CSP Magazine

Sales Heating Up

Latest VideoMining heat-map study shows boosts in traffic, buyers and sales, but opportunity remains on forecourt

As the U.S. economy improves, is c-store traffic responding? Results from the latest VideoMining C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI) program provide an unequivocal “yes.”

For the past five years, VideoMining has conducted the CSI program, which harnesses the data-intelligence firm’s proprietary heat-mapping technology to track consumer movement throughout the store and the path to purchase. Nine large c-store chains participated in this most recent iteration of CSI, which wrapped up earlier this year. Participants included BP’s ampm, Cumberland Farms, Giant Eagle’s GetGo, Hess, Holiday Stationstores, Maverik, RaceTrac, Thorntons and some divisions of Circle K.

To build the heat maps, VideoMining outfitted 20 stores with ceiling-mounted cameras to track customers’ paths through the aisles. Proprietary video-analysis software processed millions of hours of these trips, then cross-referenced them with POS data from 175 stores to correlate the store traffic with purchase behavior. From here, VideoMining analysts parsed the shopper behavior data to draw insights and action items for retailers and suppliers.

The results for the fifth CSI are heartening: While the percentage of store visitors who made a purchase was relatively unchanged from the previous year, at 59%, weekly traffic rose 14% and the number of buyers per store grew 12%.

“You’re pushing more people to walk into your store, and that’s translating to better conversion or more people buying,” says Priya Baboo, president of client solutions for VideoMining Corp., State College, Pa. Weekly sales per store also have risen 11%, meaning those making an in-store purchase are buying more items.

There was also a significant increase in the percentage of people who spent more than $8, going from 17% in the previous research to 37% for the 2013 study. “This talks back to the point about the economy and offerings in c-stores,” says Baboo. “All of the innovation retailers have brought in [is] paying off.”

At the same time, the percentage of fuel customers who do not make an in-store purchase has risen to 72%. Whether due to poor weather keeping customers under the canopy, a lack of effective pumpside marketing or a combination of both, retailers continue to have a huge opportunity to strengthen the forecourt-backcourt link.

For highlights of the 2013 VideoMining study, including spotlights on foodservice, the forecourt and beer, read on.

VideoMining CSI Program 2013

The fifth iteration of the annual C-Store Shopper Insights (CSI) program from VideoMining revealed an increase in traffic and buyers, hinting at both an improved economy and renewed focus by the nine retail chains participating in the study.

Study Stats

Participants: Nine retail chains (ampm, Circle K, Cumberland Farms, GetGo, Hess, Holiday Stationstores, Maverik, RaceTrac, Thorntons)

Store count: 175; 20 equipped with cameras

No. of trips: 1.47 million

MetricPer store per week
Lot traffic18,555
Store traffic12,275
Lot-traffic-to-store-traffic conversion66%
Store-traffic-to-buyer conversion59%

Average time in store: 2:43

Average store basket: $5.98

Average store units: 2.4

Source: VideoMining Corp.

CONTINUED: Time Inside the Store

Timing the Trip

With one in three c-store shoppers spending less than 2 minutes inside the store, retailers should focus on slowing down the shopping experience. This can include adding several points of interruption for key destination categories. Shoppers who spend more time in the store tend to spend more overall, according to VideoMining research.

Activity Breakout

The average time customers spent inside the c-stores in the VideoMining CSI study was 2 minutes, 43 seconds. Here is how the trip breaks out by activity.

Type of shopperPercentage of shoppersShopping time
Quick shoppers11%<1 minute
 23%1-2 minutes
Average shoppers23%2-3 minutes
 16%3-4 minutes
Browsers10%4-5 minutes
 8%5-6 minutes
Long-haul shoppers9%>6 minutes

Source: VideoMining Corp.

In Focus: Foodservice

Confirming the previous year’s research, the 2013 CSI study showed a higher traffic-to-buyer conversion rate for c-stores that have a quick- service-restaurant (QSR) type of foodservice offer. “You’ll have more people walk into the store, have more people who will buy, and the basket will be fairly higher,” says Baboo of VideoMining.

Another repeat finding from the previous study: C-stores offering pre - packaged foodservice indexed higher on store basket than sites with more sophisticated programs. “Stores with prepackaged food items have a different set of shoppers walking in,” says Baboo. “Typically, these are shoppers who are interested in tobacco, alcohol and even snacking.” These stores, she says, do a great job promoting these other categories and have become destinations.

Foodservice traffic and the number of buyers, however, have dropped since the previous year’s study. Baboo suspects that tougher competition may be to blame, such as a new site with a QSR offer, or an existing store that has upgraded its offer. “It’s something these [prepackaged food] stores need to think about,” she says. “Do they want to diversify or move it to the next level?

C-Store Performance Index by Foodservice Type

Shopper metrics*QSRLimited foodservicePrepackaged food items
Store traffic9310955
Store traffic-to-buyer conversion11097101
Store basket, incl. lottery ($)11892138

Source: VideoMining Corp. *Per store per week

CONTINUED: Beer Cave Focus

In Focus: Beer Caves

A walk-in cooler can help transform an ordinary c-store into a neighborhood beer destination. According to the most recent VideoMining study, stores with a beer cave indexed higher in store traffic, number of buyers and time spent in the store.

“For a shopper, knowing that the store has a beer cave creates a new setting for them in terms of a trip mission,” says Tom Prestridge, director of trade marketing insights for Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis. For example, a customer on his or her way to a party will be more likely to target a c-store with a beer cave, knowing that it will have cold beer in stock and in big pack sizes.

Stores without the space or means for a beer cave can still earn the loyalty of customers, says Prestridge, but it requires paying this category the same amount of attention as the heavy hitters, such as cigarettes and fountain beverages. Keeping the top SKUs in stock is essential.

“Out-of-stocks are really a killer for the beer business and the store,” says Prestridge. “If a shopper on his or her second or third time comes there and it’s out of stock, they won’t come there anymore.” He advises keeping extra stock of the five to 10 most popular SKUs in the dairy cooler or cold space.

Interestingly, the VideoMining research also showed little difference in traffic-to-buyer conversion between the stores with a beer cave and those without; the latter actually saw a higher store basket. Prestridge is surprised by this dynamic, especially because stores with caves sell more large packs of beer. He suspects these sites have mastered becoming a beer destination, almost to the exclusion of additional sales.

So how to build adjacencies and the ticket? Place snack and other complementary category displays so that customers face them after they pick up their beer. “Beer buyers have a one-track mind; they have blinders on,” he says. “You’re putting something in their other hand—[they have] a 12-pack of beer in one hand; put something the other. Part of that is they just came in for beer. Anything you can sell on their way out is gravy for the retailers.”

Also consider signage and messaging around the beer cave that ties the category to an end occasion, says Prestridge: “You’re reminding them of how that beer would be consumed. Is it a party you would be throwing, game watching, a backyard cookout for dinner?”

C-Store Performance Index by Presence of Beer Cave

Store with a beer cave saw significantly higher traffic and buyer volume than those without, according to the 2013 VideoMining heat-map study.

Shopper metrics*With beer caveWithout beer cave
Store traffic10378
Store traffic-to-buyer conversion9896
Store basket, incl. lottery ($)94112
Total time in store10494

Source: VideoMining *Per store per week

This Year Vs. 2013 Heat-Map Study

17% to 37%: Change in percentage of people who spent more than $8

14%: Increase in weekly traffic

12%: Increase in buyers per store

11%: Increase in weekly sales per store

CONTINUED: Charting the Fuel Purchase (Infographic)

Charting the Fuel Purchase

According to the 2013 VideoMining study, more than seven out of every 10 gas customers left the c-store lot without purchasing an in-store product, which is up slightly from the 2012 study. There remains a need to educate fuel customers about the total store offer. After conducting exit interviews, for example, VideoMining researchers learned that some fuel customers were not aware of the retailer’s key in-store specials.

More signs and callouts at the pump and/or promotions on frequently purchased products could help in drawing customers into the store while they wait.

Whether it is through digital displays, mobile advertising or other technology, retailers have several options, Baboo of VideoMining says. “Growth can come not just with bringing in more people,” she says. “But even among people who pump gas but don’t walk into stores, getting them to come in could really be a good opportunity for these retailers.”

CONTINUED: Layout's Effect on Traffic (Infographic)

Layout's Effect on Traffic

Positioning of the biggest categories in a store plays a strong role in directing shopper movement.

Here are how two separate layouts affect store traffic, as revealed by VideoMining’s analysis. The degree of foot traffic is indicated by color, with red indicating areas of high traffic and blue showing little to no traffic.

About the Study: C-Store Shopper Insights Program

Over eight weeks in August and September 2013, VideoMining Corp. conducted its fifth C-Store Shopper Insights Program, a study that quantifies and analyzes c-store shopper behavior and tracks the in-store path to purchase.

The 2013 study, conducted in collaboration with several CPG vendors, included nine of the c-store channel’s largest chains, representing 175 stores across the country, and encapsulated approximately 1.5 million shopping trips. Twenty stores were outfitted with ceiling-mounted video sensors to track customers’ movement in the stores, while proprietary video-analysis software processed millions of hours of c-store shopping trips. The data was then cross-referenced with point-of-sale data to reveal insights about the average c-store shopping trip by day-part, category and location within the store.

For more information, or to participate in future research, contact Priya Baboo at pbaboo@videomining.com or visit www.videomining.com.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Looking Up: Limited-Time Offers on the Rise

These deals continue to grow in all mealparts, Technomic reports show

Company News

Knowing Growing: QuikTrip Flexes in 2023

C-store chain celebrates 1,000th opening, opens 13th medical clinic, more


Get Creative in Foodservice to Thrive in 2024, Technomic Says

Report: Operators must lean into tech, menu and service innovation, take advantage of existing ingredients and resources


More from our partners