ATLANTA — “Long-term demand trends in U.S. food culture are causing tectonic shifts in the industry today and threaten the convenience channel’s very essence,” states a new report from NACS and the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC).
Drawn from research from the Hartman Group, the CCRRC surveyed thousands of adult consumers to “understand how convenience is understood today, where convenience stores are currently situated in the consumer’s food and shopping rotation and how they can best be positioned to align with the consumer’s evolving array of need states and requirements.”
The survey report, titled the Changing Face of Convenience: How C-Stores Must Adapt to Survive and Thrive, said convenience stores fall into a wide variety of strategy types, from traditional to modern, neither of which is better or worse, depending on market and customer base.
To compete effectively in the future, however, the study concluded, “operators should focus on making their stores the most inviting spaces they possibly can. This can be done in myriad ways—from a greeting by a friendly employee to new snack discoveries to premium coffee and fresh pastries to engaging digital experiences.”
Here’s a look at some of the results of the study …
Key c-store shoppers fall into three groups, according to the study: loyalists, millennials and busy parents. These groups prioritize speed, ease and accessibility when deciding where they will shop. “The focus on quick, easy and accessible highlights how notions of traditional convenience continue to be relevant today,” the study said.
Consumer ideas about what “convenience” means are evolving, according to the report. Today’s consumers increasingly eat on the go, with snacks assuming a more nutritional role within their overall diets. While beverages and “treat” snacks remain important, consumers also seek fresh, healthy, high-quality and portable solutions.
Despite the advantages of digital devices and cashierless services, many consumers lament the loss of human interaction when shopping, according to the report. C-stores that execute on quick and unobtrusive service while providing a pleasant greeting and social engagement stand apart as providing a more meaningful experience.
Stores that inspire customers with time-saving and creative solutions for snacking needs for now and later will have more opportunity to leverage morning customers for multiple-occasion purchases in a single transaction, the report said.
“The opportunities are many,” the study concluded, “and success depends on the [convenience] channel’s ability to understand and adapt to the forces of food culture and the shifts in the consumer’s purchasing patterns and evolving needs.”