Turning Around the Slide in C-Store Traffic

By 
Steve Holtz, Content Director, CSP & CSP Daily News

ATLANTA -- A new report from the Coca-Cola Co. aims to help convenience-store retailers bring more customers into their stores.

Noting that c-store traffic declined 2.4% during the first half of 2017, the report looks at what's behind the slowdown and how retailers can bring more shoppers into their stores.

“Providing actionable insights to retail customers is an important part of our Coca-Cola Commitment to be our customers’ best business partner,” Susan Gambardella, vice president of convenience retail with the Coca-Cola Co., told CSP Daily News. “This commitment is particularly important amidst the challenges of today’s convenience retail environment.”

Here’s a look at the results …

Why the decline?

The report looked at data from several of Coca-Cola Co.'s own consumer surveys, as well as data from Youbrandinc.com, Merrill Lynch, the Hartman Group, Simmons, Kantar and other sources.

It concluded that 65% of customers who don't venture from the fuel pump into the c-store "don't need anything when pumping gas," while 29% don't have time and 16% question the value of the products inside the c-store.

“As more retailers across channels push for more convenience, the traditional convenience-retail channel is losing its claim on convenience, which used to be able to better justify higher prices for goods,” Gambardella said. “So as shoppers have more options for convenience shopping, they are scrutinizing the prices more as well.”

To change consumer perceptions, Coca-Cola Co. suggests starting with millennials, the generation with the most buying power. Its global net income is expected to increase to $3.4 trillion in 2018, according to the report.

At the pump

To turn the current trend around, the report suggests breaking down the mental barriers that separate the pump island from in-store.

"Offer better promotions at the gas pump," the report says, noting that 40% of consumers say they noticed and were influenced by signs at the pump, while 73% say the best promotions include discounted fuel with an in-store purchase.

“Fuel remains the primary trip driver to coming on the lot, and as gas prices rise, the shopper is looking for ways to save on the things they are most often there to buy,” Gambardella said. “Also, fuel rewards have been very successful for grocers, so that is creating a frame of reference for shoppers as well.”

On the go

Mobile-friendly promotions are proving popular with millennial-aged consumers.

According to the report, millennials check their mobile phones at least 157 times a day. While most are skeptical of ads, 33% are willing to accept ads on their mobile device if the offer is good.

Also, 61% of millennials use online review or social-media sites at least once a month to determine where to eat and drink.

“Millennials use their smartphones more than any other technological device, spending an average of 58 hours per month on apps or websites on their smartphones,” Gambardella said. “This generation, particularly younger members of the generation, value the connectivity provided by smartphones; 70% of younger millennials agree that ‘my phone connects me to my social world.’ ”

Food focus

Retailers also should appeal to adventurous eaters, the report said, by offering discounts on out-of-the-ordinary foods or beverages. This can make a store a destination for innovation.

According to the report, 40% of millennial consumers eat or drink "something unfamiliar" at least once a month, while 50% said they find limited-time offers (LTOs) enticing.