It’s no surprise that gasoline is the most common item purchased from convenience stores. In a recent survey conducted by Intouch Insight, 80% of consumers reported purchasing gasoline during a typical visit. This gives gasoline a significant lead over the second most purchased item—soft drinks, at 57%. But the way in which consumers go about purchasing these items is quite different.
Typically, to purchase a soft drink, customers enter the store, find their preferred beverage from the fridge and complete the transaction at the register. However, most consumers complete their gasoline purchase without ever entering the location. In fact, 83% of consumers reported a preference to pay at the pump and only 8% prefer to complete the purchase inside. So, what does this mean for brands?
Making a great first impression
The overwhelming preference to pay at the pump means that a large number of visitors to convenience stores do so with no intention of entering the location—putting additional importance on the impression made by the forecourt. If pump islands aren’t fully stocked or the front entrance doesn’t look clean and welcoming, consumers will be even less likely to enter and purchase additional items such as drinks and food.
This also means that when consumers do enter a convenience store, it is imperative that brands capitalize on this interaction by ensuring these customers feel comfortable and valued in order to win their repeat business. Through ongoing mystery shopping programs with leading convenience store brands, Intouch Insight has found that cashiers are generally friendly when customers approach them to complete a transaction, but it is less common for customers to receive a courteous greeting when entering or exiting the location.
This presents an opportunity for brands that reward or encourage staff to engage with customers outside of the mandatory interactions to stand out as small niceties go a long way to making customers feel safe and valued.
The importance of loyalty programs
Another way for convenience stores to stand out is through customer loyalty programs. Ninety-four percent of consumers reported being a member of at least one loyalty program, but when asked which type of business they have a membership with, convenience stores ranked fourth, behind grocery stores, restaurants and fast food chains.
Loyalty programs are a great way to influence purchasing habits, with 82% of consumers saying they would purchase an item worth more loyalty points if equal in value to another they were considering. Loyalty points can also help enccourage those customers paying for gasoline at the pump to enter the store. One example of this would be by offering additional loyalty points when a customer makes a soft drink purchase in addition to their gas purchase.
Loyalty programs can also be an important factor in attracting customers to a location in the first place. By far, the two most important factors when consumers are choosing which convenience store to visit are the price of gasoline and location. But, if two locations have similar gas prices and are relatively equidistant, consumers ranked loyalty programs as the next most important factor. Overall, 76% of consumers said they would choose a brand with a loyalty program over a competitor without.
In order to capitalize on these benefits, convenience stores will need to do more to promote their loyalty programs. Mystery shopping visits conducted by Intouch Insight revealed that cashiers only mentioned their brand's loyalty program in 28% of customer interactions. And the lower adoption rate of these programs means the consumers entering a location are unlikely to already be a loyalty member with a competitor.
As consumer purchasing habits continue to evolve, it’s important for brands to ensure they are capitalizing on every touchpoint. Looking to stay up to date on the latest trends impacting convenience stores? Download Intouch Insight’s 2022 Convenience Store Trends Report covering competition with quick-serve restaurants, how convenience is driving coffee sales, making the most of in-person interactions and opportunities around customer loyalty for free here.
This post is sponsored by Intouch Insight