Convenience store traffic: 3 of the latest consumer trends you need to know

Convenience store traffic: 3 of the latest consumer trends you need to know


Convenience store traffic: 3 of the latest consumer trends you need to know

The nonstop traffic jam of uncertainty over the last several years has been quite the ride for convenience stores. Swinging to remote work and back again has led to deep disruption of the traffic patterns for the one-stop-shop model of gas, drinks, and food. Further complications in supply chain disruption and volatile gas prices contributed even more to an uncertain environment.

However, the outlook is positive for convenience stores in 2022 overall, with nearly 2/3 of all convenience store retailers expecting an increase in sales this year. But with gas prices and inflation still top-of-mind for 2023, how can convenience store brands stay ahead of their competition and capture more loyalty in the coming year?

SMG surveyed 11,000 panelists across the US and 3,000 in the UK to uncover the top convenience store habits around:

  • Purchase behaviors at convenience stores
  • Mobile app usage
  • Convenience store brand preference

Here are 3 of the latest data-informed convenience store trends you need to know for 2023.

Trend 1: Consumers are more likely to buy more than fuel in the mid-afternoon

Convenience stores are all about traffic—on the roads and in the store. In our survey, over 60% of respondents indicated they use their vehicle to commute to work and nearly 70% plan to maintain consistent driving behaviors, so traffic will keep going. When visiting your store, about half of respondents say they sometimes purchase food, which is usually a prepackaged beverage or self-serve coffee.

Data indicates store traffic in both the UK and the US peaks later in the day during the afternoon snack time (with an extra boost for the UK at lunch, too). Though this afternoon snack daypart is where 33% of traffic occurs, it’s also the time when overall customer satisfaction dips the most, so your stores are likely feeling the strain of the extra demand.

How to respond

In the US, customers are shopping for pre-packaged soft drinks and self-serve coffee in the afternoon rush, while UK consumers are coming in for pre-packaged soft drinks and pre-packaged foods. Knowing what your customers are coming to your store to buy and when can help you know where to dedicate efforts to keep customer satisfaction up.

Be sure your staff is keeping your beverage displays well-stocked throughout the day and your coffee area clean and stocked for peak traffic to keep your customers coming back.

You can continue to track these crucial stress points as they change by capturing digital feedback in the moment with an always-on CX approach to keep your data up-to-date.

Trend 2: Mobile app usage will drive more visits

Survey data indicates the primary reasons people visit a specific convenience store are for conveniences and fuel prices, but it’s worth noting there’s another way to drive loyalty: apps.

We’ll talk about why consumers use mobile apps in a minute, but for now know that two-thirds of US + UK consumers agree mobile apps encourage visits. The most popular of these apps in the US are from 7-Eleven, Speedway, and Wawa, while in the UK it’s Shell, BP, and Esso.

When it comes to app usability, the two biggest sources of customer issues are problems with redeeming points or rewards and slow service. While slow service doesn’t have a significant impact on a customer’s willingness to return relative to the other most-selected issues, having a problem with redeeming points and rewards correlates to a big dip in the percentage of customers highly likely to return to your store.

c-store consumer trends mobile app issues_smg 2

How to respond

Don’t let the app you designed to build loyalty be a detractor. Make sure it’s easy for your customers to use their points and rewards—you’ll see in a moment just how important those are. It should be easy to do in person, or even better, at the pump. It should also be noted that “difficult to use” is at the bottom of the list of reported issues, indicating customers are more willing to jump through a few hoops in today’s economy to save on fuel + food.

Trend 3: Loyalty rewards continue to be the reason why people love convenience store mobile apps

Our third trend goes hand-in-hand with #2 and gets to why your customers want to use your app.

The global primary motivators for why customers visit a specific convenience store are based on convenience and fuel prices. The driving customer desire to find a deal gives you a prime opportunity to make use of rewards in your app, helping you actively build loyalty through rewards and special offers.

Many customers who already use it know the app is where the deals are, too. Of those asked how they’ve used a convenience store app, the replies “to earn rewards points” and “to redeem rewards or a special offer” were chosen by more than half of respondents—almost double the next most popular response.

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Furthermore, our recent consumer behavior study indicates that value—a calculation incorporating pricing, rewards, and overall satisfaction—will be a huge driver for spending decisions in 2023.

The good news is between the search for deals, customer willingness to face minor inconveniences to save money, and the number of customers who haven’t yet engaged with a convenience store app, there is ample opportunity to drive engagement + loyalty. In fact, a significant portion of respondents indicated having never used a convenience store app—57% in the US and 70% in the UK—while less than 10% say the use it every time.

It is worth noting that individual customer issues regarding loyalty and reward programs frequently have to do with a communication breakdown about the program itself. Customers think they should be earning one thing or that they have a certain dollar amount off a purchase, but then find what they get doesn’t match their expectations, leading to lower satisfaction.

How to respond

Your customers already know about brand apps and are ready to use them to earn points and rewards at your locations, if the app and the reward is designed with the customer in mind. Ensure your app is customer-friendly and that the rewards offered by your loyalty program are enticing for your customers—encouraging them to continue to engage with your brand.

Understanding convenience store customers now and in the future

Knowing what motivates your customers across the many ways they interact with your brand over time can be challenging—but you don’t need to do it alone. SMG can provide insights across the entire customer journey, not just the in-store experience. To learn more about how tracking and managing interactions through digital, ratings + reviews, and contact centers over time can lead to greater customer loyalty and increased spend, schedule time with a member of our team here.