C-Store Predictions for 2023: 5 Themes Shaping the Industry
C-stores have changed rapidly. In recent years, they've added fresh foodservice, loyalty programs, drive-thru lanes and coffee.
Those investments are gaining value thanks to the arrival of EV charging stations. Drivers are expected to wait at least half an hour to charge, driving up the need for food, shopping and other diversions while they wait.
"There will be an emphasis on loyalty and other strategies to increase foot traffic," says Emil Davityan, co-founder and CEO at Bluedot. "It will also be very exciting to see how EV charging, which offers a ton of potential, will enter the picture."
At Bluedot, we're predicting these five c-store trends for 2023:
1. C-stores will double down on food service and go head-to-head with QSRs.
The investments c-store brands made in foodservice initiatives are clearly paying off. Six in ten consumers are now considering c-stores when hungry for fast food, placing them nearly on par with popular QSR brands.
We see c-stores doubling down on foodservice initiatives with some developing their own QSR restaurants within stores that prepare and serve fast and convenient menu items such as warm sandwiches, burritos, or burgers.
As c-stores continue to aggressively invest in successful foodservice initiatives, we expect to see more changes on the horizon. Drive-thru and curbside pickup will become more prevalent and we'll see more stores-within-stores to optimize physical real estate, serving the on-the-go consumer.
2. Drive-thrus will continue to emerge. To compete, c-stores will launch drive-thrus and offer curbside pickup.
Pumping gas and driving through to pick up coffee and a quick snack on the way out is tempting, especially if it means avoiding a line somewhere else and it appears there's high demand for it. More than 60% of consumers indicated they would visit a c-store more often if drive-thrus or curbside pickup options were available.
New drive-thrus may also signal a shift in what c-stores sell with more emphasis on food.
3. C-stores will become an access point with more stores-within-stores.
As convenience stores look to improve convenience, some may change dramatically and become more multi-purpose stops to take advantage of their prime locations. Stores within stores will emerge to include services such as package pickup or drop-off, restaurants, credit unions, etc.
The landscape to define what it means to be convenient will continue to be refined as c-stores lure in customers with more accessible, truly convenient offerings for time-strapped, on-the-go consumers.
4. Brands will continue to focus on mobile strategy to boost loyalty.
Loyalty programs through mobile apps offer a compelling way to attract consumers into stores with deals and discounts on popular in-store items. In particular, c-stores with gas pumps are better positioned to boost brand loyalty and foot traffic – 90% of consumers are more likely to download a c-store mobile app and sign up for loyalty programs if gas discounts are attached.
We'll see brands take loyalty programs a step further with offers for highly personalized items that address consumers' unique preferences.
5. EV charging will impact c-store strategies.
While it might be some time before we see as much demand for charging stations as we do for gas pumps, electric and semi-electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent, especially with ongoing government incentives.
When charging takes upward of 30 minutes, there's an obvious opportunity for c-stores to increase foot traffic. In fact, 3 in 4 EV owners indicated they want to charge near c-stores. We might even see c-stores offer discounted charging rates if it lures consumers into stores and has a direct impact on revenue.
How will these trends impact your business in 2023? Start a demo and talk with our team for more insights.