Gas is a top draw for highly frequent C-store shoppers.
Gas is a top draw for highly frequent C-store shoppers.

C-stores get regular foot traffic from passersby and occasional customers each day. In fact, such shoppers may constitute the bulk of revenue a store sees on a given day. However, a different segment of customer for C-stores to increasingly focus on has emerged: the high-frequency shopper.

These shoppers may frequent C-stores on a daily basis, or even shop at one multiple times a day. Given this demographic’s willingness to spend and comfort level with a particular store or brand, managers need to take steps to shape their marketing and practices to better attract the steady and dependable businesses of high-frequency shoppers. While managers cannot gear their stores entirely just to suit the needs of one customer, there are still strategies that can be used to make the most of such shopping habits.

Who is the high-frequency shopper?

Before managers can begin marketing to the high-frequency customer, the typical shopper must be identified.

Convenience Store News recently released a survey of C-store shoppers, of whom nearly 65 percent were high-frequency shoppers – those who shop on a daily or weekly basis. Some important indicators include:

  • Men being more likely to be a high-frequency shopper (67.8 percent) than women (59.6 percent).
  • Consumers age 45 to 54 being the most represented age cohort in high-frequency shoppers (68 percent).
  • Parents of children being more likely to be frequent shoppers (66 percent) than those without (63 percent); and
  • Northeast shoppers being most likely to frequently buy from a C-store (68 percent).

While there are certain characteristics that might help define the high-frequency shopper, it’s important to understand they are not one bloc. For example, CSN found frequent shoppers are nearly just as likely to fall in the $75,000 – $90,000 annual salary range as they are the $35,000 and under group, 66 percent and 65.9 percent.

Just how loyal are shoppers?

While a high-frequency customer can be profitable to target, that fact might be less so if the shopper is frequent, but also all over the place and does not have a regular store. Fortunately, however, numbers show that by and large, high-frequency shoppers are loyal to their favorite physical store, and to the whole brand to a lesser degree.

In CSN’s survey, 64 percent of frequent shoppers said they visited the same C-store each time; 70 percent of daily shoppers said they visited the same store.

This notion is also backed up by a 2011 study from Convenience Store Decisions that found 68 percent of shoppers noted the store they frequented most was their favorite because of a convenient location. Other factors that influenced visit frequency were:

  • Ease of entry and exit – 47 percent.
  • Availability of gas – 29 percent.
  • Good customer service – 21 percent.

So what are they buying?

Beverages and gas were the main draws for frequent customers, so much so that CSN’s survey found the two products made up the top two reasons for 100 percent of daily C-store shoppers. When thinking about that, it’s not hard to understand why: A coffee in the morning (or maybe an energy drink at 3 p.m. or later on) and gas for the day may be the two most essential things for the working professional. In CSD’s survey, 70 percent cited a canned/bottled drink as a frequent buy, while 49 percent said a hot beverage and 48 percent said a cold fountain drink.

Snacks and candy were also major draws. Such kinds of products were bought at a greater rate by high-frequency shoppers, an important insight for managers to consider. Daily/weekly shoppers surveyed by CSN were more likely to buy snacks than occasional shoppers (70 percent to 58 percent); more likely to buy candy or gum (45 percent to 34 percent); and more likely to buy hot/prepared food to be eaten immediately (43 percent to 23 percent).

The same trends had been seen in 2011 by Convenience Store Decisions: 72 percent of frequent shoppers bought sugary confections – gum, candy or mints – and 61 percent said they bought salty snacks and/or chips.

How can C-stores target highly frequent shoppers?

Understanding what doesn’t factor into highly frequent visits is just as important as knowing what does. In the case of the daily or weekly shopper, it may seem reasonable to think that a shopper visits a certain store because he or she can find their favorite brand or product they can’t dependably find elsewhere on such a convenient basis. However, in CSD’s survey, just 12 percent of frequent customers said availability of a preferred brand as a top reason for visiting a store. Likewise, while loyalty programs can be a beneficial strategy, just 7 percent said it was the reason they went to a store. The point here is not to discard with focusing on these aspects, but instead to further improve on staples like beverage and gas to really attract or generate highly frequent shoppers.

Some tactics to take may include:

  • Placing hot/fast foods at the counter to incentivize impulse purchases from frequent shoppers (who bought such foods at a much greater clip than infrequent shoppers), or doing so to simply make it easier for them to get in and get out so that they can come back again.
  • Packaging or placing together items that complement one another, like a breakfast food and a hot coffee, or maybe a cold fountain drink and a salty snack.
  • Improving cleanliness of the store (cited by 19 percent as a factor in CSD’s survey) and maintaining a friendly workstaff.