CHICAGO -- First impressions are a powerful factor in winning the business of fuel customers and encouraging them to enter the store. A recent consumer survey conducted by CSP and GasBuddy shows just how influential a clean site, restrooms and marketing can be in sealing the deal.
“What customers encounter when they look at a retailer’s station has a far larger influence on their opinion than brand reputations or the opinions of their friends and family,” said Frank Beard, analyst for c-store trends for Boston-based GasBuddy. “This means retailers cannot afford to have dirty and messy forecourts, visually unappealing or deteriorating stores, and low-quality lighting. These elements set the stage for the rest of the customer experience.”
As part of its collaboration with CSP, GasBuddy collected more than 15,000 responses from June 28 to July 2 from users of its fuel price and c-store information app, through an in-app challenge. Here are some highlights of the survey that demonstrate the power of first impressions ...
More than 82% of fuel customers considered store design and upkeep, quality of lighting and forecourt cleanliness as strong or moderate influencers of their impressions of the c-store. Women considered these factors “strong” influencers more so than men. In fact, women rated the quality of lighting—a proxy for the safety of the site—as a strong influencer by a more than 12-point margin.
Spread the word
Some retailers have made clean restrooms a differentiator for their stores, and there’s good reason for them to shout it out: More than 69% of all consumers said they probably or definitely would be influenced to visit a c-store if it promoted clean restrooms. Female customers were 8 points more likely to say they would be influenced.
Biggest restroom turnoffs
Female frequent c-store shoppers were also nearly 9 points more likely than their male counterparts to say they visited a c-store to use the restroom but decided to go elsewhere. The biggest restroom turnoff for all fuel consumers: dirt. Nearly 84% of consumers who had left a c-store to go elsewhere for a bathroom break did so because the restroom was dirty. Other factors that made a bad impression included a restroom that was outdated or poorly maintained, a store that was not up to snuff, and convenience- and safety-related characteristics such as requiring a key or passcode, or having the entrance for the restroom located outside the store.
Women were more likely than men to say they left a c-store with an outdoor restroom to go to a different site, or 39.9% compared to 24.4% of men.
For more highlights of the GasBuddy survey, including consumer reactions to pump-side advertising and mobile marketing, see the September issue of CSP.