This October, the convenience store industry will gather once again in Chicago for the 2021 NACS Show. This year, the annual convention will take place from October 5th to the 8th at McCormick Place. With over 1,200 organizations exhibiting and 23,000 industry professionals attending the show worldwide, the NACS Show is the perfect opportunity for convenience store owners to network with industry experts and discover new products and services.
As with all industries, convenience stores have significantly evolved over the last few years. According to a recent study performed by smartphone app, GasBuddy, 56% of Americans purchase meals at least once a month at a gas station convenience store, with younger consumers doing so most frequently.
As we rapidly move closer to 2021, business owners can maximize growth by applying these trends within their c-store today. Keep reading to learn more.
Convenience Stores will Continue to be the Primary Destination for Hot Beverage Sales
Convenience stores have always been a prime destination for coffee consumers. According to NACS State of the Industry data, hot beverages represented 4.22% of in-store sales in 2017. Today, with a large variety of hot beverages sold in many c-stores, it's worth noting that this statistic includes other hot beverages such as hot chocolate, tea, and cappuccino. As a convenience store operator, it’s worth asking yourself if you're offering the right mix of hot beverages to your customers.
Giving consumers the ability to “customize” their coffee is critical to increasing customer satisfaction. The National Coffee Association recently published a study that stated 7that 8% of consumers add something to their coffee. Condiments such as creamers, milk, and sugar will continue to play a crucial role in hot beverage sales. Perhaps even more essential is ensuring that your store’s coffee display counters provide a clean, easy-to-use presentation for your customers. Providing customers with this level of service is an excellent way to encourage repeat visits.
Mobile Ordering and Delivery Service
The recent success of mobile applications such as Grubhub, UberEats, and DoorDash has given customers the option to order from their favorite restaurants without having to leave their homes. Many large convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven, QuikTrip, and Wawa have started to offer mobile ordering and delivery from within their app. According to a CNN article, 7-Eleven now provides delivery services to roughly 27 metropolitan areas around the United States using their app, 7-NOW. This has given the corporation a competitive advantage by providing delivery services for products such as cold sandwiches, candy, salty snacks, and beer.
To provide an incredible in-store experience in your own business, convenience stores need to keep up with changing consumer demand by integrating with similar mobile app delivery services. With a sizeable portion of young consumers ordering from these food delivery apps, convenience stores can brand themselves to a rapidly growing target segment with immense purchasing power.
The Product Mix will Consistently Change over Time
When it comes to food offerings, consumers most closely associate convenience stores with hot dogs and cold sandwiches. In a recent NACS industry study, foodservice sales account for 23% of all revenue. Remarkably, that same study yielded a staggering statistic: 43% of millennials purchase more food from c-stores now than three years ago. As a result of this significant target segment purchasing more frequently, convenience stores have had to adapt to product offerings that meet this generation's demand for quick, healthy alternatives.
In response to increasing market demand for healthy alternatives, many convenience stores have now started to feature “to-go” meals more prominently. This product category includes a fresh mix of salads, wraps, soups, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This trend goes beyond food and beverage, too. As more convenience stores become a popular destination for a quick meal, many stores have strategically expanded their product offering to increase impulse sales in categories such as fresh flowers, pet food & toys, and over-the-counter Rx products. Assisting in the product mix evolution is the increased usage of information technology, which brings us to our fourth convenience store trend for 2021.
Data will Become the Primary Source for Consumer Customization
Organizations serving various industries have utilized data to help improve business objectives. Convenience stores are no different, as data can help increase revenue. When many of us think about data, we automatically apply it to demographics, purchase history, and location. Data will allow convenience store owners to successfully create personalized marketing campaigns (relevant offers) while building stronger, long-lasting relationships with customers.
Most importantly, from a bottom-line perspective, data provides c-store retailers the ability to accurately measure what they stock within their store so that the products their customers demand are regularly available for purchase. This ensures customer satisfaction and repeat business because consumers know they can rely on the store.
As consumer habits change over time, so will your business. We hope these tips have provided you with insight into the future of convenience and have inspired you to learn more about integrating technology with in-store experiences.
If you’re interested in talking more about the future of convenience with us, be sure to visit our team at the 2021 NACS Show this October. In the meantime, you can learn all about our convenience store fixtures and displays here.