The Future of C-Stores Is Omnichannel

Delivery illustration
Illustration: Shutterstock

COVID-19 fundamentally changed the way consumers interact with convenience stores, forcing brands to innovate overnight. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, surveys show that consumers are still seeking more digital, off-premises c-store experiences.

In the current climate, convenience is about more than location and inventory – it’s about meeting customers where they’re comfortable. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), 21% of c-store operators have shifted to curbside pickup, while 14% are focused on drive-thrus, as falling fuel sales push the industry further into the omnichannel universe.

The drivers of success in both of these endeavors are a solid online ordering platform and a robust loyalty program. Together, they hold the key to connecting with customers both on- and off-premises.

Ordering and delivery

The majority of O&D platforms were built for restaurants and don’t meet the unique online ordering needs of convenience stores. Most ignore issues like category management and age restrictions, which are essential for c-store operations.

C-store digital menus should offer menu management categorization or a search bar, letting customers avoid scrolling through an endless list of SKUs. The right c-store platform will also be capable of offering vendor promotions on the site or in a native mobile app. This way, customers get the full on-premises experience from afar, while the brand is able to easily reconcile the discounts later.

Equally important is the ability to manage age-restricted items like alcohol. A recent NACS study revealed that 39% of retailers focused more on beer and wine in 2020 than they had previously. The same study also found that 38% plan to expand their app-based ordering and payments. C-store brands that intend to leverage alcohol sales online should therefore have a platform capable of reminding customers that they’ll need to show ID to pick up their order or receive a delivery.


Earlier this year, business consultancy AlixPartners released a survey showing that 36% of c-store consumers view loyalty as the best way to encourage customers to adopt online ordering behaviors. Paytronix has found that integrating online ordering and loyalty programs – that is, enabling customers to earn and redeem loyalty rewards when ordering digitally – produces an 18% increase in online ordering frequency.

Loyalty programs and the data they collect empower brands to create personalized and consistent customer experiences across platforms, from the mobile app to the website. They also enable some of the most cutting-edge marketing tactics, like subscription programs and AI-driven campaigns.

Among high-frequency customers – those who visit three or more times weekly – 50% said loyalty was “extremely” or “very” important. It’s clear that these programs lie at the heart of customer engagement.

The leaders in the convenience industry are rapidly expanding their omnichannel presence, meeting customers where they’re comfortable through mobile apps, online ordering, delivery and curbside pickup. Amid the ongoing changes, the behaviors that consumers adopted during the pandemic seem to be here to stay.

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This post is sponsored by Paytronix

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