Meeting the Needs of Today’s C-Store Customers

CSD‘s 2012 Category Management Outlook offers trends and analysis from more than 25 key in-store categories.

By John Lofstock and Erin Rigik.

Tough economic times and stiff competition across the supply chain are making it critical for convenience store operators to have a solid understanding of their customers, particularly their high-frequency, high-value shoppers. Armed with these insights, operators can take the necessary steps to retain and attract new loyal customers.

On the pages ahead, Convenience Store Decisions delves into more than 25 in-store categories to identify emerging trends and garner retailer analysis to forecast what operators can expect over the coming year.

Several categories experienced strong growth in 2011 and have an equally bright outlook for 2012. Energy shots, ready-to-drink teas and all segments of foodservice will remain hot, while bottled water and juices are expected to remain sluggish, especially if the economy continues to sputter.

Electronic cigarettes and reloadable prepaid cards are two emerging categories that show strong potential for 2012.

Targeting Customers
To understand what’s selling, retailers need a better understanding of the convenience store customer. MSA and Paradigm Sample, in partnership with Convenience Store Decisions, have collaborated on the Convenience Consumer Insights Panel (cciPanel) to track the shopping behaviors of convenience store shoppers, including the 18-34-year-old segment most likely to shop the channel. This mobile research panel is designed to capture purchase-decision information among this valuable segment by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with them about their c-store purchases.

In a recent survey of 548 cciPanel consumers, respondents reported that they shop convenience stores primarily for their convenient location and because they want to get in and out quickly. The good news is that two-thirds of the respondents shop in a c-store at least once a week. During these trips, seven in 10 shoppers polled buy confections or canned/bottled drinks, followed by chips/other salty snacks (61%) and dispensed beverages (49% coffee/hot beverages and 48% fountain drinks). Excluding gas, almost three-quarters of shoppers indicated they spend $10 or less per trip.

According to these findings, shoppers choose stores that are convenient from both a place and time perspective, and younger adult consumers are less likely to be loyal to a specific store. That means retailers have very little time to make a connection with their customers and must make sure to stock the right assortment of preferred products.

The pages in this section offer additional insights by category for capturing a greater share of customer visits.

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