C-store layout

Exclusive Research Uncovers How C-stores Can Gain Ground in Share of Stomach

Angela Hanson
Senior Editor
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C-store shoppers

DALLAS — As the lines between channels blur, all foodservice retailers represent some form of competition to convenience stores. But by recognizing what shoppers want from their prepared food and beverage purchases, c-store operators can boost sales, improve customer satisfaction and gain share from competitors.

Beth Brickel, senior research director on the Insights and Innovation Team at EnsembleIQ, parent company of Convenience Store News, shared insights gleaned from new exclusive research at the 2019 CSNews Convenience Foodservice Exchange event. 

The national study, which specifically identified and created profiles for shoppers who primarily visit c-stores, grocery stores or fast-food outlets for prepared food purchases, found that prepared food and beverages are "a lifeline" for shoppers' busy lifestyles, which may leave them with no time or energy to cook at home.

Consumers demonstrated that when location or routine are not factors, fast-food and fast-casual locations come out on top, while c-stores and coffee shops make a stronger showing when shoppers want to buy a beverage.

Additionally, while 42 percent of shoppers prioritize "quick and easy" when the goal is to satisfy hunger, other factors have more influence than simply convenience; 31 percent prioritize quality and 25 percent prioritize selection and variety.

Some of the study's other key takeaways include:

Increasing satisfaction with heavy c-store shoppers must remain a focus. And while beverages and snacks should not be ignored, meal occasions are most at risk for the c-store shopper.

A majority of all shoppers consider themselves health-conscious. But what does that really mean? The No. 1 indicator of "healthy" in their eyes is freshness.

Think household. Nearly half of shoppers' purchase decisions (49 percent) are influenced by a partner, while 41 percent are influenced by children.

Influence on where to purchase is led by word-of-mouth. Digital resources are not far behind, particularly for millennials.

Most frictionless services, although underrepresented across convenience, perform better elsewhere than at grocery or fast food. Frictionless services can include mobile ordering, delivery services and more.

Concerns about food freshness and quality are the top reasons preventing grocery and fast-food shoppers from purchasing at c-stores. Their perceptions of freshness are affected by store and merchandising cues that go beyond the actual food, such as store cleanliness and an uncluttered interior.

Both grocery and fast-food shoppers would be motivated by a selection that offers more better-for-you options. Increasing this type of offering could prompt higher purchase frequency.

Better variety is the most requested change by c-store shoppers. Nearly two-thirds of study participants (32 percent) listed selection/variety as their response to an open-ended question on what they'd like to change about c-stores. 

The fourth-annual Convenience Foodservice Exchange was held June 19-20 at the Sheraton Dallas by the Galleria. It is an exclusive, invitation-only conference for convenience store foodservice executives. With an emphasis on collaboration, networking and idea exchange, the annual event brings c-store retailers and supplier partners together to maximize opportunities, solve problems and prepare for future growth.

About the Author

Angela Hanson is Senior Editor of Convenience Store News. Read More