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What Does Convenience Mean Today?

Don Longo
Editorial Director Emeritus
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Last October, I wrote in this column about how I felt the convenience store industry was on the verge of a fundamental transformation. I felt that convenience stores were undergoing tremendous changes in the way they attract and serve their customers.

That transformation starts with defining what “convenience” means to consumers today. Everyone wants to be the convenient, easy place to shop. From dollar stores to small-format stores from Amazon, Walmart and numerous supermarket chains, “convenience” is the prime attribute these retailers are chasing.

Which brings me to our exclusive 2019 Realities of the Aisle consumer study, which analyzes the demographics and purchasing behavior of convenience store shoppers across a wide swath of product categories in-store, as well as fuel purchasing.

Last year, we spotlighted “opportunity” segments for c-stores — women, millennials, Hispanics and health-conscious consumers. This year, we crafted our survey to explore and highlight how all convenience store shoppers define the concept of “convenience.”

For sure, the word “convenience” for c-store shoppers evokes multiple store and experience-related attributes. But is it just about being a “quick visit” or an “easy in-and-out of the store?” Or maybe it means close geographical proximity or on their predetermined route?   

One of the key findings of this year’s study is that the definition of convenience for most shoppers is based on an experience that ultimately saves them time and effort. It’s “quick” and it’s “easy,” and the store has all the items they are most likely to need to purchase immediately. Convenience stores that prioritize simplifying the shopping and purchase steps are more likely to see a payback of increased traffic and basket size. 

Now in its 10th year, the Realities of the Aisle study can help you understand who’s shopping your stores today, what they’re buying and why, and how they want to be approached and communicated with today. In addition to covering all the major product categories, the study looks at consumers’ reactions to loyalty programs, mobile apps, competitive retail channels, quality of foodservice, ATM, car wash, other ancillary services and much more. (Future installments focused on different themes will be published throughout the year.)

This year’s results are based on an online survey conducted in partnership with Convenience Store News’ sister company, EIQ Research Solutions. The questionnaire was fielded to a representative U.S.-based sample of 1,500 participants. In order to qualify, participants had to shop at a convenience store at least once a month.

By undertaking a thoughtful and comprehensive understanding of customer needs as they relate to the convenience experience, convenience stores can address their future in a confident and effective manner.

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