Social Media: Convenience Stores Playing Catch-Up

Restaurant, drug chains outpace c-stores in digital engagement, study says

General Mills Convenience & Foodservice Convenience Stores

MINNEAPOLIS -- On any number of digital fronts--from e-mails to website visits--convenience stores appear to be trailing other retail channels in communicating directly with consumers, according to a recent study by a major consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturer.

In an online study of 360 c-store shoppers aged 18 to 64, c-stores lagged behind in connecting with consumers via texts, alerts, emails or electronic deals, reported a study by Minneapolis-based General Mills. In the study conducted last December, 86% of shoppers said they received digital communications from a variety of retailers, including mass merchandisers, c-stores, drug stores and others. But only 41% of shoppers connect digitally with c-stores (website visits, texts, emails or mobile applications).

"Using digital channels to connect with convenience store shoppers can help build loyalty and drive traffic," said Chris Quam, consumer insights manager at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice. "Convenience store shoppers receive information from other types of retailers, so they should be open to connecting with convenience stores as well. Relevant deals and news about cool products are key ways to break through."

He added, "Telling shoppers that these programs exist in the first place is fundamental for awareness and actively marketing the program is a critical step in building participation. Simply developing a great app or email program is not enough to get noticed or used."

Here are the study's key findings:

  • Website visits: 30% of shoppers reported visiting a c-store website, while 58% reported visiting a fast-food restaurant website.
  • E-mails: 24% of shoppers received emails from a c-store, while 44% reported receiving emails from a drug store.
  • Texts and apps: C-stores are closer to the competition when it comes to texts and apps, with 13% receiving texts from c-stores and 20% of shoppers receiving texts from fast-food restaurants. In addition, 16% used an app from a c-store, while 20% used an app from a coffee shop.

The study asked participants what kind of content engaged them. Here are the top five reasons cited by shoppers for connecting with a c-store:

  • Receiving coupons: 67%
  • Finding out about sales or special deals: 62%
  • Updates on new products or offerings: 55%
  • Seeing what products are offered: 48%
  • Locating the nearest store: 47%

The General Mills Convenience & Foodservice division serves the convenience, foodservice and bakery industries by providing products from established brands along with culinary, nutrition education and marketing resources for operators. Its brand portfolio includes Big G Cereals, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Gold Medal, Pillsbury, Chex Mix, Bugles and Gardetto's. The division generates $2 billion in annual sales.