6 Insights From C-Store Technology Innovation Study

Retailers investing in checkout improvements and more, but not keeping up with other channels
convenience store checkout
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK — The convenience industry is adopting many new strategies to stay relevant. These include reallocating store space, ramping up fresh offerings, embracing flexible, speedy checkout and further investing in their advantage—catering to their local communities. Incisiv, an industry insights firm, and Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, which specializes in retail store technology, detailed their findings in the report State of the Industry: The Future of Convenience Stores.

But the speed of change remains a problem for most chains, with 74% of retailer respondents dissatisfied with their ability to experiment quickly. In addition, convenience has lagged compared to other segments technologically as it has not moved as fast toward unifying experiences across digital and in-store channels. This will need to be prioritized to compete for shopper's wallet share, according to the study.

“There is a significant opportunity for the convenience industry to prioritize unified commerce to gain market share against other segments,” said Fredrik Carlegren, vice president of marketing and communications for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions. “While grocery and delivery trends continue to encroach on ‘convenience’ trends unifying in-store, online and delivery, convenience retailers see the need to innovate rapidly to compete and succeed in a competitive market to win consumers.”

Additional key findings of the research include:

  • A full 82% of c-stores lack a unified architecture across digital and physical commerce, and only 8% offer shoppers a unified e-commerce and in-store basket.
  • A total of 72% of c-store executives say it is important to differentiate on higher quality fresh food, but only 32% are satisfied with their banner's current offering.
  • Meanwhile, 30% of c-stores are planning to increase in-store space for fresh food prep, and 25% for in-store dining.
  • In another example of interior changes, 26% of c-stores plan to reduce space allocated to fixed checkout, and artificial intelligence or machine learning-assisted self-checkout is set to outpace traditional self-checkout over the next 12-18 months.
  • On the local side of the business, 62% of c-store executives consider becoming more relevant to the local community a critical part of their growth strategy.
  • And 61% of c-store executives are satisfied with their banner's current capabilities around localizing assortment. However, they must become more adept at high-frequency replenishment, quicker inventory turns and more frequent store layout resets.

“C-stores no longer just compete with the corner shop down the street. Grocery and general merchandise retailers offer a larger assortment of food and home essentials through convenient delivery and pick-up options. Quick-commerce upstarts such as Gopuff offer ultra-fast delivery in urban areas,” said Giri Agarwal, chief strategy officer of Incisiv. “C-stores have the unique opportunity to become a unifying agent for some of the most exciting consumerism trends of the future: health and wellness, electric mobility and sustainability, and the rise of local ecologies. If they can do that successfully, they would have smartly redefined 'Convenience 2.0' to be about more than the need for speed.”

Click here to download the complete findings from State of the Industry: The Future of Convenience Stores.

Incisiv, based in New York, conducted a hybrid online and Computer Aided Telephonic Interview (CATI) survey of 128 convenience-retail executives in the United States. The study was conducted from Sept. 6 to 23. Incisiv is an industry insights firm that helps retailers and brands navigate digital disruption in their industry.

Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, based in Durham, N.C., specializes in retail store technology.

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