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Digital advertising networks boost the top line by funneling traffic from the great outdoors to inside the store.

How to consistently transform gas customers into insidethe-store customersremains one of the great mysteries of our time. Retailers have tried a batteryof techniques— instore promotions with banners, advertisements blastingfrom overhead speakers, static ads on pumptoppers and streaming words on thepumps’ LCDs, for example—to get customers to grab a soft drink or a bagof chips, let alone a high-margin “meal deal.” While previous methods have haddiffering levels of success, some retailers have found what they think is abetter way.

It’s called Outdoor TV, a weather-hardened full color DVD quality flat-screen television that easily transmits any message a retailer wants to send to the consumer. Affixed to the post abutting the pump, the unit can display an array of advertisements, provide area-specific weather and traffic updates and trumpet instore promotions. Retailers taking this route report that the technology has not only helped capture the customer’s attention, but also provided stores with an advertising medium that allows them to deliver more effective promotional messages through a combination of sight, sound and motion.

Prior to unveiling the new technology, Outdoor TV creator PTI Media Networks(www.ptimedia.com) conducteda series of pilot tests and ad-effectiveness measurements to see if the unitsstood up to weather conditions-—and to measure whether or not the methodwould drive enough results to make the units worth a retailer’s investment.

Expecting results
One test dubbed the “Beat the Heat Week Promotion”involved Chevron-, Shell-and 76-branded gas stations implementing a 25¢fountain drink promotion. The goals of the promotion were to increase fountaindrink sales by 10%; boost incremental sales; and build repeat business.

After running 30-second spots every five minutes for eight consecutive days,the 10 pilot locations reported that fountain sales increased from 20% to 130%—themajority of which were not of the intended promotional item. In addition,higher-margin incremental sales increased by roughly 8% overall.

PTI also ran a promotion geared towards sites with car washes, whereby customers received a free gift with the purchase of a premium carwash. However, customers were required to go into the store to receive the gift. At the start of the promotion, an average of 15 people per day purchased the $8 premium car wash. Two weeks after starting the promotion, the percentage of premium washes grew by 70%. In addition, in-store traffic experienced a lift of more than 22% per day, and more than 30% of customers purchased additional items. Prior to the promotion, customers had no incentive to purchase the premium car wash or shop in the convenience store.

Bill Feulner, owner of Sacramento, CAbased Hopewell Holding, owns and operates three Chevron stations. One of his stores currently has the Outdoor TV system in place.

“People are aware of the system, and it does help bring people inside becauseit continues to reinforce advertising messages at the pump,” says Feulner. “It’salways difficult to put it into numbers, but based on comments people have madecoming into the store mentioning the system, I would definitely say it is effective.”
Peter Fretty, Contributing Editor

Network advertising

Five seconds could mean the difference between a sale and a no sale, according to Craig Heard, president of Gateway Outdoor, who says the final five seconds before a customer enters a convenience store are the most valuable to engaging that customer and convincing him to make a purchase.

Gateway’s GO Media Convenience Store Advertising Network includes more than20,000 convenience stores in 30 states—from New York to Nevada, from Californiato the Carolinas. Gateway (www.gatewayoutdoor.com)leases space from retailers to position framed one-sheet posters at or nearthe entrances of these stores promoting brand names from major manufacturersof foods, beverages and other items.

Participating stores receive a lease fee for the space; fees are based uponpositioning, geography and the length of contract with Gateway’s advertiser.Retailerrates average around $200 annually, according to Heard, but a store’s biggestopportunity might be in increased sales. Retailers can benefit from significantproduct movement through the poster promos; past signage promotions have reflected50% sales improvements compared to stores bearing no signage.

Captivated audience

Los Angeles-based Shell dealers Pacific Fuels and C.A.R. EnterprisesInc. have launched a new customer communications network at their gaspumps. At 17" daylight-viewable screens, customers can catch thescore of the Dodgers game, take in the day’s stock prices and sneak apeek at a summer blockbuster, all while filling the tank.

The system, run by vendor VST Media Network (www.vst-media.com)over a highspeed centrally managed network, combines paid advertisingwith news and sports, as well as film trailers, public-service announcementsand emergency alerts. When the pumps are not in use, screens cycle througha series of on-site promotional offerings. Lifting the nozzle from thefuel dispenser triggers a two-to three-minute programming loop—matching the average fuel-up time. The loop also features a maximum ofsix 15-second paid advertisements.

Leighton Hull, president and CEO of Pacific Fuels, has implemented thesystem at 10 of his stores. “We believe [the system] will help lift salesand provide an entertaining value-add for our customers,” he says. “Themonitors can be used to promote specific campaigns that drive motoristsinto the store. The great thing [about the system] is that we can measureany campaign, such as how many customers saw the promotions and the associatedsales lifts of specific product promoted on the network.”

C.A.R. Enterprises President Sam Anabi has installed the monitors atseveral of his 50 locations. “I have been very impressed with the initialcustomer reaction,” Anabi says. “Whether through increased c-store sales,improved customer loyalty or additional car washes, I expect [the network]to have a significant impact on my bottom line.”

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