Digital Needs in an Analog World

There is not a more analog job than driving a long haul truck.  In this profession, everything is rooted in the real world.  The trucks, trailers, and cargo exist.  They are tangible.  And they go from one place to another in real time through real space in the real world.

This week I am attending the DAS Travel Center Show as an invited guest.  Visiting the expo and talking to the attendees reinforces how complicated it is to move something from one place to another.  The professionals who drive transports for a living have a set of needs and requirements that differ greatly from the average motorist on our roads.  The travel center industry has developed and evolved to meet those needs.  We all know about the amenities that you can find at your average truck stop: showers, cafes, lounges, and laundries in addition to fuel.

CMSI operates, and has a history of operating, truck stops around the country.  Meeting the daily demands of the folk who spend their life on the road requires us to be the best site operator that we can be and, fortunately, our team always rises to the challenge.

This week’s expo reminded me of how even this most analog of industries has a digital component.  As store operators, we are always searching for the items that our customers want and need.  Surprisingly, the percentage of our SKUs dedicated to trucker related digital items continues to grow.

Of course, truckers are like everyone else – they have cell phones and computers-and we are stocking items to meet those realities.  Phone chargers, connectors, cables, holders, dashboard mounts, cases, and hands free equipment multiply on our shelves.  There is a whole universe of electrical products out there: in-cabin TV, DISH satellite dishes for the top of the cab, wireless speakers, crock pots, refrigerators, and coolers.  I even saw an electric frying pan and an oven that can be used to cook food in the truck cabin.  (As a side note, where would we be as a civilization if the 12v cigarette plug had not been invented?  It’s probably the most important thing to come out of the use of tobacco.)

My point is that just because we see a customer segment one way (trucking is old technology) doesn’t mean that the customer hasn’t evolved and developed like other segments (a trucker is as much of a digital native as someone who works in the tech industry).   As retailers, we have to predict their needs and determine how we are going to meet them.