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The Omnichannel Future of C-Stores

Convenience-store consumers are still seeking more digital experiences even as the pandemic wanes – and c-stores are adjusting their strategies accordingly. The biggest shifts have come in the way convenience brands are approaching online ordering and order fulfillment.

Across a rapily changing landscape, Paytronix has identified the following six key industry trends for 2021
  1. Online ordering is more prevalent among c-stores than ever before.
  2. Customers expect curbside pickup.
  3. Demand for delivery and order-ahead pickup continues to grow.
  4. Customers expect that all loyalty benefits will be available during online ordering.
  5. Omnichannel messages continue to drive visits and spend.
  6. Contactless payment and loyalty ID – at the pump and in the store – are now table stakes.

Changes to Customer Behavior

Half of consumers say their buying habits have been permanently altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The surveyed consumers were classified into four groups: Most Anxious, Health Concerned, Budget Constrained, and Least Disrupted.

Customer Behavior
Rising Alcohol Sales

With bars and restaurants closed or at limited capacity for much of 2020, alcohol sales boomed last summer. Considering the frequency with which beer is purchased at convenience stores, it’s likely to remain a driver of both in-store and online sales. 

Between March 7 and July 11 of 2020, beer was the No. 1 growth driver for c-stores, increasing by a whopping $1.4 billion.2

Prior to COVID-19, beer was the fourth-largest category in c-stores and generated $21 billion in sales.2

Emergence of Drive-Thrus

NACS found that convenience retailers are increasingly focusing on drive-thrus. Industry leader Wawa recently opened a drive-thru at a traditional store in New Jersey, and its first drive-thru-only store debuted in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Drive Thru Stats


Curbside Pickup and Ordering Ahead

Providing an alternative to the drive-thru, curbside pickup took off at c-stores in 2020. Cumberland Farms, QuickChek, and Wawa are just a few of the convenience brands that have introduced curbside pickup since last year. 


Loyalty Sophistication

Half of the high-frequency c-store customers who participated in an AlixPartners survey placed a high level of importance on loyalty programs. For those between the ages of 18 and 24, this number grows to 60%. The features that make loyalty programs appealing include flexibility and achievable rewards. 

Loyalty Sophistication Stat 1

Loyalty programs are also an excellent way to encourage customers to adopt online ordering practices.

Loyalty Sophistication Stat 2
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