A variety of in-store services can improve customer loyalty and your bottom line. Rich Airey finds out more

From bill payments to dry- cleaning, ATMs to book exchanges, by offering your customers reasons to pop in to your store other than to top up on the usual grocery lines, you're bound to notice an increase in profits.
Greater footfall has obvious benefits, as does commission earned on transactions such as bill payments, the lottery and mobile phone top-ups. Add in services such as home delivery and your store will soon become a real community hub attracting loyal customers.
Payzone managing director Paul Charmatz predicts a bright future for c-store retailers who offer that little bit extra. He says: "We've seeing significant volume growth in terms of signing new agents. Providing a service such as Payzone obviously drives footfall and retailers can also pick up significant margins on mobile top ups as well as bill and utility payments and transport tickets."
He adds: "For retailers facing a drop in revenue as part of the Post Office closure programme, prepayment networks like Payzone provide a versatile income stream and they have been growing in popularity within the retail industry over the past few years. Since 2003 the number of products offered on networks has grown from 11 to more than 1,000 and the number of retailers offering prepayment services has increased by 83%."
Rival provider PayPoint has also been busy recruiting new agents and increasing its product portfolio. Retail director Mike Igoe explains: "We've introduced new schemes involving mobile phone coupons by teaming up with I-Movo. This included a promotion with The Sun newspaper and more recently Lucozade. The take-up has been really good. Receiving and processing actual physical coupons can be very time-consuming for retailers. This way they get an instant return."
Igoe is quick to point out, however, that the company will retain its core focus and adds: "Our core platform will never change. Our main focus will always be to make it easy and convenient for shoppers to pay bills locally whether they be gas, electricity, water or mobile phone top-ups. Having a PayPoint terminal helps retailers build relationships with their local community as people know they can rely on the store to help them manage a number of aspects of their finances."
Igoe adds that the influx of foreign workers from the EU has increased PayPoint use further through products such as Western Union money transfer. Gift vouchers, he says, which the company offers through Coinstar, are also popular.

cash on demand

Cash machines, a service both PayPoint and Payzone can boast as part of their portfolio, can also prove not only extremely lucrative for
c-store owners in terms of commission, but are also useful as self-fill machines reduce the number of time-consuming trips to the bank.
Bosses at cash machine manufacturer NCR say they have seen a significant rise in the number of c-store-based ATMs in recent years. Vice-president of NCR's financial solutions division for the UK and Ireland, Rachel Nash, explains: "Stand-alone convenience store format ATMs have really taken off. Consumers are often willing to pay for the convenience of having an ATM in their local store and there's strong evidence linking ATMs to increased basket spend. Customers really appreciate it as a service and retailers see increased footfall and earn commission."
Nash believes there are a number of innovations retailers can expect to see in the future: "Mobile phone top-ups through cash machines have already become popular, but we are now also seeing a greater amount of advertising and promotions through ATMs. Offers can be printed on receipts for shoppers to gain money off particular products in the store. We're also beginning to see more ATMs offer services such as transport card top-ups. It's certainly an area with a great deal of potential growth in the UK. The ATM works as an electronic interface. There are a lot of possibilities. The primary function of the machine, however, which is to provide cash conveniently and simply, should not be compromised."
Nash urges retailers to keep on top of their ATM's performance and adds: "Availability is the key. Retailers must keep the ATM replenished, be reliable and meet customers' expectations."
With the explosion in the use of digital cameras and more recently high-quality camera phones, a number of manufacturers have developed digital photo printers with a small enough footprint to make them suitable for c-stores. At the end of last year, Kodak increased its portfolio of in-store photo printing products with the launch of a new compact machine.
The Picture Kiosk GS Compact suits entry-level retailers looking to branch into offering a digital photo printing service and is well-suited for locations with a print demand of 30-50 prints a day.
Company bosses say installation is simple and add that retailers can create an instant revenue stream. Kodak head of retail printing Phil Cullimore explains: "The GS Compact is small enough to fit within a small retail footprint at a price that enables retailers to drive revenue and profits from consumer demand for digital prints. We include pos materials with each unit. A retailer can be up and running in minutes."
Another development often found in supermarket entrances but now also available to the c-store sector is the cash-converting machine. Scan Coin has developed a new product, CoinCasher, into which shoppers place their collected change.
They then collect a voucher which they can exchange for larger denominations of cash, or spend in the store.
Scan Coin sales director Steve Fitton explains: "Retailers can boost their earnings by as much as £5,000 a year. It's self-service, easy to use and takes up only 0.34sq m of floor space, so it's ideal for even the smallest shop."
Customers are charged a small commission to use the machine, a figure which retailers decide on. Research indicates that when customers exchange their coins they treat their exchange as new money and are more inclined to purchase higher priced items in store. The machine also helps retailers by sorting coins by denomination into cloth bags ready for banking or to replenish tills.
Fitton adds: "As well as increasing revenue directly, CoinCasher increases store traffic and attracts new customers. It can even be used to reward existing customers with a low or commission-free transaction when they produce a loyalty card."

Hit the jackpot

National Lottery top tips:
Look out for jackpot and rollover news and
new game launches on your terminal messages each day
Talk to customers about new games and
jackpot news and always ask them if they want to buy a ticket or scratchcard
Most scratchcard customers re-invest some
of their winnings, so don't feel embarrassed to ask if they want another scratchcard when paying out a prize
Make sure there are enough lottery-trained
staff at busy periods to minimise queues and maximise sales
Site your play station where you can be sure customers will see it
Regularly refresh and re-fill scratchcard dispensers. Always include a full range of £1, £2 and £5 scratchcard games.
Always display TV-advertised Star games as these generate, on average, an extra 69% in sales.