Remember when all we had to think about as c-store retailers to market our brand was to have the right sign package in the stores each month, a little radio or TV advertising when we had something special or even a prominent sign at one of the many sporting events in our markets?

Fuel and C-Store retailers are moving away from traditional marketing and advertising approaches and trying to find more intimacy with customers. We want to “chat” and create “posts” where customers can learn and comment. We want to have “fan” clubs and create a “space” where we can communicate key messages and offerings to our customers in ways that are meaningful to them. We want to listen to see if people are tweeting on “Twitter” that reference our brand. What are they saying? What do they need? How do they feel?

The pressure to stay current on all the latest ways retailers are reaching customers is HUGE! Mobile marketing, social media, digital signage, loyalty, mobile apps and much, much more. Retailers are using innovative and creative ways to attract and retain customers as well as learn more about what they want and need.

While still in its infancy compared to larger brands such as Apple, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Dell, McDonalds, etc., Petroleum and C-Store retailers have plunged into the world of social media and mobile marketing. Some know that having a Facebook page alone is important, others are creating real on-line communities that are tied to their brands, others are actively targeting loyal consumers with coupons/promos and still others are being “followed” by thousands of customers on Twitter. Just as digital marketing media shifted retailer’s promotional and advertising dollars from traditional media spending over the past several years, the future of social media and mobile marketing is doing the same.

The big questions for retailers who embark on this journey-  “How much should I do?”, “Where is the biggest return?”, “What am I getting for what I am spending?”, “What do we do with the new information we have?” and “How do we support customers now?” – are all legitimate and real questions for all retailers to consider. Those that figure it out, put a plan in plac,e and follow through will have a real leg up on their competitors and will create long-lasting relationships with their customers.