SAN FRANCISCO — Consumers are putting convenience stores on par with fast-food restaurants, as nearly six in 10 consider buying a meal from a c-store when stopping for fast food, research from Bluedot reveals.
Bluedot is a customer arrival platform that help brands provide real-time interactions and pickup solutions. Its technology identifies exactly when and where a user arrives and enables brands to provide timely messaging, proximity offers, automated loyalty identification, frictionless curbside pickup, gamification and more. Bluedot has introduced its first Convenience Experience Report, which explores consumer sentiment and the customer experience at gas stations and convenience stores.
The research also uncovered significant demand for mobile ordering, drive-thru and curbside pickup and showed that many consumers would visit a c-store more often if all three options were available.
Bluedot’s research also signals that c-stores and gas stations have been losing customers to even short lines. “Nearly half of the consumers surveyed say they will walk out of a c-store if one or two people are in line at the register,” Bluedot said. “Also noteworthy, one in three say they will drive away if there’s just one car ahead of them at the pump.”
In the future, one way c-stores might retain customers longer is by adding EV charging stations, Bluedot said.
“The data supports what industry leaders have been saying for some time—c-stores are now competing head to head with QSRs. Clearly, the investments c-store brands have been making into foodservice initiatives are paying off,” said Emil Davityan, San Francisco-based Bluedot cofounder and CEO. “The data also strongly signals that there’s an opportunity for gas and c-store brands to do much more with loyalty programs and mobile strategies to boost retention, especially if discounts are determining consumer preferences and habits. It’s another page out of the restaurant industry’s playbook that could really level the playing field.”
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Convenience and Restaurants
- One in three consumers visit c-stores for fast food: 27% for grab-and-go refrigerated food, 25% for hot food and 21% for made-to-order food like custom sandwiches.
- 57% of customers walk out of the c-store and skip their purchase if there is a line. Of those, 16% leave if there’s one person in line, 30% if two people and 54% if three or more people.
- Consumers are more apt to visit a c-store when pumping gas, and seven in 10 enter the store when pumping gas. Of those, 77% enter sometimes while 23% enter every time.
At the Pump
- Cheap gas and location outrank other options when seeking a station. When low on gas, consumers choose gas stations based on cheap gas (56%), location (52%) ease of entering and exiting (37%), cleanliness (25%) and high-quality gas (25%).
- Most will wait at the pump but only if there are one to two cars in line; 34% will wait if there is only one car in line, while 33% will wait if there are two cars in line. Only one in four will wait if there are three or more cars.
- Due to credit card fraud concerns, most consumers prefer not to insert their credit card when paying at the pump. 83% are concerned with credit card fraud at the pump. To combat this, 38% examine the card reader, 34% would prefer to store their payment in the gas station’s mobile app, and 28% use one-tap credit card payments.
- Top digital screen dislikes include irrelevant ads (47%), trying to sell something (42%), nothing of interest (41%) and too loud (30%).
- Nearly 9 in 10 said price affects their decision when choosing a station; 64% go to the cheapest gas station if it’s close, while 24% go to the cheapest gas station even if out of the way.
- If it’s more than a 5-cent difference, consumers will forgo loyalty points for gas that’s less expensive; 48% are not willing to pay more than 5 cents more for gas if it means earning loyalty points; 25% favor loyalty points over price.
- 50% believe branded gas is higher quality, but 28% aren't willing to pay for it.
- 59% won’t pay more for gas even if the increase is attributed to U.S. interests compared with 41% willing to pay more.
- The top reasons why consumers download gas or c-store apps include discounts on gas (86%), earn and track loyalty points (57%), protection against credit card fraud (40%), makes pumping gas faster and easier (39%) and to track gas expenses and receipts (34%).
- One in four consumers use third-party apps to order from convenience stores yet they favor c-store apps over third-party apps; 40% would prefer to use a store's branded app over third-party apps.
Focus on the Future
- 62% would visit a c-store more often if there was a drive-thru or curbside pickup.
- 6 in 10 would be more likely to visit a gas station if its mobile app automatically unlocked the pump and allowed in-app payments.
- 75% of consumers think gas stations should start including charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).
- Of the respondents who are EV owners, 74% would be more likely to go to a fast-charging station if there was a c-store nearby.
- On gas pump digital screens, consumers want to see c-store deals (37%), loyalty points and levels (37%), news and entertainment (30%), featured food items in the store (27%) and the ability to use secure payment already stored in the gas station's mobile app (25%).
The survey of 1,570 American adults 18 and older was conducted via SurveyMonkey on May 3 and 4.