Case Study: On the Run

In the world of convenience store retailing, location and ease of experience is king. In a market outnumbered 3 to 1 by its top competitor in terms of locations, On the Run has experienced significant inside sales increases, increased customer counts, and skyrocketing popularity under The Epstein Group.

The Epstein Group's strategic marketing approach helped On the Run increase sales and branding recognition image

THE BRANDING OPPORTUNITY

In the world of convenience store retailing, location and ease of experience is king. In a market outnumbered 3 to 1 by its top competitor in terms of locations, On the Run has carved itself out as the premium convenience store built specifically for the “Home Team” – local consumers who appreciate a locally-driven store built around a national brand. Where others may turn right due to convenience, we’ve helped make On the Run a destination where loyal members of the Home Team wait for traffic to “turn left.”

KEY CHALLENGE REQUIRING A CREATIVE SOLUTION

The St. Louis market is dominated by one key player, QuikTrip (QT). This premium regional convenience store has over 75 units, 25 years in the market, and high customer ratings across the board. On the Run, who entered the market only 7 years ago, and who currently operates 32 stores, provides a high-end offering and superior customer experience similar to QT. However, they needed a way to differentiate themselves in the market.

Beyond the competitive challenge, the c-store world historically has had a hard time of engaging the consumer. Studies have shown that 85-90% of the purchase decision is based on location alone. People simply go where it’s convenient. We needed to find a way to turn a commodity into a powerful brand, and turn a purchase driven by convenience into every day of the week loyalty.

OUR STRATEGIC CONSUMER INSIGHT

Through our in-depth research and brand analysis process, we determined that On the Run could differentiate itself as the truly local premium c-store brand, one who rewards the “Home Team” and builds relationships as a staunch community partner. We injected that strategy into every aspect of communications—brand advertising, promotional sponsorships, a full digital offering, in-store promotions, and PR.

One of the key elements to this marketing strategy is to support the local professional sports franchises – the St. Louis Cardinals, Rams, and Blues. But it’s not just about a sign at the game or a “brought to you by On the Run” radio message.

We didn’t just decide to support the teams. We support the home fans, celebrate the seasons, and reward fandom. And that’s why we created popular promotional campaigns like the “6-Run, Quarter Drinks” promotion for the Cardinals, “Car Wash Mondays” for the Rams, and “Blues Win You Win 50-cent Hot Dogs” promotions. We’re big fans too; so we just thought we’d use our brand to share our fandom with others and make their day a little sweeter.

We have evolved our programs, whether for car wash or for fountain drinks, to meet the needs of our local road warriors and soccer moms. In recent years, we have truly made the On the Run fountain a destination through our Cardinals promotion, an accomplishment unusual for an industry based so much on convenience. To drive in a new daypart and younger consumer, we expanded the promotion to include not just coffee, but fountain soda and frozen drinks.

Last year’s television and radio campaign called “Six is a Serious Number” gained significant popularity and entered the local vernacular of the media and fans alike. We even conducted a “6 is a Serious Number Video Contest” for local fans to try to create their own versions in effort to “one up” the spots on air.

ACTIONABLE IDEAS THAT ENHANCE RESULTS

On the Run has experienced double digit year over year increases on its fountain products for the past 4 years. Last year fountain drinks sold increased over 20% over prior year. In the C-store world, where the incremental in-store purchase is king, the fountain is the most profitable (coffee, fountain soda, and frozen drinks). It alone has the power to generate habitual purchases and loyal consumers.

By offering a modern, upscale in-store experience, seamless service, along with products and promotions that are unique to our markets, On the Run has experienced significant inside sales increases, increased customer counts, and skyrocketing popularity in the last few years.