With compounding external factors such as supply chain issues, labor shortages, and rising inflation impacting the daily operations of convenience stores, consumer insights serve as a foundation for informed action. That’s why Intouch Insight releases regular reports on trends and data we’ve collected via ongoing consumer surveys, mystery shopping, and operational audit programs.
In our latest release, Summer 2022 Convenience Store Trends, we explore five key takeaways for convenience store operators. You can download the full report here for free, or keep reading for a brief overview of our key findings.
- Competition with quick-serve restaurants
- Convenience driving coffee sales
- Capitalizing on in-person interactions
- Opportunities around customer loyalty
- Rising use of alternative shopping methods
Competition with quick-serve restaurants
The quality of prepared food currently offered by convenience stores has put them in direct competition with quick serve restaurants. 76% of consumers reported having purchased food from a convenience store with the highest popularity being among those between the ages of 31 and 40. But how can operators continue to increase their share of this market?
Survey data shows that the main reason consumers choose to purchase meals from convenience stores over quick-serve restaurants is because it’s a multi-purpose stop, allowing them to buy gas and other commodities at the same time, and the service is faster than traditional fast-food locations. However, operational audits of major convenience store chains showed room for improvement around the variety of items available as well as ensuring all items are in stock.
By leaning into their one-stop-shop nature and ensuring a wide variety of goods in stock, convenience stores can continue to expand their share of the prepared food market.
Convenience driving coffee sales
Coffee is a major commodity, with over 75% of consumers reporting they regularly purchase coffee, and convenience stores are already a significant player in this space. Recent consumer data shows that convenience is a key factor when people are choosing where to purchase their next cup of joe — playing directly into the strengths of convenience stores.
However, convenience does not trump brand loyalty with 70% of consumers saying they would still search out their favorite brand of coffee rather than purchase the most convenient cup. This means convenience stores need to ensure they deliver on quality and customer experience in order to win consumers away from traditional coffee shops.
Additionally, audit data shows that convenience stores could do more to offer additional products such as milk alternatives which were only available at around half of the locations visited.
Capitalizing on in-person interactions
After a tumultuous couple of years where in-person interactions were limited at best, brands are working to reconnect with their customers. But, for convenience stores, a large number of purchases are still taking place without any interaction with staff.
Consumers reported gas to be the most purchased item from convenience with 83% preferring to complete this transaction at the pump. This places added pressure on operators to ensure that when customers do enter one of your locations that they leave feeling appreciated and valued.
Mystery shopping and audit data revealed that while convenience stores score high in regards to the upkeep of storefronts and pump islands, additional training for staff could improve consumers’ in-store experience and the quality of customer service.
Opportunities around customer loyalty
Loyalty programs are popular with 94% of consumers reporting they are part of at least one and indicating it was an important factor in deciding which convenience store to visit. However, convenience stores were the 4th most common business for people to have a loyalty membership with — behind grocery stores, restaurants, and fast food chains.
One reason loyalty programs with convenience stores are lacking in popularity could be a lack of promotion. Mystery shopping data revealed that cashiers only mentioned the brand’s loyalty program a third of time and a quarter of the locations visited did not have any signage promoting a loyalty program.
Loyalty programs are a great way to attract customers as well as influence consumer purchases. By increasing the in-store promotion of their loyalty programs operators will be in a better position to capitalize on these benefits.
Rising use of alternative shopping methods
Despite relatively low adoption over the past two years, there has been a 47% increase in the use of alternative shopping methods when completing a purchase at a convenience store – with the largest increase being in third-party delivery services. While the leading reason among consumers who have not used alternative shopping methods remains lack of interest, nearly half of those who have used them say they will again.
What does this mean for convenience stores? The top items purchased via alternative shopping methods are prepared food and groceries — meaning growing these channels will give operators a boost as they continue to compete with quick-serve restaurants and grocery stores.
Mystery shopping data shows that while overall consumer satisfaction with mobile ordering from convenience stores is relatively high, improving order accuracy and speed of service will ensure consumers continue to use them.
Want to know more? Download your copy of the full report here.