As customers continue to evolve, so does the fuel retail landscape

May 10, 2022

By Chris Kalischefski, Principal-in-Charge, Design & Program Management

The gas station has become a road trip staple and a favorite quick-stop destination over the past several decades. Perhaps you have a favorite one in your neighborhood or on the way to work that you stop at frequently. When you fuel up with gas, do you grab a coffee in the morning or a breakfast sandwich to go? How about a bag of chips or ice on the way to a neighborhood BBQ? Or, are you the type to get your gas and hurry straight to your next stop, without wasting any extra time.

As customer demands evolve, so does the fuel retail landscape. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, with people driving less to the office, shopping behavior has changed too. With those changes, we’ve seen two types of customers that will shape the next generation of fuel retail and convenience stores.  

1.   The customer on a mission that values efficiency  
This type of customer is typically in a hurry, knows what they want, and rarely makes impulse purchases.

When’s the last time you went into a convenience store? You were probably in and out pretty quickly, and Explore Research backs that up with these statistics:

“According to the latest research, the typical focused c-store shopper is in and out in under four minutes during which time they typically pass 606 individual product category displays, averaging 0.3 seconds per display!” (1)

Unlike traditional grocery stores or shopping malls, convenience store trips are typically pretty short, overall. Customers who are on a mission, tend to grab what they want quickly and are on their way. Explorer research calls this type of customer the “last-minute shopper,” which they define as having the following characteristics:

“This is the shopper who is asked by their partner to buy milk on the way home. They rarely look at others while in the store and want to get in and out as fast as possible.   They are looking for a very specific item and are in a hurry.” (1)

These customers are less likely to try new products or browse the aisles to see what’s in stock. They’ll stick to their list and won’t be as open to adopting new technologies, like digital touch screens for ordering food or drinks. Convenience and saving time are their top priorities when making a quick stop.

2.   The one-stop shop customer that maximizes value
This type of customer wants to maximize the value of a one-stop shop that convenience stores offer, including food selections and grocery items.

Frequent convenience store shoppers are more likely to change buying behavior to save money, try new products, and are open to new technologies. These types of customers are more open to touchless payments or apps that allow you to order food and drinks in advance.

“The latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey, based on January 2018 survey results, suggests that frequent customers, defined as 28% of fuel purchasers who shop “daily” or “multiple times per week” at a convenience store, are more likely to hold favorable opinions of their local store, as well as respond positively to new products and foodservice offers.” (2)

These one-stop shoppers realize that gas stations are no longer a place to stop and just fuel up your car or grab a quick snack. They view their preferred gas stations and convenience stores more as food-focused market centers. As the market expands, so do the selections and offerings at convenience stores, and they are the first ones to take full advantage of these options.

Here are some of the innovative offerings that customers enjoy at next generation fuel retail stores:

  • New technology, like order ahead food pick-up on apps
  • Foodservice offerings and grab-n-go meals
  • ATM and banking options
  • Pharmacy drop-off and pick-up center
  • Grocery selections and order ahead grocery pick-up
  • Restaurants, such as fast-food or chains
  • Postal services or parcel storage  
  • Car washes and air for tires

Adding these items and services to your store can help attract these frequent customers to your store location, ultimately leading to additional revenue to the bottom line of the business.

From running errands to fueling up your car, to mailing a package, and grabbing a few groceries for the household- the next generation of fuel retail offers a plethora of options for the customer. Depending on their location, demographic, and shopping preferences, fuel retail stores can set themselves up for success by adding modern conveniences that improve the customer experience and cater to busy lifestyles.  

About WT Group

The WT Group designs facilities for clients that appeal to both types of customers. We provide clients with a single-source engineering solution to help maintain the integrity of all projects from start to finish. With nearly 50 years of experience, WT Group’s highly skilled engineering, design and consulting teams ensure consistency, clarity, and accuracy in the most cost and time-efficient manner.  Contact us today!