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.
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.
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.
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