For C-store owners, the ultimate customer is the repeat customer. While all business owners must devote time and resources to cultivating their new customer base, it’s often as important—if not more—to keep your loyal fans happy. While a dissatisfied new customer stings, letting down one of your regulars represents a calculable loss. In the competitive C-store landscape, it’s particularly critical for convenience store operators to have a solid understanding of their high-frequency shoppers.
The Annual Convenience Store News Study
A 2016 study of 1,500 C-store shoppers conducted by CSNews determined that nearly two-thirds of them shopped daily or weekly, identifying them as “frequent shoppers.” Of these, men were more represented than women (67.8% vs. 59.6%); the most popular age range was the 45- to 54-year-old demographic; the Northeast was the most represented region of the country (68%); and shoppers with kids were more likely than those without to visit regularly. CSNews also discovered that frequent shoppers often like to patronize the exact same store.
Interestingly, while all respondents’ biggest incentives to visit a C-store were gasoline and beverages, frequent shoppers also listed purchasing snacks as a top reason to make the trip.
How to Build A High-Frequency Customer Base
Given that the high-frequency shopper is so desirable in the C-store economy, how do you attract them? The key lies in taking a guest-centered, rather than a product-centered, approach. The age of your customer is perhaps the most influential factor—it’s rare that a teenager is shopping for the same things in a C-store as a middle-aged adult—and this means knowing your audience, and diversification of products which appeal to your target age groups—making sure your store has many of the items likely to appeal to each age group.
It’s been shown that customers appreciate convenience in their C-store of choice. But what does “convenience” really mean? Among other things, it could apply to the ease of parking, length of wait time, and intuitiveness in the layout of the store (i.e. how long it takes to find the item they want), so the C-store owner increases her chances of netting additional high-frequency shoppers with attention to convenience-centric details.
In a perfect world, your high-frequency shopper will become familiar with your C-store’s in-store promotions—i.e., holiday deals, giveaways, and ties to community events—and, by proxy, with your products. Loyalty programs are another effective and time-tested way of retaining customers, especially when they are easy to join and offer obvious benefits. When a customer heads to his local C-store on game day specifically because of a highly-anticipated promotional deal on multiple packages of hot dogs and steps up to the register with his loyalty card, the C-store is seeing high-frequency customer ROI in action.