Targeting Convenience Store Customers

MSA and Paradigm Sample, in partnership with Convenience Store Decisions, are gaining insights into the shopping patterns of today’s c-store customers.

By Trish Temmerman, Management Science Associates (MSA).

Tough economic times and stiff competition across the supply chain make it even more 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.

You undoubtedly recognize your “regulars,” but do you really know what motivates them to shop at your stores and why they select the products they do? Which segments of patrons spend more money and are willing to make special trips for certain items? Are you stocking the correct assortment of items, and in the right sizes, to satisfy your different consumer segments?

MSA and Paradigm Sample have collaborated on a new service that tracks the shopping behaviors of convenience store shoppers, including the 18-34-year-old segment most likely to shop the channel. The Convenience Consumer Insights Panel (cciPanel) is a first-of-its-kind mobile research panel designed to capture purchase-decision and attitudinal information among this valuable segment of young adult shoppers by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with them about their purchase decisions in this channel. Convenience Store Decisions is the exclusive media partner for this valuable service.


This 18-34 age group is more ethnically and racially diverse than older generations and is more educated. They are frequently characterized as being immersed in digital technology via their mobile devices, proficient multitaskers, and constantly on-the-go. Social media is weaved into all aspects of their lives.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, they are described as “history’s first always connected generation.” The cciPanel leverages this immersion in digital technology for this key consumer segment to delve into their shopping behaviors in convenience stores.

First Quarter 2011 Insights
First quarter results reflect the on-the-street reality for this demographic. For starters, more than half of panelists are in the 18-34-year-old segment. And cciPanelists said they shop for convenience, want to get in and out quickly and spend very little time at the store. The good news is two-thirds of respondents shop in a convenience store at least once a week.

The following are other highlights from the first quarter syndicated results, based on completed surveys among 548 cciPanel consumers (Figure 1) during the months of February and March 2011.

Thinking of the convenience store you visit most frequently, what are your reasons for shopping at this store? As expected, panelists shop at the convenience stores they visit most often due primarily to their convenient location, followed by getting in and out of the store quickly. Three in 10 customers cited availability of gas and prices, but only 12% indicated “carries my preferred brands” as their reason to shop at a given store (Figure 2).

On a typical trip to a c-store, how much time (in minutes) do you you spend in the store? Half of c-store customers reported spending five minutes (Figure 3) or less shopping for in-store items, so retailers do not have their attention for very long. How frequently do you shop at c-stores? Good news for retailers: almost two-thirds of shoppers visit at least once a week (Figure 4).

When do you typically shop at a convenience store? While traveling to and from work (58%) was the most frequently cited time (Figure 5), closely followed by running errands (53%) and then traveling for pleasure (44%). Thirty-six percent of shoppers reported they make special trips from home to the convenience store.


What types of products do you typically purchase at convenience stores? Seven in 10 shoppers buy confections or canned/bottled drinks (Figure 6), followed by chips/other salty snacks (61%) and dispensed beverages (49% coffee/hot beverages and 48% fountain drinks).

On a typical trip to a convenience store, how much money (excluding gas) would you estimate you spend? The majority of customers are not big spenders on in-store items. Excluding gas, almost three-fourths of shoppers spend $10 or less per trip (Figure 7).

At what time of day do you most often shop at c-stores? Foot traffic peaks in the evening hours, particularly for 18-34-year-olds (Figure 8), while the morning hours are the most frequent time of day shopped for 45+-year-olds.

On which days of the week are you most likely to shop at convenience stores? Traffic is fairly steady Monday through Thursday, with Friday as the peak shopping day, likely due to customers stocking up for the weekend (Figure 9). Not surprisingly, Sunday is the slowest traffic day.Thinking of the convenience stores that you visit on a regular basis, how many different stores would you say you typically frequent? One in four shoppers frequently visits the same convenience store, but when compared to the older age groups, it is the 18-34-year-olds who are more likely to shop around at multiple stores (Figure 10).

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. Retailers have very little time to make a connection with their customers and must make sure to stock the right assortment of preferred products.

In order to grab consumers’ attention, product packaging should be eye-catching and new product introductions and impulse items should be in prominent locations to increase the dollars spent per customer. Retailers must understand what motivates consumers in order to position their stores as destinations to attract new customers and retain loyal ones.

Regular updates and other consumer insights from the cciPanel will appear exclusively in Convenience Store Decisions each quarter. The syndicated service guarantees unique customer shopping data and each survey will comprise:
• Repeated questions for accurate benchmarking such as, “From which categories do you purchase regularly in convenience?”
• Topical questions like, “Will the rising price of gas affect your spending on non-gas items?”
• Shopped-category questions including, “Which is your favorite gum brand?”
• Select suggested subscriber questions.

Possible deeper dives into convenience store shoppers’ behavior include category-specific analyses such as shopping basket assortment for gum buyers, as well as custom applications leveraging MSA’s expertise in tracking product-movement data to help clients target high-volume convenience stores for in-store activities and measure the impact of targeted executions and campaigns.


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Read on for exclusive data that shows why customers are shopping the convenience channel, how much time they spend in the store, when they’re shopping, what they’re buying and more.

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  1. Howard Baldwin says:

    Thanks for a highly insightful article, Ms. Temmerman. Some
    of these same concepts (and others) come up in this white paper entitled “The
    Convenience Store of the Future” (, created by Hughes
    Enterprise Solutions. The paper envisions a future in which the convenience store
    becomes a multi-brand,
    multi-function retailing and entertainment destination.


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  2. Keeps asking me to login, but I’m already logged in, then just goes to my profile page.

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