How to Build Consumer Habits in C-Stores
Much of our daily routines are defined by the set of habits we develop to bring some sort of normalcy to our lives. Convenience stores have traditionally created a perfect environment for millions of U.S. consumers to fulfill the needs of their morning and evening commute while on their way to work and school.
But as consumers try to build new routines in the aftermath of the pandemic, how can convenience stores make sure that they continue to be an essential part of their daily lives?
First, let’s take a look at how people form habits, particularly in the convenience store space. A recent article in Marketing Week used behavioral science to explain how consumers begin to form long-lasting habits in three steps: cues, reward, and routine.
Cue: The Morning and Evening Commute
The morning and evening commute can be referred to as a “cue.” A cue is an event that prompts people to make a series of decisions. Convenience stores not only make it easy for consumers to fill up their gas tank on the way to work, it’s also the perfect place to pick up a quick breakfast and snacks throughout the day.
Reward: Create In-Store Promotions
Once the cue has been established, there has to be a reward for coming into the store. This incentivizes the community to make visiting your locale a priority. The morning and evening commute has been disrupted by the pandemic due to more people working remotely. What are some new ways you can use in-store promotions to draw in your local customers?
Routine: Repeat Customers
In order for a behavior to become a routine, it must be done repeatedly. Research shows that it takes between 18 to 254 days to form a solid habit. It’s clear the pandemic will be around in different phases for months, if not years. As more people are choosing or are forced to work from home, it is clear that convenience stores will have to expand beyond the morning commute in order to remain relevant in their communities. They will need to rely on more sustainable interventions like offering the best prices in town. The location with the best prices will always win over their competitors.
How are convenience stores making the shift?
While fuel sales at convenience stores have gone down since the beginning of the pandemic, they have seen a major uptick in in-store sales. The latest NACS Retailer Pulse Survey boasts that 59 percent of U.S. convenience store owners have seen an increase in sales.
The most successful stores are changing their product mix. As restaurants and bars started to shut down, 39 percent of convenience stores placed more emphasis on their alcoholic beverage selection, with 58 percent adding more items.
Moving forward, convenience stores will have to rethink how they entice new and repeat customers to visit their locale given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Here’s a few ideas:
- Try offering buy-one get-one free items for snacks throughout the day
- Offer coupons for the sale of common household goods like toothpaste and toilet paper
- Put together quick and easy meal kits to help families get food on the table fast
The three key ingredients of habit formation can help convenience stores to remain competitive in the retail market during this time of unpredictable change. Pay attention to how behavioral science can provide evidence-based solutions to marketers as you figure out how to develop new strategies in the coming months and years.