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Shopping cart on the screen.

Simply put, the definition of convenience is changing.

Pause for a moment and consider what convenience means to you. Is it the ability to access what you want, when and where you want it? If so, it’s quite possible you’re accessing that item via your mobile device, tablet, laptop, desktop, or digital assistant (Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant).

We’re searching for immediacy. Having the ability to choose and decide at our fingertips is how we define convenience today, but tomorrow could easily bring a new preference to the list. Omnichannel, convenience options have effortlessly integrated themselves into our everyday lives, especially as they relate to food. Don’t believe it? According to Convenience Store Decisions, in the past year 40 percent of consumers have increased their food ordering frequency. And with over 35 percent of consumers selecting delivery or pick-up at least once a week, it’s easy to understand how we’ve developed a culture focused on convenience and availability of choice.

In addition to the increase in food purchasing, 50 percent of all meals ordered at a restaurant end up consumed inside a residence. As this desire for convenient pre-made and ready-made food grows, it’s important to incorporate this trend into the foodservice model for your convenience store. For example, since meal-kits have entered the foodservice playing field, nearly 1/5 of American adults subscribe to a meal-kit delivery service. As meal-kits continue to rise in popularity, this provides the opportunity for you to adapt your stores to the market.

Of the almost 20 percent of Americans subscribed to a meal-kit service, those most likely to subscribe and continue to purchase a meal-kit are single men or households with small children. Offering meal-kit-esque options creates an opportunity for your c-store to become a destination and part of a daily, weekly ritual. It creates the prospect for increased sales not only in your food service areas, but across sales of beverage and packaged goods as well.

The major driving force behind these trends? Millennials. They’ve already taken over the Baby Boomer generation as the largest demographic. As they gain more influence in the market, they increasingly demand interactions catered to their specifications. The millennial demographic continues to grow year-over-year in the United States. Their disposable income increases, as well, with an estimated spending power of more than $3.5 trillion in 2018. Coupled with an estimated target purchase of nearly 30 percent of all packaged goods by 2020, this demographic continues to shape and change how retailers appeal to the 18-34-year-old bracket.

When millennials do venture into a store location, they’re looking for highly-targeted experiences. They’re interested in transparency: what ingredients are used within their food choices (fresh and packaged), where is the food sourced (are the ingredients grown locally?), how fresh is the food, what nutritional benefits are leveraged, etc. Additionally, they’re searching for single-serving options. Unlike the generations before them, millennials shy away from bulk-buying because they don’t enjoy the commitment to a large serving or portioning of an item, especially without the ability to sample it before purchasing. They crave the flexibility of choice and change, not the stability and monotony of the same.

This group of consumers wants to learn, sample, customize, and try new options. They see every restaurant, convenience store and retailer as a destination where they can interact with a product selected specifically for them. They’re looking for a story to connect with, and it’s your job to provide the narrative.

One way to reach this coveted audience is to develop your business from a local perspective. Is there a restaurant, farmer, beverage distributor in your area with a unique story or product? Partner with them to highlight your store as a destination to attain those products.

Consumers across the board increasingly feel they have less time. This bodes well for your store! With convenience stores representing only 5 percent of delivery and pick-up in the food service industry, you have the unique ability to grow this presence within your store exponentially. According to CSP, 46 percent of consumers would use a drive-thru or pick-up window at a convenience store to take out prepared food and beverages.

Considering adding an ordering kiosk to your store? Nearly 1/3 of millennials prefer placing an order at a kiosk rather than with a human. Why? They feel less pressure while deciding what to order and perceive less judgement for items that are ordered (go ahead millennials, order that double fry with a shake and a large personal pizza – the kiosk won’t judge you!).

So, while the consumer definition of convenience will continue to shift and change year to year, the ability to order “on the go” and pick up at a time of their choosing appears to be a lasting trend (at least for now). Make sure your store can accommodate this shifting landscape within food service at convenience stores.

Did You Know: Your Source for PDI News provided by PDI, the leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale markets. Discover how PDI can help you thrive in today’s digital economy.