Driving consumers inside the c-store

By : NCR Retail

September 17, 2018 12:00 PM

Around 70% of customers who pull into your forecourt fill their tank and then drive away. The challenge gas station operators face is twofold: how to maximize revenues from the 30% of customers who do walk into the c-store, and how to increase the number of doorswings from the forecourt. Here, we explore ways to tackle this challenge – to learn more about this topic visit our microsite on using the forecourt to engage consumers and drive revenue.


What do c-store customers buy?


Of the 30% of customers who do shop inside the convenience store, statistics website, Statista.com reports that 55 cents of every dollar is spent on age-restricted  items like tobacco and alcohol.


This distribution of sales from restricted items makes it difficult for brands to go after the most popular categories because there are restrictions around how and where those products can be advertised; and as consumers evolve in the direction of more healthful lifestyle choices there are brand identity implications for c-stores that push unhealthy vices.


The largest unrestricted categories are packaged beverages and edible grocery, accounting for 15 and 6 cents per dollar respectively. These are typically drinks for customers on-the-go, and convenience for consumers who may have forgotten something on a planned shopping trip, or customers staying close to home.


Why don’t more customers walk in?


It’s hard to make people change their behavior. If someone pulls into the gas store because they need gas, you have to get their attention – which is hard enough – then you have to offer them something they feel is worth walking inside and standing in line to pay for.


Failing to live up to a brand promise, or having a weak brand promise, makes customers choose competitors. Customer expectations of what their gas station c-store should be has changed, especially in densely populated, high-competition areas. Smartphone app Gasbuddy helps consumers choose the c-store that best suits their needs. The app allows consumers to rank gas stations by:

  • Coffee
  • Cleanliness
  • Customer service
  • Outdoor lighting
  • Restrooms
  • Overall


It’s no surprise that the top ten gas station brands all have fewer than 800 locations, with half of the c-stores having fewer than 150 locations. The takeaway here is that brands with more locations suffer because there are more opportunities to make a less-that-great impression – and a brand is only as good as the worst thing that’s said about it by its customers.


How to change behavior


A priority for gas station operators is to increase the number of customers entering the store, without introducing needless friction to the visit.


Offering something your customers are more likely to buy – like a drink – is a good bet, since packaged drinks are the second largest category by sales dollars. But what drink is going to interest them? There are just too many options to know for sure – and if the customer doesn’t want a drink while they’re pumping their gas, how can you offer them something they might like instead?


As data and personalization becomes an integral part of retail life, it makes sense that forward-thinking c-stores are looking at ways to personalize customer engagement at the pump. Every time a customer uses their credit or debit card, your app, like your brand on Facebook or tweet about the service they received, along with news and weather information…those are valuable data points that can be connected to deliver truly customized experiences for customers.


Imagine what it could do for your brand if customers were offered a beverage when they pull up to the pump on a cold day. But not just any beverage, the one they usually order at the fancy coffee place – wouldn’t that be more engaging? Wouldn’t offering them something you know they already like have a better chance of drawing them inside?