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BOULDER, Colo. – U.S. consumers named Kroger as their favorite gas retailer, followed by Costco and QuikTrip in a tie for second place and Sam's Club in third, according to a study by customer intelligence solutions provider Market Force Information Inc.
More than 3,500 consumers across the United States and Canada rated their satisfaction with their most recent gas station experience and their likelihood to return to that station. The results were averaged to attain a composite loyalty score.
Kroger ranked the highest at 79 percent, while Costco and QuikTrip were at 78 percent; Sam's Club at 76 percent; and Murphy USA at 68 percent.
The poll also found that consumers prefer to purchase gas at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, rather than traditional gas stations, due to their competitive prices and loyalty-based discounts. However, consumers still visit traditional gas stations more often out of convenience.
"The rise of grocery and wholesale clubs is formidable in the petro-convenience sector, with the ability to use loyalty cards and point systems driving consumers to fuel where they perceive they get better value," said Market Force Chief Marketing Officer Janet Eden-Harris. "However, convenience is often an over-arching consideration for consumers on the go, and it's difficult to beat the pervasiveness of the regional and national chains that dot every town across the country."
Consumers value a convenient location and competitive pricing the most, and consider ease of entering and exiting the gas station, safety of the location and efficiency of the transaction process to be other important factors. Availability of car washes and environmentally friendly fuel is less important.
Still, a convenient location is not always the deciding factor, as 37 percent of consumers said they are willing to drive past a competing fuel brand to reach their favorite gas station brand. Only 18 percent said they would always choose their preferred gas station over other options even if it had higher prices.
Of the brands Market Force studied, Costco, Sam's Club and QuikTrip scored highest in competitive pricing, while QuikTrip scored highest in categories such as convenience, cleanliness, brand reputation and efficient transactions. Speedway led in the loyalty program category, while Chevron ranked highest in fuel quality. Petro-Canada, Shell and Sheetz scored well in discounts, loyalty programs, efficiency and convenience.
Shell was also named the most-visited gas station brand due to its more than 25,000 branded locations in North America.
"We're seeing that convenient locations and competitive prices are table stakes in capturing consumer wallet share, while operational excellence for cleanliness and service clearly play an important role," Eden-Harris said. "In fact, our data shows that clean restrooms, a friendly greeting and a 'thank you' can actually double sales over locations that aren't performing."
The study also identified the four favorite gas station brands in four U.S. regions and Canada:
- West – Costco, Chevron, Shell, Safeway
- Midwest – Speedway, BP, Casey's General Stores, QuikTrip
- South – Shell, Kroger, QuikTrip, ExxonMobil
- Northeast – ExxonMobil, Sunoco, Hess, Sheetz
- Canada – Petro-Canada, Shell, Esso, Co-op