Convenience stores attract customers’ attention when it comes to food

Convenience stores are winning over American consumers looking for their next fast-food meal, according to new research from Bluedot.

Bluedot’s Extensive Convenience Experience Report found that US consumers put c-stores on a par with quick service restaurants (QSRs). Nearly six out of 10 consumers consider purchasing a meal at a convenience store when stopping for fast food, and one in three consumers actually visit c-stores for fast food.

Of those entering the store, 27% buy ready-made chilled foods, 25% hot foods like sausages and pizza, and 21% made-to-order items like custom sandwiches. Also, 61% of consumers reported that they would visit a C store more often if mobile ordering, car delivery, and curbside pickup were available.

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The data backs up what industry leaders have been saying for some time: C-stores are now competing head-to-head with QSRs. The investments that store brands are making in food service initiatives is clearly paying off,” according to Emile Davitian, co-founder and CEO of Bluedot. “The data also strongly suggests that there is an opportunity for gas and e-store brands to do more with loyalty programs and strategies. Mobile devices to enhance retention, especially if discounts determine consumer preferences and habits. It’s another page of the restaurant industry guide that can truly reward the playing field.”

San Francisco-based Bluedot, the customer access platform that provides location technology to brands including McDonald’s, Dunkin’ and KFC, surveyed 1,570 US consumers to measure consumer confidence and customer experience at stores and gas stations.

The report reveals how stores and gas stations lose customers for short lines. Nearly half of those surveyed say they would walk out of a C-store if one or two people were queuing at the register, and a third would drive away if there was only one car ahead of them at the pump. C-store brands may keep customers in stores for longer by adding charging stations for electric vehicles – the report found that most electric vehicle owners (74%) like to charge next to convenience stores.

Nearly nine in 10 consumers say price is the deciding factor as to where to get gasoline, and discounts have been rated as the main reason consumers use c-store apps and gas stations. However, the study shows a large gap between consumers who join loyalty programs for gas discounts (74%) and loyalty members who actually get discounted gas (44%).

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Just over half (54%) of consumers assume they must sign up for a credit card to receive gas discounts. A large majority (76%) would join a gas loyalty program if it was free and offers deals and discounts, and nearly six in 10 would join a loyalty program without a credit card.

Other notable customer comfort reports include:

• 57% would leave without a purchase if there was a line in the convenience store. Of these, 16% if there is one person in the queue, 30% if there are two people in the queue, and 54% if there are three or more people in the queue.

• 70% enter the store when they pump gas. Of those, 77% enter occasionally while 23% enter each time.

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And at the pump, Bluedot research revealed these findings:

• Gas loyalty program members said their experience includes gas discounts (44%), being able to see how many loyalty points they have (38%), convenience store deals and free gifts (27%), easy payment (19%) and thanking them for being a loyalty member (17 %).

• Consumers will become loyalty members if they are offered gas discounts (74%), they do not have to open a credit card (58%), the ability to see how many loyalty points are available (48%), online store deals and free gifts (45%) and easy payment (34%).

• Why consumers download Gas or c-store apps: Discounts on gas (86%), earn and track loyalty points (57%), protect against credit card fraud (40%), make pumping gas faster and easier (39%) and To track gas expenses and receipts (34%).

• Nearly half (48%) of consumers would not be willing to pay more than another 5 cents a gallon for gas if it meant earning loyalty points, while 25% would prefer loyalty points over price.

• Consumers choose gas stations on the basis of least expensive gas (56%), location (52%), ease of entry and exit (37%), cleanliness (25%) and quality gas (25%).

• Most consumers prefer not to insert their credit card when paying at the pump; 83% are concerned with credit card fraud. As a result, 38% have checked out a card reader, 34% prefer to store payment in a gas station mobile app, 28% use one-click payments with their credit card, and 23% use Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.

• On digital screens, consumers want to see online store deals (37%), loyalty points and levels (37%), news and entertainment (30%), in-store premium food (27%) and the ability to use secure payment already stored in the gas station mobile app (25%).

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