Convenience often takes a back seat to brand loyalty for consumers these days. Just ask your average coffee drinker: When it comes to their cup of joe, 70% of shoppers would choose their favorite brand over the most convenient cup.
But it’s more than just about coffee. Three-fourths (76%) of consumers say they have purchased ready-made meals at a c-store, and those numbers rise even higher among shoppers in their 30s (87%).
While the quality of ready-made food rates highly among consumers, c-stores must sell shoppers on why they should choose their brand over a traditional competitor.
“In a world where channel blurring is forcing c-stores to compete with other verticals such as grocery or quick-service restaurants, leaders need to go beyond being the most convenient option to being one that also offers top-quality products, speedy and accurate service, and a variety of shopping methods,” said Cameron Watt, president and CEO at Ottawa-based Intouch Insight Ltd., which just released the findings of this year’s Convenience Store Trends Report.
The importance of loyalty doesn’t stop there. A full 94% of consumers are members of at least one loyalty program, and 76% say they’d choose a brand with one over a competitor who did not have one. But c-stores rank only fourth among store formats that offer the most popular loyalty programs, trailing behind grocery, restaurants and fast food.
Loyalty programs are an important tool to attract more customers and influence purchases, so why aren’t c-stores doing more?
“Mystery shopping data showed that only 28% of cashiers mentioned their c-store’s loyalty program and not all locations had signage/materials promoting the program,” Intouch Insight said in a press release. “Better promotion will not only help attract more customers but influence their purchases too.”
Of course, some consumers grab their meals to go while filling up the gas tank (or charging the battery), and because stores are often located along their commute. However, the data warns c-stores that consumers will steer clear of high prices and the lack of alternative shopping methods that allow them to remain in their vehicle.
Meanwhile, alternative last-mile services — curbside, delivery and mobile ordering — are quickly picking up speed at convenience stores. The report shows a 47% increase for these options at c-stores since last fall. Prepared food and groceries are the most popular purchases, bought most frequently through third-party apps.
“We found that a vast majority of those who purchased fuel from a c-store preferred to keep their transactions at the pump. At the same time, shoppers are increasingly engaging with convenience retailers through third-party applications and delivery services, which implies that c-store operators are going to have to find new ways to make room for in-person customer interactions,” Watt said. “Now more than ever it’s critical to ensure shoppers feel acknowledged and valued no matter how they are engaging with your brand.