Embracing the Technology Revolution

By John Lofstock, Editor

lofstocksmallThere is a rather humorous story behind Simon and Garfunkel’s song Mrs. Robinson that goes beyond the art of seduction. In the popular song, the legendary musical duo asks, “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

DiMaggio, of course, needed no introduction when the song was released in 1968. The iconic Yankee Clipper transcended baseball with his play on the field and marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) Marilyn Monroe.

But legend has it that Joe D. reached out to Paul Simon after hearing the song to explain that he was very much still alive. He had not gone anywhere, he very matter-of-factly told Mr. Simon. The singer would explain that the phrase was by no means a slight, but rather a metaphor for the days gone by when life was simpler, perhaps a little more innocent than the complexities emerging in the U.S. in the late 1960s.

DiMaggio thrived in the Golden Era of baseball in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but grew to accept that he did in fact remain a symbol for times gone by.

Today, American businesses stand at a similar crossroads. Not unlike the transformative era of the Golden Age of Joe DiMaggio, the U.S. is once again transforming at a rapid pace—at a pace, many firmly believe, is unprecedented in human history. This is the Golden Age of Technology and Big Data—an era in which 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years.

Transforming Business
The staggering amount of data gathered and stored in the next two years—on everything from the most minute human proclivities and purchasing patterns to complex algorithms that can predict consumer shopping behavior with pinpoint accuracy—will double even that.

RFID, Bluetooth, near field communications, smartphones and a slew of loyalty program innovations are not only making the world smaller, they are transforming businesses. The punch card? It’s a relic. It should be in a museum with the station wagon, the dot matrix printer, black and white TV and the rotary phone.

Real time has never been more real. Thanks to Foursquare, we don’t even need to wait 10 seconds anymore to view someone’s updated Twitter feed to learn his or her current location. Never mind Joe DiMaggio, where have you gone Facebook?

Even the way people communicate verbally is rapidly changing. LOL. OMG, actual words are losing momentum. There is actually an ongoing debate in many schools nowadays whether to teach and require kids to write in cursive. Now, thanks to sites like Instagram, people don’t even need to say, “I’m having a hamburger for lunch.” They can snap a picture and upload it in two clicks in between bites.

So what does this mean for your business?

Well, it means everything quite honestly. This is how your customers are communicating now and it’s you that needs to adapt. This makes virtually everything you’ve been doing up to now obsolete. In order to communicate with customers, you must be playing in their arena.

Remember when TV commercials helped customers make planned purchases? Social media marketing is influencing what customers will be purchasing in the next five minutes. There is your opportunity as an industry to trump QSRs for foodservice dollars. McDonald’s is promoting fruit smoothies on the tube? Big deal. Text your customers a coupon for 50 cents off a frozen beverage as they’re driving by one of your stores and they’ll never make it to McDonald’s.

Include a loyalty program that offers an opportunity to earn free items, discounts and price rollbacks on fuel and you will not only attract repeat business, you will alter the way customers shop so that your stores are a destination every day. But you have to be in the game. Don’t get caught wondering where your customers have gone. The game rides on your very next pitch.



  1. Great piece, John. We’ve seen many of our c-store customers rapidly grow their customer base and foster brand loyalty with SMS marketing. SMS coupons have a high delivery and redemption rate (It’s estimated SMS has a 90% delivery rate within 3 minutes, and we’ve seen between 30-80% redemption depending on the caliber of the offer), and it’s way more affordable than “spray and pray” television ads. While social media is important, it doesn’t have nearly the ROI SMS does. SMS is really *the* way gas stations and convenience stores should be marketing to customers in the digital age. One more stat, for those afraid of embracing the technology: a recent study found that 70% of American consumers wanted to receive mobile coupons and discounts from their favorite brands.

  2. Thanks for the great article and the reminder, John. Not only must we sleep with our eyes wide open to be able to watch for the each tech change, but we must listen to what our kids, our friends, our friends kids, students, customers, folks we sit next to on planes and on the subway, and even those in our c-stores are saying about the latest in technology. I ask what apps folks are using when I stand next to them in line and I see them on a phone – I can get away with it as an old foogie college prof – and they are usually happy to tell me and show me. I learn a lot by asking! And I learn that as an industry we are woefully behind many other retailers and hospitality groups. By the way, who is Joe DiMaggio? 😉

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