contest to crown the next Slurpee King, with the winner getting a $100 or $200 gift card.
Although it has many benefits, social media in general comes with some obstacles that we need to be aware of. When you have guests posting entries to your Facebook page, you need to have a gatekeeper monitoring it through filters (not allowing curse words, etc.). The social media test SEI is conducting is helping to establish filters so that no negative messages relating to 7-Eleven get out.
I strongly feel social media is the direction we want to go and make some investment. The Baby Boomers are aging and exiting the work force. The new generation wants a different way of communicating. They use social media, so we must as well. We need to stay ahead of the curve. 7-Eleven may be an old company, but we are the leader in the industry, and we must be proactive and stay relevant if we want to remain competitive in this technologically evolving age. It’s definitely an investment in our future.