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    C-stores Smartening Up to Mobile Technology

    More operators are capitalizing on consumers’ smartphone use.

    NATIONAL REPORT — More than nine of every 10 Americans now own a cellphone and, even more importantly, 86 percent of them rarely or never turn their phones off, according to a Pew Research study. Hence, it’s safe to assume that the majority of existing and potential convenience store shoppers are looking at their phones throughout much of the day, whether they need to or not.

    To capitalize on this trend, more convenience store operators are adopting mobile-centric technologies to connect, engage and market to consumers where they are — the goal being to drive more traffic to their stores and ultimately boost sales and profits. 

    The Convenience Store News 2016 Technology Study found that nearly half of chain c-stores (47 percent) now offer a mobile app, a solid 8 percentage-point increase compared to last year, and a robust 18 percentage-point increase compared to two years ago. In 2014, just 29 percent of c-store operators indicated they were offering a mobile app.

    Another way chain c-store retailers are attempting to draw shoppers to their stores is via social media. Of particular interest in this year’s study is an apparent shift in the social media networks c-store operators are using to promote their wares. Not surprisingly, Facebook is still No. 1, with nearly all chain retailers (98.6 percent) using this avenue. However, Instagram saw the biggest year-over-year jump and is now used by approximately one-third of c-store chains.

    Some other topline findings from this year’s Technology Study are:

    • Aside from store location services, fuel prices and coupons are the most popular features of convenience store mobile apps.
       
    • 92 percent of those surveyed are investing in promotional/sales technology, with video monitors being the big winner. Text messaging to customers and merchandise ordering at the pump also exhibited strong year-over-year growth.
       
    • After a long period of growth, the number of c-store chain operators offering a loyalty program leveled off this year, declining by one percentage point to 61.2 percent.

    Look in the December issue of Convenience Store News for the full results of this study. 

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