- As the industry looks ahead to 2024, c-stores will evolve even more toward being “experience-driven destinations,” according to a survey of 125 senior fuel and convenience industry executives by business insights firm Incisiv.
- Standing out from the crowd is top of mind for convenience store leaders, with 95% of respondents highlighting the importance of “boosting competitive differentiation,” the survey said.
- Part of that involves improving foodservice. Just 31% of those surveyed said their stores’ current food offering was “satisfactory,” the survey found. Other differentiators mentioned in the survey included EV charging and ultra-fast delivery.
As convenience stores increasingly compete with restaurants and grocers, the industry is seeing a stronger need to “ step up their game in setting themselves apart from their competitors,” according to Incisiv’s report.
Part of that is a matter of aesthetics, with stores reimagining their customer-facing spaces. Just over half of the execs said there needs to be an emphasis on a transformed look and feel inside c-stores, to make the space move inviting and pleasing for customers.
While less than a third of respondents were satisfied with their current foodservice program, 24% said they were planning to accommodate even more dine-in customers by growing the space for them to sit and eat. The industry is already seeing that trend, with companies like Dash In and Spinx building more foodservice-focused sites with plenty of seating.
Executives say they’re also innovating to give customers new in-store experiences. “Shoppers now demand more than mere transactions; they desire stores that can quickly experiment with new ideas,” the report said.
While almost all of those surveyed said that speed is important to developing those experiences and getting them to market, only 30% of them were actually satisfied with the pace at which their businesses experimented and innovated.
Speed is most important for innovation
When it comes to checkout, staffed registers are losing importance, with 32% of respondents saying they plan to reduce the space allotted for them in the next 12 months. That could include more scan-and-go, with 43% of respondents putting the mobile-based technology on their roadmaps in 2023.
“This shift underscores the ongoing efforts to reimagine convenience store space with innovative self-checkout solutions,” the report said.
For self checkout, the main concern executives have is around shrink, with 71% highlighting the importance of computer vision to catch potential shoplifting.
Incisiv’s survey was conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 13, 2023. Nearly 80% of respondents were director-level or higher in their respective companies.