San Francisco-based Bluedot has introduced the first Convenience Experience Report, a benchmark study that explores consumer sentiment and the customer experience at gas stations and convenience stores. The research was based on a survey of 1,570 American consumers and was conducted in May.
The inaugural report explores how consumers think about c-stores and gas stations and what drives their behavior, preferences and loyalty. The findings offer a glimpse into the current customer experience as well as consumer demand and expectations for gas stations and c-stores of the future.
The data indicates consumers are putting c-stores on par with fast food restaurants. Nearly six in 10 consider purchasing a meal from a convenience store when stopping for fast food. The research also uncovered demand for mobile ordering, drive-thru and curbside pickup. 61 percent of consumers state they would visit a c-store more often if all were available.
The research also signals c-stores and gas stations have been losing customers to short lines. Nearly half of the consumers surveyed say they will walk out of a c-store if one or two people are in line at the register. Also noteworthy, one in three people say they will drive away if there’s just one car ahead of them at the pump.
In the future, one way c-store brands might think about keeping customers in stores longer could be by adding EV charging stations to their locations. The report found the vast majority of EV owners want to charge next to convenience stores.
The report further examined how consumers think about gas prices and discounts. Price overwhelmingly impacts where consumers fill up according to nearly nine out of 10 consumers and gas discounts ranked as the top reason why consumers would download and keep c-store and gas station apps.
However, there’s a major gap between consumers who join loyalty programs for gas discounts (74 percent) and loyalty members who actually receive discounted gas (44 percent). Also, consumers are split down the middle on whether there’s a quality difference between generic and branded gas; although half believe branded gas is of higher quality.
Consumers are also under the impression that gas discounts are only available with gas credit cards. More than half of consumers (54 percent) assume they have to sign up for a credit card to receive gas discounts. The vast majority (76 percent) would join a gas loyalty program but it has to be free. Nearly six in 10 would join a loyalty program without a credit card.
“The data supports what industry leaders have been saying for some time – c-stores are now competing head to head with QSRs. Clearly, the investments c-store brands have been making into foodservice initiatives are paying off,” said Emil Davityan, Bluedot co-founder and CEO.
“The data also strongly signals that there’s an opportunity for gas and c-store brands to do much more with loyalty programs and mobile strategies to boost retention, especially if discounts are determining consumer preferences and habits. It’s another page out of the restaurant industry’s playbook that could really level the playing field.”
The full Convenience Experience Report can be found here.