1. Location Matters (A Lot)
Probably the biggest appeal of truck stops is that they’re right by the highway. You don’t have to get off an exit and drive for a couple of miles to get to them, which makes a visit quick and easy. And no matter how big your ride is, you can get in and out easily due to their convenient configurations and clear signage.
Both the physical address of your business and the layout inside your retail space should enable visits that are as painless as possible. Choose the proper location for your business and then align your entry, merchandise, and checkout in a way that makes visitors feel like they can get what they need without aimlessly searching and wasting time. Don’t worry – the visitors that want to take their time shopping will do so even if your store is optimized for visitors that need to make a quick purchase.
2. Business Hours Should Fit Your Audience
Truck stops are open 24-hours a day, which is another reason why we love them. Truckers drive at all hours of the day, and when we road trip we like to do it all in one trip if we can, which typically means driving overnight. Stopping someplace that you know will be open and safely lit is a huge plus. While your local business certainly doesn’t need to be open all day, you should consider aligning your business hours with your audience’s needs. Whether that means opening early or staying open late (at least a couple days a week), cater to their needs to differentiate yourself and bring in more business.
3. Be Everything Your Customers Need
Truck stops have literally everything that someone might need while traveling – from beef jerky and energy drinks to neck pillows and aspirin. This doesn’t mean that your business should carry a wide variety of unfocused merchandise (in fact, trying to be everything to everyone is really terrible strategy… unless you happen to be Wal-Mart or Target). However, it does mean that your business should strive to be the be-all-end-all for your niche.
For example, there’s an olive oil company in my local community that has every variety of savory and sweet olive oil you could ever need (or imagine for that matter). They also have balsamic vinegars to pair with the oils to make a plethora of healthy and delicious recipes. Decorative dishes for serving seasoned oil at gatherings? They’ve got it! Oil bottle stoppers? They’ve got it! When it comes to olive oil, they’re everything! If your business can be the everything your customers need in a store that sells what you sell, you’re in a good position to compete both in your local market ande online.
4. The Little Things Matter
When you walk into a truck stop, you get the feeling that every detail is planned and that plan is being executed properly. The employees are all friendly, the layout is perfectly optimized to get to you the bathroom and the fountain drink station, there’s a set cleaning schedule that they adhere to so that everything shines, and all seven million varities of bottled and canned drinks that they offer are laid out intuitively in cooler cases. Everything, even the little things, have been taken care of to provide you with a positive experience. And if a truck stop fails to execute on even the smallest detail, word travels fast. When we were planning our last road trip my in-laws shrewdly advised us which brand at which exit in our targeted stop area had the cleanest restrooms because people remember these kinds of things.
For your retail business, take note at how customers expect attention to detail in everything that you do, and understand that the effects of negative word of mouth affect every type of business. If your business has experienced complaints in the past, fix the issues in question and then announce publicly that you’ve done so to convince lost business to return.
5. Freebies Bring in Business
Let’s face it, most people visit truck stops to use the bathroom. However, while they’re making a restroom stop, they tend to also fuel up their vehicles and buy merchandise and food. Providing free use of clean, well-stocked restrooms brings in big business once you add up all their other purchases! That’s why some stores offer complimentary treats for kids (stickers, hand stamps, candy, etc.), gift bags for first-time visitors, coupons to use during off-peak times, raffle entries, and so forth. These freebies can incentivize people to stop into your store and make purchases while they’re there. Look for ways that you can convince people to visit by giving them something fun at no cost.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!