This year, society embraced e-commerce like never before. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay home and made everyone hyper-aware of their susceptibility to germs and viruses, consumers turned to digital platforms not for convenience, but for comfort and safety.
E-commerce options like contactless payments, online ordering and delivery and subscription programs saw an explosion of new adoption by consumers—and by brands trying to appeal to those consumers—because it was the safest option available. Moving forward, consumers will continue to use these digital channels, but they’ll have resumed looking for the ease of use and convenience that they demanded before the pandemic.
There are three trends expected to make waves in the convenience store industry in 2021:
1) Convenience store shoppers who temporarily prioritized safety over convenience will expect both. After a years-long focus on creating frictionless environments for customers, c-stores switched gears in 2020 and began focusing on touchless experiences instead. The shift was evident both in new offerings, like online ordering and curbside pickup, and in tone. Brands emphasized the safety of these offerings over the convenience by signaling that they were “touchless” options.
Moving forward, customers will still expect that enhanced level of safety, but their patience for learning new platforms and using clunky workarounds will wane. C-stores will need to adopt technologies that both limit physical contact and minimize friction.
2) The industry will continue to experiment with drive-thrus and curbside pickup. Drive-thrus were especially lucrative for restaurants this year: the drive-thru represented 42% of all restaurant visits in the second quarter and increased a further 13% in July, when many restaurants began to reopen.
Convenience stores—especially those with made-to-order food offerings—are looking to capitalize on this trend. Over this past summer, Wawa announced plans to build a drive-thru and curbside pickup-only store in Pennsylvania. Consumer preferences for options like these are likely to continue into 2021 and beyond.
3) Recurring digital revenue streams will become a staple of the convenience industry. The accelerated shift toward e-commerce brought on by the pandemic means that consumers are developing a preference for omnichannel engagement with their favorite brands, where loyalty, payment and ordering all work together seamlessly.
That preference also applies to recurring payments in the form of subscriptions. Customers are already accustomed to paying this way for everything from groceries to pet supplies, and now subscriptions are straddling the digital and physical realms, with programs like Cumberland Farms’ coffee subscription and RaceTrac’s fuel discount program.
The convenience industry is about to see a boom in recurring digital revenues like these, thanks to new solutions coming on the market. These will make it faster and easier to prop up a subscription program that runs alongside existing loyalty programs, and will also provide novel ways for convenience retailers to differentiate their brands.
To learn more about contactless solutions, online ordering and subscriptions, visit www.paytronix.com.