How A C-Store Customer Decides Where to Shop

» How A C-Store Customer Decides Where to Shop

An interesting new survey is shedding light on the rationale your customers use when deciding which c-store to visit. If you’ve ever wondered what makes them pick one store over another, your answers lie below.

Location, Location, Location

Real estate agents may talk about location being the determining factor for buying a house. It’s also the most important consideration when deciding which c-store to shop. In January and February 2018, Trendsource.com asked customers who visit c-stores two to three times a week to list why they choose a certain store over another. The top answers:

  1. Location
  2. Safety
  3. Gas prices

Safety was a concern for customers across the board, whether they lived in rural areas, suburban communities or urban centers. However, women were much more likely to list safety as their top consideration.

Trendsource explained the gas price priority this way: Once customers have established that a c-store is in a good location and they feel safe, then they further narrow down their choice by gas price. Those top two reasons listed come first always. No, people will not drive out of their way to save a few cents on fuel and they won’t sacrifice safety.

You may also be wondering, based on the top reasons given, if customers venture inside the store or if most stay in the forecourt. Now that you know where your customers want to go, let’s dive into why they stop and uncover more rationale behind shopping habits…

Foodservice Is #1

Foodservice is the top reason customers go inside convenience stores. In a 2018 study by AlixPartners, 27% of customers will stop to buy prepared foods and hot/cold/frozen dispensed beverages. Even though they are most likely to come in at traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner times, customers are more likely to call it a snack.

Other reasons for coming into the store: 17% stop for packaged beverages. 13% stop for cigarettes.

The foodservice category has been growing at a rate of 13.2% a year for c-stores since 2012. While it’s been trending up for c-stores, dining at QSRs, fast food and grocery stores has been flat or even declining. This shows that c-store quality has improved to the point of stealing market share away from restaurants.

As Amina Altaf, Product Marketing Director of Gas Buddy told CSNews.com, “More and more, c-store retailers are figuring out how to give customers more ‘bang for their minutes,’ matching quick-service restaurants and grocery stores on healthy and fresh food options for shoppers who are pressed for time.”

Is there room for improvement? Sure! More than 80% of the survey respondents would like to see “freshly made” or “locally sourced” food at c-stores with nutritional information provided. There’s definitely a market for any better-for-you offerings you decide to add, and it will help differentiate you from the competition.

Getting More Convenient

The AlixPartners survey also included this interesting question: If Amazon Go opened in your area, how would your shopping frequency change? 57% said no change at all. However, 43% would be shop at other c-stores less often. They found the idea of quicker, cashier-less convenience appealing – especially if they could order online and have their food waiting when they arrived.

How to Stand Out

A 2013 BCG survey found that c-store brands that outperform on critical differentiating attributes attract twice as much customer spending as those that don’t. Safety would obviously be an example of a differentiator that matters to customers. A fresh appearance is another. If you’d like help with an assessment of your stores and brand in the ever-competitive c-store market, contact us today! As industry experts in store reimaging, branding and remodeling, we can show you cost-efficient ways to improve the retail environment and drive more traffic.