QuikTrip, Wawa and Sheetz are the top retailers in the $654.3 billion U.S. convenience market, according to the second annual dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index for the Convenience Channel (RPI). Released by dunnhumby, a customer data science company, the RPI surveyed nearly 7,000 U.S. households to determine which of the top 27 c-store retailers have the strongest combination of financial performance and consumer emotional connection. The retailers with the highest overall index scores are: 1) QuikTrip, 2) Wawa, 3) Sheetz, 4) KwikTrip/Kwik Star, 5) RaceTrac, 6) Casey’s General Stores and 7) Maverik.
“There is a raging battle for the stomach that is being fought not only by grocery retailers, fast food restaurants, and food delivery services, but also now by convenience stores. The convenience retailers winning today and substantially growing are catering to the time-starved consumer by offering not only groceries, but also quality fresh and ready-to eat food,” says Jose Gomes, president of North America for dunnhumby. “Instead of focusing on just winning loyalty or new customer acquisition, retailers need to focus on winning the customer and each customer mission together. This RPI can serve as a blueprint for retailers on how to deliver a compelling value proposition and retail experience that aligns with their customers’ needs.”
The RPI study explored the evolving food retail landscape to help retailers navigate an increasingly challenging market. The overall RPI ranking evaluated retailer performance on five pillars: convenient quality, price, fresh and healthy, discounts and rewards, and digital.
Key findings from the study:
- Size really does matter. The biggest difference in convenience store retailers from those at the top and bottom of the ranking is size. Smaller regional retailers outperform most of the national retailers by better adapting to the evolving needs of their customers.
- Focusing on fresh, healthy and ready-to-eat items are the biggest differentiators for top performing retailers. The top four convenience retailers in the RPI—Quik Trip, Wawa, Sheetz and KwikTrip—have made food service a priority and a key differentiator from other convenience stores. But by also focusing on fresh, they are positioning themselves to be able to steal trips from supermarkets and quick service restaurants.
- Cross-shopping is on the rise between the convenience, grocery, dollar, drug and quick-serve restaurant channels. Nearly seven out of 10 convenience customers regularly shop each of the other channels each month. Category differences appear to somewhat buffer convenience from drug and the growing dollar channels.
- The best performing retailers excel in retail basics. To be successful, retailers need to start by getting the retail basics, like quality and store experience, right first; then develop ready-to-eat and fresh areas; and finally, use digital and rewards to share and amplify store improvements.
- Store count and convenient locations are still relevant. Share of visit and consumer awareness data shows minimal difference between the top and bottom retailers. But, the strength of the customer emotional connection and ability to convert awareness into purchase, along with key financial measures, suggest that even though store counts capture visits today, high store numbers are not enough for superior growth.
“The retailers that deliver a value proposition that aligns with their customer needs will be better positioned to grow a loyal customer base that is connected to more than just convenient locations,” says Gomes.
The latest dunnhumby RPI is available for download.