What Do Consumers Want From Their C-Store Experience?
In a recent report by Research and Markets, the worldwide c-store industry is anticipated to expand at 11% during 2011-2014, to an astounding $857 billion. In the US alone, c-stores represent close to 35% of all retail outlets – outpacing drugstores, supermarkets and dollar stores combined.
Based on the numbers above, it comes as no surprise that at the recent Convenience Store News 2013 Foodservice Summit, retailers were paying close attention to what consumers had to say about what they want from their convenience store experience.
David Mills of Mills Consulting Group was the leader of this live focus group discussion, which featured 10 consumers who had experience purchasing prepared foods from both grocery and c-stores.
During the discussion, retailers were concealed behind a one-way glass, closely monitoring the attendees and continually submitting questions based on the direction of the conversation.
Overwhelmingly the consumer group stated that the cleanliness and lighting of a particular location was influential enough for them to decide if they were willing to purchase food items. “There are c-stores where you know it’s a gas station and c-stores [where] you can’t tell it’s a gas station,” one consumer commented.
With regard to the actual food offerings, freshness was the main factor in deciding whether to purchase. Grilled and rotisserie items, ripe fruit and vegetables, and soups not made from concentrated ingredient, led to a “feeling of freshness,” according to the group.
“Make it feel like a market,” said one member of the focus group; anything dark, dingy and prepackaged doesn’t present a comfortable atmosphere for shoppers.
Becoming one of the single most important factors in attracting and retaining new business, many c-stores are using this consumer feedback to revamp the inside of their stores. In addition to creating a clean, bright, safe, welcoming environment for consumers, c-stores have also begun designing “lifestyle locations,” reminiscent of large retail stores. These locations include comfortable seating areas with Wi-Fi, clear and effective signage and display systems that blend into the overall design, and digital menu boards to promote quality of food offerings and engage consumers at the point-of-purchase.
Coffee/tea stations are also getting much-needed makeovers so that c-stores can successfully compete with other c-stores, as well as dedicated coffee houses and fast food restaurants offering coffee selections.