Globally, government responses to the Omicron variant have triggered travel restrictions again, uncertainty rules the day, consumer behavior continues to shift and oil prices have fluctuated wildly throughout every twist and turn. The spillover effect is that consumers are paying well over $3 per gallon; over $4 in California.
Purchase patterns, marketing programs and corporate alliances are all morphing in response to the sustained unpredictability and likely to continue to do so in 2022.
With the petroleum industry dictating shifts in the c-store model, here are some trends to watch in the New Year, and the opportunities they represent:
- Gassing up more, spending less
With the price of fuel at the highest it's been in recent years, consumers are putting more varying amounts of gas in their cars. What would have been a fill up last year will often be a quick $5-10 purchase. It means more trips to the gas station, but it’s still easier to manage for most.
This shift in buying behavior can be a necessity, especially for the lower and middle-class households that are running paycheck to paycheck as they struggle to fuel their cars and heat their homes.
For the convenience store retailer, this presents an opportunity, as they have customers on-premise more often. By creating and clearly promoting programs around seasonal items, discount offers and loyalty points, store owners will work to draw attention from those customers, deliver consumer offerings that resonate and encourage repeat visits for more than just fuel.
Consumers looking to save money on gas by making fewer stops in an errand run or looking to move away from crowded box stores in light of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns are turning more frequently toward convenience stores as one-stop shops.
In response, c-stores have diversified offerings, increasing their value in the business landscape. This in turn has become a factor in the uptick in industry mergers, acquisitions and consolidations.
As the value of c-stores continues to grow, expect more market-shaping moves within the sector in the coming year.
- More loyalty programs and partnerships
A recent GasBuddy poll reported that more than 60% of Americans frequent a station that has an attached loyalty program. Now more than ever, customers want something back in exchange for purchases they make on an everyday basis; and as gas prices continue to rise, they will only look for more and better incentives.
Large retailers are paying attention and forging strategic partnerships in response. Given the opportunity to gas up and save on other necessities - or vice versa - customers will continue to be more likely to intentionally shop where they engage in loyalty programs.
4. Chips and more (not that kind)
Gas stations are already under mandates to utilize chip card reader technology in order to avoid the skimming, hacking and other fraudulent activity associated with far less secure magnetic stripe readers. While some stations may be lagging in adopting the technology, credit card companies will stay on them, issuing fines if needed.
The next year will see a marked uptick in security measures like the transition to chip technology, as well as Near Field Communications (NFC) capabilities in the form of smartphone apps. These platforms allow for completely touch-free pump authorization and payment executed securely and safely from a customer’s phone.
5. Ingenuity elevates an era of change
When consumer behavior shifts, innovation wins. As motorists continue looking to c-stores to fill the role of the one-stop shop in a time of uncertainty, store owners will respond by finding new ways to provide what their customers need. Whether that’s expanded product offerings, enabling purchase power via touch lists and smartphones, partnering with third-party apps or developing their own, c-store retailers will continue to explore new avenues and expand on old ones.
Designed with intention, innovative consumer programs will mean good news for both customers and store owners.
Whether looking to capitalize on increased customer visits, land the best loyalty program partners, grow within the industry or simply earn more customer allegiance, c-stores in 2022 have the tools they need to drive success and the innovation to compete in a changing landscape.