Authenticity may be the key to c-store success
Recently we came across information derived from a Technomic study that suggested a majority of millennials would go out of their way to visit a convenience store if it had more square footage and carried a wider variety of food and beverages. Sure. Seems reasonable enough, but at that point wouldn’t it be more like a supermarket?
Why can’t a c-store just be a c-store? The answer to that may have to do with evolving expectations. In order to stay relevant, businesses have always looked to grab consumers from other businesses. Supermarkets want to sell gas like c-stores and gas stations. And c-stores want to compete with quick-serve restaurants.
So, what makes a c-store a c-store? Again, another question that’s not easy to answer. An urban convenience store may have a tiny footprint with no parking and no gas pumps. A suburban c-store may serve a variety of made-to-order food and have a car wash attached. A rural format may look more like a truck stop. And all of these may exist under a single overarching brand. The one thing that ties all these together is the idea of providing a defined consumer segment just what they want in the shortest amount of time possible. In short – being authentically convenient.
In marketing we deal with issues of authenticity all the time. It’s about clearly defining what your business does, doing it in a way that makes you distinctive and communicating the heck out of that. The challenge for c-stores is that the definition of authentic convenience changes from store to store, based on location and consumer mix. So, even within a single chain, each location will need to be marketed somewhat differently.
According to a MSA study, 58% of c-store consumers said they stop on their way to and from work: 53% stop while running errands: 44% while traveling for pleasure and 36% make a special trip from home. Though two thirds of c-store shoppers visit at least once a week, they are in the store for less than five minutes. And, excluding gas, 73% spend $10 or less per trip.
With such a short duration in the store and small spend per shopper, frequency and loyalty becomes increasingly important. The 58% who stop at a c-store on their way to and from work as well as the 36% who make a special trip from home are prime targets for micro marketing. By instituting programs that are similar to the way local food brands work to dominate their specific geographic regions, c-stores can establish themselves as an integral part of these consumers’ lives and build on that.
The 53% who stop in while running errands need to be convinced of your c-store’s brand superiority. And catching the 44% who are traveling for pleasure is often a function of way-finding and exterior signage.
Convenience, as an attribute, is one of the key forces in today’s retail environment. It’s everywhere. It’s driving the growth of ready-to-eat items in the food industry, online consumer banking, on-demand entertainment and the growth of smartphones in telecommunications. The good news for c-stores is that it’s in the business’s DNA. The bad news is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Simply adding 1,400 square feet to your footprint will only add to your business if it adds to your consumer’s convenience.