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TULSA, Okla. — According to a new consumer survey, locally based QuikTrip is once again North America's favorite convenience store chain.
In an effort to find out which convenience stores consumers prefer and why, Market Force Information polled 5,000 consumers in August. To determine the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent c-store experience and their likelihood to refer that store brand to others.
When the results were tallied, QuikTrip ranked highest at 79 percent, with Wawa coming in a close second at 74 percent. Other regional players such as Sheetz, RaceTrac Petroleum and Speedway also earned high enough scores to land in the top five, while national brands such as Chevron, BP and 7-Eleven placed lower on the list.
This year's rankings marked a repeat performance for some of the retailers. QuikTrip was voted the most popular convenience store chain in the Market Force study last year, followed by Wawa, RaceTrac, Speedway, ARCO/ampm, Casey's General Stores, Circle K Stores, 7-Eleven, Valero Corner Stores (now known as CST Brands Inc.) and Shell, as CSNews Online previously reported.
Polling results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score. Market Force's annual research has found that customers who have an exceptional shopping experience (a rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5) are not only more loyal customers, but also 2.5 times more likely to recommend the place to friends and family, according to the Louisville, Colo.-based customer intelligence solutions firm.
Top-ranked QuikTrip has experienced accelerated growth over the past two years, including the recent opening of its 700th location. The chain's popularity is due, in part, to its focus on offering fresh food, including made-to-order food and drinks. QuikTrip and second-place Wawa have also both developed a reputation for consistent customer service and store cleanliness, according to Market Force.
"We're seeing a phenomenon where convenience store brands are expanding their fresh-food options as a way to lure new visitors through the door and cultivate loyalty," said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force. "From offering salads and smoothies to take-home pizza and lasagna, regional convenience store chains are making food a priority. It's a logical path to expansion because it draws market share from quick-service restaurants and grocers offering both gas and on-the-go food options."
When it comes to dollars and cents, the firm's research found that price was selected by only 26 percent of consumers as an attribute they like most about their favorite convenience store. Service and cleanliness factors ranked much higher on the priority list, with low prices landing in the seventh spot.
The research also showed the majority of c-stores are not meeting basic standards of service and cleanliness. This means there is significant opportunity for operators to improve the customer experience and impact customer loyalty by ensuring they deliver on the basic mechanics of service and cleanliness, according to the firm.
According to the poll results of consumers' most recent c-store experience, QuikTrip took the top spot on all service-oriented attributes, including friendly service, fast service, clean bathrooms and clean interior and exterior. Wawa ranked second for customer service and third in the cleanliness categories. Sheetz, RaceTrac and Casey’s General Stores also performed consistently well across most of the service-related areas.
Food and beverage items, such as coffee and sandwiches, continue to be important differentiators to attract more customers. When Market Force asked consumers to rank convenience store brands on four food and beverage attributes, Wawa earned the highest marks for food quality and coffee quality. Sheetz stood out for its wide food selection, and QuikTrip was a leader for its beverage station quality. Casey’s General Stores and Speedway also made appearances in the top-three rankings.
Looking at value and amenities, RaceTrac came out as the price leader, while Wawa won out for the number of amenities it offers. Speedway was No.1 in the promotions and discounts category, trailed by Sheetz, which ranked in the top three of all of the service attributes. Some of the larger chains, such as Casey’s General Stores and Chevron, performed well in the convenient location category.