C-Store Trends in 2015
Competition within the c-store industry continues to mount and stores that were earlier related to motor fuel supply have now become more exclusive with the growth of superstores like Walmart and wholesale retailers like BJ’s and Costco. Though sale of gas still remains the mainstay of most large and traditional c-stores the focus is now more on convenience products as market is now growing fast with high margin food products and also specialty products. While some stores are diversifying to include convenience restaurants and new inventory others are resorting to in-store marketing techniques to enhance experience of shoppers and bridge the gap between online and offline marketing channels.
- Sales will be driven by baby boomers and millennial generations – The most prominent shoppers of 2015 will be its millennial generation which will prove to be a ready market for organic products and new spices while baby boomers will be buyers of traditional products. The older generation in their 70’s will retire with healthy financial resources and will lay greater emphasis on fitness and vitality forcing manufacturers to tailor existing products to suit their needs. The smartphone generation of millennials will encourage store owners to keep their online purchase applications as uncomplicated as possible for sales. Besides technology upgrades, retailers also have to invest more in improving customer service and deliverables as this generation is impatient and requires instant gratification.
- Healthy food options – The plentifully available fast food options are no longer about greasy fried food but more towards healthy salads and light roasted snacks along with wholesome food like chicken and pizza. This emerging trend shows that people want personalized ingredients in their meals and want choices in the food they eat making traditional fast food chains to regularly innovate their menu and improve speed of delivery. Now even c-store based restaurants are consulting with food distributors to improve their menu and use locally available ingredients to keep their food fresh and add new flavor options.
- Social Networks to be next shopping platforms – Within past few years the outreach of social networks have increased substantially and are being used by both large and small brands to market their products and interact with customers on a regular basis. The recent launch of “buy buttons” in Facebook and Twitter along with Like2Buy platform on Instagram help buyers to make positive affirmations while browsing and sharing their interests with others. Companies like Home Depot, Burberry, Target and few others are now testing Twitter’s button to see if its effectiveness.
- Growing demand for snacks and beverages and Vapor – The millenials are today very busy with hectic work schedules to sit down for lunch or even breakfast and are resorting to light snacking to keep themselves fed. To cash into this market the c-stores are offering fresh portable snacks to consumers which is a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables to give them required quantity of carbs and proteins. Light meals and beverages have always been an ideal combination at fast food outlets like Starbucks, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts and others which have set top standards for both iced and cold coffee and fruit beverages. Beverage distribution is now a vital part of c-store distribution network with demand for dispensing machines and fountains increasing in urban and rural landscape. Last but not least, vaping will has already become a viable asset to convenience stores. Look out for a new product called CBD that is already sweeping the nation. You can learn more about CBD vapors at www.purecbdvapors.com.
- Loyalty points and social responsibility – Customers will be made to feel more special for their loyalty towards a brand by customized product recommendations and offers. As the old practice of granting points to customers for making purchases above certain levels has become boring companies are now resorting to other means to keep them engaged. Imaginative methods are being adopted in 2015 by retailers to reward customers for positive action like references and recommendations instead of just purchases. With increase in customer expectations stores are offering customized perks and benefits to show their appreciation for loyalty and patronage.
Companies have now realized that customers have a soft corner for merchants that actively take part in social causes and try to make a positive change in society which can be related to their business. Shoppers like to know that some part of their money is being sent for community development activities around their neighborhood.
- Experimenting with technology – Very soon we shall see the familiar cash counter disappearing as point of sales systems with cloud based technology will gain acceptance by tech savvy c-store owners. Though this is an expensive option for small retailers these systems are finding their niche in stores with statewide branches as it increases performance and functionality of regular cash registers. Beacons are the next technical gadgets which are slowly being introduced into stores to help owners analyze their sales and generate details of item wise or category wise sales which can improve planning of inventory and in-store marketing techniques. Other soon to be launched technologies in c-stores are “augmented reality” and “3 D printing” which will improve buyers’ experience and help them visualize a product before purchasing it.
- Using data-based solution to manage risk and customers – In forthcoming years retailers are going to depend on data analysis to study customer shopping trends, price trends and supply chains to make targeted adjustments with for carrying out marketing displays and change price margins across the year. By detailed study of product and category performances, retailers can adjust their merchandise better and make promotions to improve inventory performance and also avoid expensive markdowns when season ends.
Lack of knowledge about channels structure makes customers ignorant about price differences in similar products on online and offline so they expect same service and offer for both channels. This makes it difficult for c-stores to manage their online and offline presentations as one entity and they need invest heavily in technology to make their store an omni-channel entity like Macy’s which ships products directly to buyer’s homes. Before investing in technology stores have to take time to consider if this feature will improve their customer’s experience and make them appreciate your effort then it is better to stick to that strategy.