The Realities of C-stores & Social Media

NATIONAL REPORT -- What does the explosion of social media conversations — estimated at more than 10 million and growing — around grocery topics mean for convenience stores?

A recent business intelligence study conducted by Black Pearl Intelligence, exclusively in partnership with Convenience Store News reveals the expanding upswing of grocery-related social media conversations. The firm also identified tens of millions of convenience store-related conversations within a span of two years in a recent study focusing specifically on the convenience channel.

"The volume and high caliber of convenience store customer conversations within the social media platforms is amazing. Consumers are literally giving the industry a roadmap for product preferences, preferred promotions, when and how they like to frequent convenience stores, as well as a litany of other store experiences," wrote Bradley Nix, branding and social media expert for Black Pearl Intelligence, a business intelligence firm based in San Antonio.

According to the report, firms that understand how to transform social media data into consumer insights and business intelligence are able to drive growth, productivity and sales throughout the c-store value chain.

Using proprietary methodology combined with subject matter expertise, the study discovered only a few c-store brands currently use the social media space to create meaningful connections and build customer relationships. Early adopters reap the wealth of insight and intelligence available through the medium. Most c-stores, like their grocery store brethren, are not yet tapping into the power of social media, or have superficial social media strategies on the road to nowhere, according to the study.

"C-stores, with a few notable exceptions, still appear to treat social media as an afterschool project when, in fact, its importance and value has ascended to the very top of the communications hierarchy," Nix said. "C-store customers have seamlessly fused their online and offline shopping behavior. This behavioral evolution has seismic implications."

CSNews’ own research backs up the finding that c-stores have taken a detour in connecting social media as a primary driver for generating business results. In an online retailer study conducted earlier this year in partnership with retail consultancy Balvor LLC, CSNews found that three-quarters of c-store retailers use Facebook, and image building is their dominant strategy for this social media platform. Yet, few of the respondents said they knew or understood if they are getting any benefit out of their efforts.

The Black Pearl Intelligence white paper cites recent examples of how some industry leaders as diverse as Hawaii-based Aloha Petroleum Ltd., New Jersey-based QuickChek Corp. and Iowa-based Kum & Go LC are utilizing social media for a competitive advantage.

Utilizing its recent study of c-store online brand presence and observing consumer social media conversations, Nix served up six key realities to make social media the super highway to connect c-stores with their customers:

  • Reality No. 1: Social media is more than talk. It is action!
  • Reality No. 2: Your competitors, existing and emerging, are already connecting.
  • Reality No. 3: Business intelligence and actionable insights around social media benefit your bottom line.
  • Reality No. 4: C-store customers can be segmented into distinct types.
  • Reality No. 5: The most important web search topics are store attributes, purchases, and drinks and soda.
  • Reality No. 6: C-store customers are sharing their preferences on social media.

For a deeper dive into each "reality," see the October issue of Convenience Store News.


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