When The Competition Improves

Oct. 20, 2016

When I mention the word “competition”, what comes to mind for you? Is it another vending, micro market or office coffee service company? Or perhaps it’s something outside of this industry entirely, like a local restaurant or convenience store chain. It’s probably both.

Competition, arguably, is good for business. It forces us to look internally to find ways in which we can improve our services and it sets a standard for other things, like customer service. If we don’t provide a great service or if we don’t live up to our promise, customers have the ability to look elsewhere for places to spend their time and money – and they will.

But what happens when the competition continuously improves its business offerings and model? Is it possible to keep up? The short answer is Yes…and it’s also possible to get ahead.

Convenience stores invest

I read an interesting report this week detailing how in 2015, convenience stores invested more than $6 billion to improve their stores. The report, published by NACS, found that c-stores were remodeling and investing billions of dollars in new store builds. Jeff Lenard, NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives, had gone on to say, “Today’s convenience stores are often very contemporary, and owners regularly upgrade stores to add modern conveniences, especially as stores continue to invest in new services and foodservice programs.”

Convenience stores are upping their game by offering spaces that are contemporary, modern, and convenient – all key words that operators in our industry should be considering when looking at their own offerings. 

To compete with segments outside of our industry – and even within it – operators need to consider what they offer, how they offer it and how it compares to their closest competition, including those places within walking distance from top locations.

Look around to improve 

While many operators don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on remodels, there are other ways of improving services to stay competitive. The first advantage is location –consumers already come to work everyday and don’t have to make an extra trip or leave the building to get your OCS, micro market or vending services. The only reason they would leave is if you didn’t have something they needed.

Operators can use data to tell them the top products, most popular flavors and even purchase preferences of each location, so it’s possible to customize offerings at machine or micro market level. It’s also about anticipating needs. In schools, for example, try selling headphones or phone chargers in the vending machines. Or in a micro market, offer a discount on caffeinated beverages between 3 and 5 PM.  Making improvements doesn’t necessarily mean spending a ton of money to remodel a space…sometimes it means just paying closer attention to consumer preferences.

When the competition improves, you should be working on your own company to improve with it. If you’re the company that is constantly improving and upping the standard for others, bravo! But the competition will never stop trying to catch up, which is why it’s crucial to constantly look forward.