Convenient locations and fast service are what consumers say convenience stores provide best in an increasingly competitive retail landscape. Nearly two in three Americans (64%) say they live within five minutes of a convenience store, according to a new national consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores. Even in smaller towns, convenience stores are nearby: 86% of Americans in rural communities say they are within 10 minutes of a store.
Quick, one-stop shopping
Convenience stores sell approximately 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States, and nearly half of all gas customers (48%) also go inside the store when they’re buying gas for easy one-stop shopping. Whether hot coffee or cold beverages, consumers think drinks first when going in the store: 53% say their prime reason to go inside is to buy a beverage.
Whether hot coffee or cold beverages, consumers think drinks first when going in the store: 53% say their prime reason to go inside is to buy a beverage.
The time consumers spend in C-stores also is incredibly fast. Half of all consumers (45%) say they are in and out of the store with a purchase in 3 minutes or less.
It’s for these reasons that convenience stores are considered the fastest location to buy something to eat or drink, with consumers selecting convenience stores over fast-food restaurants as the shortest wait times in lines by a 2-to-1 margin (35% vs. 18%).
NACS consumer surveys also suggest that consumers are looking to save even more time inside the store, with 92% of respondents saying they’d be interested in using automatic check-out technologies, and 67% saying they’d like to try same-day grocery delivery. Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they’d like to pick up their online shopping orders (for example, Amazon or eBay) at a physical C-store location.
Convenience stores are developing innovations through store design, technology, services, and on-the-go food options. And, because the 155,000 convenience stores in the United States represent 34% of all brick-and-mortar retail in the country, it’s likely these innovations will be coming soon to communities across the U.S.—and the world.
Enhancing design, tech offerings
Convenience retailers understand the value of making first impressions, beginning with a clean and well-lit store. Now, more retailers are enhancing the appearance of a traditional C-store “box” with an overall design strategy. In some cases, that means considering radical reinventions like separating the convenience side from the foodservice side—or even housing multiple food brands under one roof like a food hall.
Technology is rapidly changing the way convenience and fuel retailers operate their business. In fact, many retailers believe that new technologies can help their core consumers embrace a digital lifestyle.
Most of all, convenience stores sell convenience, allowing customers to quickly buy what they need and get on with their day in 3 minutes or less.
As the need for convenience grows, so are time-saving services. Offering options such as last-mile delivery services and touchscreen ordering kiosks for customizable foodservice options allow convenience retailers to increasingly bring new services into their stores for time-starved customers to create a next-level foodservice program.
The NACS consumer survey was conducted Sept. 13–16 by PSB (Penn Schoen Berland); 1,504 U.S. adults nationwide were surveyed.