Out of Their Car & Into Your Door: How C-Stores Keep Customers Coming Back

C-stores give the modern shopper precisely what they want: convenience. Literally, that’s what the “C” stands for.

Delighting convenience-obsessed consumers propelled many shops out of financially bleak pandemic times. In 2021, c-store gross profits jumped 4.7% year-over-year to nearly $120 billion. Data from 2022 shows these strong financial times keep on rolling. Even with high inflation and reduced household budgets, 67% of shoppers visit a c-store once a week or more.

Convenience is c-stores’ bread and butter. But, solely focusing on that differentiator may limit potential profits. Competition is stronger than ever as every type of retailer fights for shopper dollars. To prevail above the rest, c-stores must take an innovative and customer-centric approach.

Moving Customers Beyond the Tank

Good news for c-stores: gas sales are back up after facing dwindling numbers during the pandemic. Americans drove more in 2021 even though the average gas price jumped by more than $1 per gallon between the year’s start and end. C-stores sold 132.9 billion gallons in 2021, up 8 percent from 123.3 million gallons in 2020. Gas continues being these retailers’ greatest revenue stream: c-stores account for nearly 80% of all the fuel that Americans purchase.

Gas brings shoppers to stores, but spending doesn’t need to stop there. In-store products are a valuable way to boost their bottom line, which is why many offer a variety of foodservices from bagels to coffee to pizza and beyond. In 2021, c-store foodservices sales hit $43.2 billion, up almost 21% from 2020.

While foodservices are a great revenue stream, getting shoppers out of their car and into the store isn’t an easy feat. Remember, today’s consumers want convenience. Heading inside after fueling up at the pump isn’t necessarily convenient for the consumer who wants to gas and go, which is why c-stores must appeal to other shopper values like making their dollars go further. Keep your price-conscious shoppers coming back with a deal that gives them a single-use code to redeem 30% off your infamous mocha latte. Those savings will get them in the door where they may proceed to purchase a lightly toasted croissant to pair with that warm drink.

Why “L”is The Next Letter on C-Stores’ Agenda 

C-stores dispel the notion that quality comes at the price of convenience. Many retailers line their shelves with substantive offerings that appeal to shoppers who care about their food’s quality. From Veggies Made Great’s spinach egg white frittata to Kwik Trip’s take-home beef stroganoff, c-store shoppers enjoy nutrient-dense foods that exceed their expectations.

As c-stores scale their offerings, their competition intensifies. When stopping for fast food, 59% of Americans consider purchasing from a c-store. One in four Americans frequent c-stores for hot food and 21% purchase made-to-order meals from these retailers. 

Sailing above the competition requires a strong focus on customer loyalty and retention: 70% of consumers shop at the same c-store brand and location. Even further, 93% of them shop at that store the majority of the time.

To win and maintain customer loyalty, tech empowers c-stores to engage in a valuable way with their shoppers and increase their likelihood to consistently return. The right customer engagement ecosystem analyzes customer behavior and preferences to create personalized offers, like giving frequent shoppers discounts on their favorite snack or iced beverage. Encourage more regular visits by creating a reward system that gives your shoppers points that they later redeem via your store’s mobile app for some much-needed fuel discounts.

Innovation empowers retailers to transform convenience into a can’t-miss customer experience. C-stores have nailed the “C” in convenience, but will they also claim victory over loyalty’s “L?”