4 Things Millennials Want from their C-Store Shopping Experience

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by Lisa Cramer

Today many retailers and convenience stores want to know the best way to attract millennials. Born around the turn of the century, this coveted group of 20- and 30-somethings will soon overtake baby boomers to become the country’s largest generation, with more than 71 million members as of 2016, and more than $65 billion per year in purchasing power.

According to a Convenience Store News study, 16 percent of millennials polled say they visit a convenience store daily, which is a greater number than any other generation. So how do these stores make sure they’re meeting the needs of this unique generation?

Here are 4 things millennials want when they walk into a convenience store:

  1. Hyper-Relevant Experiences

    Customers are quickly growing accustomed to a personalized experience, whether it’s customized sale offers in their email or a curated selection of items displayed on a web store. This is especially true of millennials. In fact, one study from SmarterHQ found that the one thing that can turn a millennial into a loyal customer is personalization. The good news is, millennials are also more willing than previous generations to share their personal information online, realizing it can enhance their overall experience.

    For convenience stores, this means analytics is a must-have tool. Previously retailers could get away with gathering information through loyalty programs, but that no longer suffices. Instead, retail leaders are using retail analytics technologies to trace shopper interactions, learn what captures their attention, optimize merchandising and store layout based on how they navigate the store and drive tailored, relevant experiences adapted instantly while shoppers are engaged. Store signage, for example can be adjusted in real-time based on the shopper’s behavior, journey and persona profile, also eliminating the problem of over signage that frequently plagues convenience stores.

  2. Food Options

    In recent years, there have been several new food trends, thanks in large part to the dining habits of millennials. Instead of spending hours slaving over a hot stove, on-the-go millennials are more likely to try a meal kit or take advantage of the many heat-and-eat options at grocery stores. They also tend to go for conveniences like food trucks and grocery delivery services. Convenience stores are the perfect fit for this lifestyle, since they’ve long been known as a great place to pick up a quick food item.

    But it’s no longer enough to simply provide food. Successful convenience stores will realize the importance of offering the fresh, hot foods and healthy options today’s millennials prefer. Food trucks have turned fast food on its head, showing customers that they can access delicious foods like exotic grilled cheese sandwiches and international cuisine quickly and affordably. This opens the door to a wide variety of options for convenience stores to choose from and is another area where analytics is already being used to drive performance. Using analytics, stores can look at new products in real-world test stores, for example hot foods, and test merchandising, product assortment and pricing to see how they play with shoppers in real-time before rolling out across stores.

  3. Expanded Offerings

    A study in 2017 revealed that consumers are consolidating trips more than ever, with shoppers choosing five or fewer stores to meet all their shopping needs. Convenience stores need to be aware of this and make sure they’re fulfilling that drive toward one-stop shopping.

    As technology continues to transform the convenience store experience, the stores themselves are learning the importance of reinvention. Instead of remaining stuck in outdated ideas about what a convenience store is, it’s important that each retailer pay close attention to their constantly changing shoppers and adjust their offerings to match their preferences and shopping behavior. Moving forward, this will become a huge part of everything convenience stores do as they strive to increase conversions.

  4. Instant and Convenient Shopping

    Home delivery is no longer limited to pizzas. Shoppers can have gas, alcohol, groceries, and even live ladybugs brought directly to their front door. This is creating an environment where consumers prize convenience over many other things. Your convenience store is already competing with grocery services that deliver food directly to a shopper’s door. But millennials still express a preference for the in-store experience, especially if it’s enjoyable. You can still ensure their convenience while they shop by ensuring you have the products they’re likely to want, making relevant, curated recommendations and making their shopping experience and navigation easier.

    You also need to make sure shoppers have the mobile experience they want. Two in three millennials use smartphone apps to shop in-store and want mobile to enhance their physical shopping experience. Shoppers prefer a mobile-friendly shopping experience, especially if they can easily view in-store promotions, see product availability, check their rewards balance, pay for items, or order items for express pick-up. Grocers and drugstores have already put many of these technologies to use, but convenience stores still lag in this area.

Moving forward, like retailers, convenience stores will need to learn how to keep pace with constantly changing millennial preferences and adapt their experiences to their shoppers’ unique profiles.

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