Technology/Services

Cleanliness, Ambiance Growing in Importance for Convenience-Store Consumers, Report Shows

53% consider cleanliness a ‘crucial factor’ when choosing where to shop, Intouch Insight says
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Consumers today are putting more stock in store ambiance and cleanliness, with 53% considering the latter a “crucial factor” when selecting a convenience store, according to a new report from customer experience solutions company Intouch Insight, Ottawa, Ontario.

This 53% figure, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2023, “highlights the growing expectation for a clean and pleasant shopping environment,” the report said.

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The top reasons a consumer selects one c-store over another are:

  • 70%: Location (same in 2023)
  • 53%: Location cleanliness (43% in 2023)
  • 52%: Lower prices (43% in 2023)
  • 50%: Loyalty program (48% in 2023)
  • 42%: Food selection (36% in 2023)
  • 28%: Staff friendliness (same in 2023)
  • 4%: Other (same in 2023)

The report also pointed out that 48% of fast-food customers said in a recent survey would avoid a restaurant if its parking lot had dim lighting.

“Overall, the enhancements to customer loyalty programs and the stores’ physical environment are essential to retaining customers,” the report said. “With the majority of consumers now valuing cleanliness, combined with lessons learned from a recent fast-food customer survey, convenience stores are well-positioned to foster loyalty and encourage repeat visits.

“These efforts collectively contribute to a superior shopping experience that differentiates a store in a competitive market.”

Retail Media Networks

The report also examined retail media networks, and Intouch Insight Mystery Shopping visits spotted digital ads in various locations:

  • 15%: On in-store walls
  • 11%: At the pump
  • 8%: At the cashier
  • 4%: In other areas
  • 3%: On refrigerators

In addition:

  • 39% of consumers said they like seeing information on promotions or offers, and 35% said they have bought an advertised product
  • However, 56% said the don’t pay attention to digital advertising
  • 5% said they don’t like seeing advertising or find it distracting

Self-Checkouts

Forty-six percent of North American customers prefer self-checkout for its speed, employee interaction avoidance and the ability to pack their own bags, the report said.

Retailers have been experimenting with various alternative, contactless options since 2022, the report said. Adoption has remained steady, but the increase from 2023 to 2024 was just 2%. And while 16% of survey respondents said they have used an alternative shopping method in a c-store, demographics must be considered:

Preference for checkout at self-checkout versus cashier by age

Reasons why customers prefer a cashier:

  • 55%: Enjoy employee interaction
  • 42%: Bags get packed for me
  • 33%: Quicker
  • 11%: Other

Reasons why customers prefer self-checkout:

  • 85%: Quicker
  • 44%: Avoids interaction with employees
  • 35%: Get to back my own bags
  • 2%: Other

In addition, Intouch Insight found that seven of the 10 brands it visited had self-checkout in more than 50% of the locations visited.

Digging deeper:

  • 4 brands had self-checkouts at 80% of its locations or more
  • 3 brands had self-checkouts at 50%-79% of its locations
  • 2 brands had self-checkouts at 20%-49% of its locations
  • 1 brand had self-checkouts at 19% of its locations or fewer

Curbside Pickup

Another contactless option, curbside pickup, is now offered by 33% of c-stores, a 5% rise from 2023. Intouch Insight reported a “significant” rise in dedicated parking spots for curbside pickup, with 41% of visits having them compared with 21% in 2023.

Curbside pick was favored by two-thirds of millennial consumers in 2022 in the United States when they shopped online.

Alternative shopping methods used when making a c-store purchase in 2024:

  • 56%: Delivery via a third-party app (57% in 2023)
  • 45%: Curbside pickup (37% in 2023)
  • 33%: Pickup through store app or website (36% in 2023)
  • 25%: Delivery via store app or website (28% in 2023)
  • 14%: Pickup via a third-party app (17% in 2023)
  • 3%: Other (no stat for 2023)

Tech, Personalization, Loyalty

Finally, the report touched on the importance of bringing in new streams of income and on standing out from the competition.

Retailers must find a way “not just to attract new customers but turn them into loyal brand advocates who will come back,” the report said. “Hand in hand with convenience and speed, mobile apps offer a direct connection to your customers. Considering that Americans spend, on average, more than four hours a day on their phones, enhancing your mobile offerings can provide significant advantages.”

The report noted:

  • 92% of visits performed were reported to have a loyalty program
  • 73% of those surveyed were a member of a retail loyalty program
  • 58% were more likely to choose a brand over its competition if it had a loyalty program

“By addressing evolving expectations of different age groups and investing in mobile solutions, brands can create seamless, engaging and efficient shopping experiences that keep customers coming back,” the report said. “Embracing these strategies will ensure convenience stores meet and exceed consumer expectations, solidifying their position in a competitive market.”

For this report, Intouch Insight included data from consumer perception surveys that provide insights into consumer preferences and their impact on shopping decisions. Each survey received approximately 1,200 responses from respondents across North America.

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