When it comes to making c-stores delivery destinations, the biggest hurdle is existing consumer perceptions.
More than half (51%) of all consumers across market types said they “just don’t think about convenience stores as a delivery option,” according to Technomic. This attitude is strongest in suburban markets (57%). Other top reasons customers cited for not frequenting c-stores for delivery: They visit c-stores only when they’re on the go, or delivery options are too expensive.
The study found that rural consumers are most likely to say they never order delivery from convenience stores (77%). Meanwhile, 66% of urban consumers and nearly 70% of suburban consumers also never order delivery from c-stores, indicating plenty of room for growth.
Despite the hurdle of consumer perceptions, Technomic reports that delivery has grown more at c-stores in the past two years than in supermarkets and restaurants. This is most noticeable in urban markets, where nearly half (42%) of respondents report increased usage of this amenity.
Across all markets, food items are the most common c-store delivery purchases (46%), followed by retail food (39%). Purchasing foodservice items via delivery is most popular in rural markets (56%), implying that rural communities have a greater demand for craveable and portable food options, which c-stores are positioned to deliver. Men are more likely to order products from c-stores than women, including retail food (44%) and alcohol beverages (17%).
Consumers who don’t think about convenience stores as a delivery option:
Consumer perceptions are the greatest barrier to c-store delivery.
Save and Perfect
One lesson Dani Cone has learned since Cone & Steiner introduced delivery in January 2019 is that consumers simply don’t consider c-stores as a delivery option.
“They think, ‘Oh, it’s a convenience store so I’ll just go there along the way,’ which is great, but at the same time we want to push delivery,” says Cone, founder of the Seattle-based three-store chain.
Cone & Steiner stores offer about 300 SKUs for online delivery, including prepared food, grab-and-go items and mercantile items. The delivery service also doubles as a catering business, most often used by nearby office workers. Cone & Steiner does not deliver hot food. Limiting the selection to cold food is “definitely great,” says Cone. “That’s a higher ticket—it’s a better margin, it’s more efficient, all the things.”
One of the most important steps to educating consumers about Cone & Steiner’s delivery offering was in-person advertising. An employee visits nearby office buildings to introduce the store and talk about its food offerings, including delivery, Cone says.
Cone has had to learn everything about managing an in-house delivery service from the ground up. “How do you schedule that? What happens if somebody orders something and we’re out of it? Does our system have live inventory or not on our platform?” she says.
While offering delivery opens up new avenues for profit, there are already plenty of players in the space, Cone says: “There is a lot of opportunity, and at the same time there is a lot of competition.”
For the study, CSP and Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers ages 18 and older who visit c-stores at least once every two to three months to understand the differences in their need states, preferences, purchase drivers and behaviors based on their market profile. The complete CSP 2019 Market Type Report, including an executive summary and complete detailed findings, is available for purchase at cspdailynews.com/exclusive-industry-reports.