Convenience is what customers are looking for these days. But what do these customers really want? In this blog, I’ll try to dive into this topic based on a 2018 NACS study. Mind you, there will be a lot of stats in this text, but those numbers tell a fascinating story—let’s take a look!
Convenience retail: the place to be
Yes, that’s right! Convenience retail is the place to be, and it is growing faster than ever. According to a 2019 Edge report, the convenience retail channel will “grow faster than any other mainstream store-based channel in sales and store count” between now and 2023. With a 5.7% sales growth rate, it outpaces all other retail channels, including fast growers like cash-and-carry and discount stores. The report further states that over 53,000 new c-stores stores will open globally over the next five years.
Growth drivers: urbanization and more frequent shopping
The drivers for this enormous growth in convenience retail are the ongoing urbanization (both in developed and developing countries), declining household sizes and overall, consumers’ preferences for smaller and more frequent shopping missions. Moreover, their proximity to urban areas make c-stores the perfect candidates for offering new services like picking up “click & collect” items – driving more traffic to the stores and increasing impulse purchases – or offering a quick-service restaurant inside. C-store retailers must evolve with consumer demands to grow market share and to deliver on the promise of convenience, yet c-store retailers cannot do this alone. They need the right store automation technology – and business partners – to continue to meet consumer needs and keep their competitive advantage.
What consumers want: location, speed and food
Modern consumers crave personal, convenient and fast service. Innovations like self-service food ordering kiosks, self-checkout counters, mobile payments and real-time personalized offers all contribute to a great in-store experience. Convenience is king for the c-store shopper.
But, what do today’s consumers consider to be ‘convenient’? A study carried out by NACS found that it boils down to location and speed of service. Sixty-three percent of consumers indicate they visit a c-store because it is either close-by, or offers much faster service than a traditional grocery store – or both. Ninety-three percent say they live within a 10-minute range of a c-store, while 45% indicated they spend less than three minutes inside a c-store. Their purchases are typically consumed within an hour, so in most cases this will be a snack, a beverage or a light meal.
Fuel drives traffic to the store
The NACS report also notes that 47% of fuel purchasers go inside the c-store at least once a week. Twenty-eight percent even shop inside multiple times per week or even daily. The symbiotic relationship between fuel and the c-store should not be underrated – it’s a powerful tool fuel retailers have that their marketing strategies should build on. And the research shows that savvy retailers already are: Over the past three years, the number of people who fuel up and then afterwards actually go inside the store has grown by more than one-third, from 37% in 2015, to a whopping 48% in 2018!
Speed is of the essence
As I noted above, about half of your consumers are in and out of the store in less than three minutes. If we look at a five-minute interval, this includes 80% of c-store visitors.
A detailed time study produced by NACS shows how the average consumers spent those couple of minutes effectively: