War for Convenience: The Need for Speed

Despite growing demand for in-store tech and delivery options, c-store users still prioritize a fast visit

CHICAGO -- Despite growing demand for in-store tech amenities and delivery options, convenience-store users prioritize speed and convenience. Seventy-three percent of consumers say getting in and out of the store fast is important in creating an overall convenient experience, while 66% say the same regarding speedy checkout services, according to the report. However, only 16% say same-day delivery programs are essential.

This gap exists because consumers emphasize in-store factors—ones that relate to how the store is set up—that speed up their visit, says Donna Hood Crecca, principal of CSP sister research firm Technomic. These factors range from signs to short lines and fast transactions—all of which consumers expect every time they enter a store, she says.

“If you don’t have the basic aspect of convenience, you’ll lose footing with the consumers before they even get to considering the tech amenities,” she says.

But speed isn’t just important—it’s vital. Fifty-seven percent of consumers say getting in and out of the store fast is the most important element of their c-store visit. Crecca says the need for speed will increase, even as demands for in-store technology and delivery do so as well.

Which of the following factors is most important in creating an overall convenient experience at retail stores?

“When you think about the pace of life that keeps getting faster enabled by tech—the level of multitasking—speed and ease is the benchmark,” she says.

Speed is the top priority for Mach 1, a c-store chain with stores in southern Illinois and western Indiana. The name, which correlates to the speed of sound, says it all. Alan Meyer, the Teutopolis, Ill.-based chain’s CEO, says the c-store industry has evolved to the point where speed has become an expectation from consumers.

“Every time I hire a store manager, I always tell them the same thing: Convenience is speed.”

“Every time I hire a store manager, I always tell them the same thing: Convenience is speed,” he says. “Convenience and speed are the top priorities from top to bottom.”

Although c-store tech amenities aren’t as important as speed and convenience, they still require attention, says Crecca. Seventy-four percent of consumers say mobile payment apps contribute to an overall convenient experience at c-stores, grocery and mass retailers, while 79% say the same for in-store kiosks, according to the report. And 71% mention same-day delivery programs.

“The importance of those tech amenities is only going to grow, especially as Gen Z moves into adulthood,” Crecca says. “Access and immediacy are ingrained in their psyche.”

Meyer acknowledges the growing demand for speed and tech in c-stores. Mach 1 is looking to roll out its first self-checkout amenity by this year’s third quarter. It would be used not as a payroll cost reducer, but as an extra checkout point for consumers—specifically to deliver greater speed, he says.

Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs for QuikTrip, Tulsa, Okla., says convenience stores’ burst into technology will be a staggered process.

“It’s difficult for us to change the way we’ve done business with regard to the personal touch,” he says. “You’re not going to conquer [tech] overnight; it takes time. You’ve got to understand it. And once you understand it, you’ve got to execute it.”

Next: The Cross-Channel Battle

Click here to read the complete War for Convenience report.

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