Consumers Want Convenience Throughout Their Shopping Journey

New research shows customers want options to avoid lines plus fuel discounts based on loyalty.

SAN FRANCISCO — Whether it's inside the store or at the fuel pump, today's consumers demand convenience at all points of their shopping trip, according to research from Bluedot, a customer arrival platform that empowers brands to provide real-time interactions and pickup solutions.

Its inaugural "Convenience Experience Report" explores consumer sentiment and the customer experience at convenience stores and gas stations.

The benchmark study delves into how consumers think about these locations and what drives their behavior, preferences and loyalty, offering a glimpse at the current customer experience as well as consumer demand and expectations in the future.

Study results indicate that consumers are putting c-stores on par with fast food restaurants, as nearly six in 10 consider purchasing a meal from a convenience store when stopping for fast food. There is also significant demand for mobile ordering, drive-thru and curbside pickup, with 61 percent of consumers stating they would visit a c-store more often if all these options were available.

Customers are also less willing to tolerate lines — even relatively short ones. Nearly half of survey respondents say they will walk out of a c-store if one or two people are in line at the register, and one in three say they will drive away from a gas station if there is just one car ahead of them at the pump.

In the future, c-store brands may want to consider keeping customers in stores longer by adding electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at their locations, according to Bluedot. The vast majority of EV owners (74 percent) want to charge next to c-stores.

At the fuel pump, price overwhelmingly impacts where consumers choose to fill up their gas tanks, according to nine out of 10 consumers, and gas discounts rank as the top reason why consumers would download and keep c-store and gas station mobile apps.

Notably, there is a significant gap between consumers who join loyalty programs for gas discounts (74 percent) and loyalty members who actually receive discounted gas (44 percent). Additionally, consumers are split down the middle on whether there is a quality difference between generic gas and branded gas.

Most consumers are also under the impression that they can only receive gas discounts through gas credit cards. More than half of survey respondents (54 percent) assume they have to sign up for a credit card to receive gas discounts, and 76 percent report that they 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," Davityan added.

The full report is available to download here.

The "Convenience Experience Report" was based on a survey of 1,570 American consumers and was conducted in May.