LA CROSSE, Wis. — Kwik Trip took the top spot in Market Force Information's latest annual study on consumers' favorite convenience stores. More than 10,000 people took part in the poll, which ranks gas stations in two separate categories: traditional convenience stores and gas stations, and grocery stores and big-box retailers with gas stations.
In 2015, Wawa was No. 1 and Kwik Trip did not garner enough votes to make the list, as CSNews Online previously reported. In this year's study, Kwik Trip surged ahead to the top of the list based on poll participants' level of satisfaction with their most recent fueling experience and their likelihood to refer that brand to others.
QuikTrip and Wawa tied for second place, followed by RaceTrac and Speedway. The top five brands are all regional and corporate-owned; Phillips 66 is the highest-ranked national brand for the second year in a row.
Meanwhile, BJ's Wholesale Club took the No. 1 spot for grocers and big-box retailers, bumping Costco from its No. 1 spot last year to second place this year. Kroger ranked third, and Sam's Club dropped one spot to fourth.
The study found that 71 percent of participants visited a traditional gas station to fuel up, while 28 percent chose a grocer or big-box retailer. While fuel prices are an important factor in location choice, other important considerations are payment options, fuel quality and the ease of entering and exiting.
Kwik Trip was lauded for appearance and merchandise, while QuikTrip received top scores in categories such as ease of entering and exiting the property; cashier service; and having cleaning supplies available at the fueling station. Wawa performed consistently well overall.
In regards to motor fuels, Chevron took the top rank for fuel quality and Murphy USA was voted the fuel price-leader.
"The brands are tightly clustered in nearly every category, which shows just how fiercely competitive this industry is," said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. "With drivers having so many options to choose from, gas stations and convenience stores must excel in areas beyond price, such as offering multiple payment options or specialty foods, to attract loyal, repeat customers."
Market Force also found that 23 percent of customers bought a fresh food item during their last visit and 89 percent were satisfied with the quality. Wawa, Kwik Trip, Casey's, Sheetz and QuikTrip led in fresh food purchases and had relatively high marks for food quality satisfaction.
Only 10 percent of consumers reported they have used a gas/c-store mobile app, but app usage has increased since last year among those aged 45 to 54 and 25 to 34. GasBuddy is the most popular app at 59 percent, while one-third of app users reported using a retailer's branded app. Price was the predominant driver for app usage, followed by finding a gas station and reporting gas prices.