Who is the c-store customer + what are they buying?

Katie Cofer | Nov 6, 2018 Katie Cofer 11/06/18

The look, taste, and reputation of convenience stores (c-stores) aren’t what they were 10 years ago—and they’re not going to be the same 10 years from now. For the past decade, c-stores have been improving and innovating their food and beverage offerings—developing specialty menu items and re-inventing the c-store customer experience.

These innovations have also caused an evolution of the c-store customer. Previously, the target market was much smaller, and advertising was geared to a specific demographic. “Gas station food” had a bit of a stigma, and not everyone had the stomach for it. But now, with offerings like scratch-made pizza, fresh salads, and locally-made desserts, more and more people are making c-stores a food and beverage destination.

To better understand this shift, we turned to our market intelligence tool BrandGeek®—the fastest, most accurate source of behavioral data linked to customer feedback in real time. With more than 120,000 responses from c-store and QSR customers, we discovered a lot about who’s frequenting c-stores and what they’re buying. Here’s what we found out:

Generational gaps don’t have much impact

The negative connotation of “gas station food” from the past is evaporating—customers of all ages are now purchasing food and beverages at c-stores. When it comes to beverages, older customers are leading the charge and are particularly drawn to self-serve drinks, where customers under the age of 44 are slightly more inclined to buy food.

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Many major chains are increasing their fresh food and beverage options with things like locally-made granola bars and full-service barista stations—turning many millennials into loyal customers. With the younger generations embracing these offerings, the future of c-stores looks very bright.

Men and women are c-store customers

It would be easy to assume the c-store food and beverage space is dominated by men. But our data shows this stereotype doesn’t quite hold up. Yes, men are visiting c-stores more and are more likely to purchase food on their visits, but this doesn’t mean c-stores should overlook their female customers.

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There is only a 2-ppt difference between men and women when it comes to beverage purchases. This is an important thing to for c-stores to remember when they think about their marketing strategies. Advertising in the past was much more male-centric, but major c-store chains are now shifting to gender-neutral marketing campaigns in order to appeal to their entire clientele.

Customers with a wide range of incomes buy c-store food

With a big focus on convenience and value, c-stores’ food and beverage options are very appealing to customers with lower incomes. In fact, customers who make less than $25,000/year make more food purchases at c-stores than customers in higher salary brackets.

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But again, it’s not by much. In fact, when it comes to self-serve drinks, it’s the higher-income customers who are filling up more often. It’s important for c-stores to appeal to all customers and strive to deliver a positive customer experience every time they walk through the door.

Demographics don’t define the c-store customer

As c-stores continue to evolve, so do their customers. With enhanced menu selections and a maintained focus on value, c-stores are becoming a food and beverage destination for all customers—no matter their age, gender, or income.

By understanding what their customers are drawn to and continuing to adapt to those expectations, c-stores could increase this food and beverage customer base—securing loyalty, return business, and increased revenue.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post answering an important question: Are c-stores delivering better experiences than QSRs? In the meantime, download the report: How c-stores are disrupting the food + beverage industry.

Katie Cofer | VP, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update