ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Consumers are less concerned about gas prices when deciding which pit stop to use than they have been in previous years. In 2018, 58% of customers said price was the most important factor in their decision to pick a gas station, a gradual decrease over the past few years, according to Consumer Behavior at the Pump, an annual survey conducted by NACS.
In 2017, 61% said price was the leading factor. In 2016, it was 64%, and in 2015, it was 71%.
“Nearly 40 million Americans fill up their vehicles every day,” Alexandria, Va.-based NACS said. “How they drive, consider gas prices and determine whether to shop inside a convenience store for food, snacks and beverages has a profound impact on the retail channel that sells 80% of the fuel purchased in the United States.”
NACS surveyed more than 1,100 U.S. fuels consumers between Jan. 17-23, 2019, to study their driving habits and gas-buying behavior. The report aims to provide retailers with opportunities to increase consumer engagement in these areas.
Here are three consumer behaviors retailers should be aware of …
1. Driving habits
Fifty-six percent of consumers said they drove less in 2018 than in 2017, while 44% said they drove more, according to NACS. While gas prices have averaged under $3 per gallon for more than 50 straight months, the main reason consumers changed their driving habits was because of work or family obligations. Fifty-seven percent said jobs and errands affected their time on the road in 2018, while only 26% said the same for gas prices.
When asked why they'll drive more in 2019, 29% of consumers said because of a new job or longer commute, 16% said because of travel purposes or vacation and 12% said because of general errands. On the contrary, when asked why they'll drive less this year compared to last year, 19% said because of higher gas prices, 15% said because they have less money and can't afford to drive as much and 14% said because of a new job or longer commute.
2. When they fill up
Thirty-seven percent of consumers said they fill up on gas between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., which ranks atop all time periods, according to NACS. This outpaced 3 to 7 p.m. (33%), 6 to 10 a.m. (22%) and 7 p.m. to midnight (7%). Although these numbers vary by age group, many consumers fill up during the late morning and early afternoon to avoid morning pressures and rush hour, NACS said.
Consumers are also preferring certain gas-station brands than in the past. The amount of customers who do so has nearly doubled in the past six years, surging from 31% in 2012 to 59% in 2019.
3. Why they enter the store
Forty-five percent of consumers said they enter c-stores to pay for gas, which outpaces any other reason, according to NACS. This is more common among females than males, as half of all female customers pay for gas at the register. Other reasons for entering the store included purchasing drinks (42%), snacks (37%), lottery tickets (23%) and to use the restroom (21%). Developing a strong in-store offer that translates to a fuel purchase is key for retailers, NACS said.