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Convenience stores (c-stores) are quickly changing alongside consumer needs and demands to provide services that are on point with advancing technology, increased convenience and elevated experiences. This post will look at the most prevalent and exciting trends determining the future of where the convenience store industry is headed today.
Today’s world continues to move toward contactless and frictionless technologies. Consumers want minimal touchpoints and quick, easy service. Touchless payments are everywhere; in-app payment, tap-to-pay, and smartphone payments are just a few used today. The newest artificial intelligence (AI) payment technology, Amazon’s Just Walk Out, is even making an appearance in Hudson c-stores throughout North America. This innovative payment solution allows consumers to shop and then simply walk out of the store with their items, never physically checking out. Instead, the items are tracked, and the customer’s credit card is charged for their purchases after a simple wave of the shopper’s hand. This technology eliminates long lines and face-to-face interactions (a desire that has rapidly declined). Finding a frictionless technology that works for your business and customers is essential for moving into the future of checkout service.
A convenience store’s end goal is all in its namesake — to heighten the convenience of its customers. But what this means exactly has changed. Customers (more than ever) want to get what they want anytime, anywhere with less interaction and — most often they don’t want to leave their houses to get it. Providing online ordering and delivery to people’s homes or workplaces isn’t just for big-box grocery stores or Amazon delivery services. It’s now an expectation for c-stores as well. Getting in on this industry shift is a critical step toward the kind of convenience modern-day customers demand.
The shift toward online service and payment increases the customer data available to c-store operators. With the right data partner, c-stores can access the buying patterns of people that use the store’s app or pay online for products. With that knowledge, shopping can become an individualized and personalized experience. What customers bring to the checkout (virtual or in-store) helps determine how to market to their preferences. It can also influence what shows up in their inbox, mailbox, and the type of loyalty rewards given. Also, valuable insight on what items are leaving your store gives you a better understanding of what to order. Analytics can save you money by decreasing expired products and waste from overordering. And it can increase your revenue by providing consistency in the products your customers want when they want them (giving your brand reputation a boost).
A study by GasBuddy shows that 56% of Americans purchase meals from convenience stores at least one time per month. The majority of these c-store enthusiasts are younger people, making this a growing trend that’ll be around for a while. But to capitalize on it, stores need to provide the foods, beverages, and experiences customers desire. Shoppers want full coffee and hot beverage shops, healthy to-go meals (items like salads, wraps, sandwiches, hummus, and other plant-based foods), and convenient dine-in options.
Less dependence on fossil fuels is part of the near future and with that comes an increase in alternative forms of energy for our vehicles. Powering-up this way typically takes longer than a quick five-minute gas-up. And c-stores are looking to cash-in on the idle time customers are waiting for their cars to energize. A whole host of options are on the table, from full coffee shops, dine-in restaurants to kid play areas. Japan even introduced a 24-hour gym as part of its c-store operations.
Convenience store shopping trends are always evolving. Keeping up with the latest consumer demands and understanding the up-and-coming trends helps you position your business for success. Serving up more prepared food is where c-stores are continually moving, and your foodservice operation may benefit from an equipment upgrade. But what equipment? Find out by taking a look at our blog: How to Prioritize Your C-Store Equipment Needs.
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