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C-store IQ: Marketing Report

Sign of the times: On-site communications speak volumes when it comes to enticing customers in store

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.15.22 PMAs Canadian consumers become more selective about where and when they shop, it pays to know which marketing strategies resonate with shoppers at the gas and c-store level.

Technology and on-site promotional efforts play a key role in driving consumers in store and boosting pump-to-store conversion rates, according to proprietary data from Convenience Store News Canada’s C-store IQ: A National Shopper Study

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 1.15.05 PMC-store IQ is the first convenience and gas specific study that delves into the wants, needs, perspectives and habits of Canadian convenience consumers. 

Research shows that 43% of shoppers visit chain convenience stores and 38% visit independently owned convenience stores at least once a week. More than half of the convenience store shoppers (54%) visit preferred stores mainly due to proximity, followed by 46% who are motivated by needing to purchase gas.

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During trips where shoppers purchase gasoline and shop in-store, 3% purchase merchandise and/or foodservice ‘every time’ and 17% purchase ‘almost every time’.

According to C-store IQ data, more than one-in-four shoppers who buy both gasoline and in-store items at least once a month are influenced by frequent buyer/loyalty programs (28%) to shop for that in-store merchandise. About one-in-five (20%) shoppers are influenced by promotional signage, while 10% are influenced by promotions on their mobile app.

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More than 1,000 Canadians 18+ participated in the C-store IQ study, which revealed notable differences in how demographics responded to marketing tactics. 

For instance, millennial shoppers demonstrate a higher likelihood of being influenced by digital promotional efforts (mobile app, social media promotions, mobile ordering and email). Overall, younger shoppers are more likely to be influenced by promotional signage or car wash promotions during a shopping trip. 


  •     Millennials (14%) and Gen X (11%) are more likely than boomers (3%) to say they were influenced by video displays on pump. 
  •     Millennials (18%) and Gen X (13%) are more likely than boomers (3%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads.  
  •     Males (15%) are more likely than females (9%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads. 
  •     Millennials (17%) and Gen X (21%) are more likely than boomers (10%) to say they were influenced by car wash promotions.  
  •     Millennials (17%) and Gen X (20%) are more likely than boomers (10%) to say banners/window signs influenced them.
  •     Millennials (23%) and Gen X (25%) are more likely than boomers (13%) to say promotional signage influenced them.   
  •     Millennials (14%), and Gen X (12%) are more likely than boomers (4%) to say mobile app promotions and deals influenced them. 

The data shows that hunger is often what drives consumers in-store and messaging is key, especially when it comes to reaching those looking for a healthy snack. 

  •    Self-defined health-conscious shoppers (12%) are more likely than non-health-conscious shoppers (10%) to say they were influenced by gasoline nozzle display ads.
  •    Health-conscious shoppers (16%) are more likely than non-health-conscious shoppers (14%) to say banners/window signs influenced them to go in store. 

In today’s world, consumers are even more selective about where and when they shop. In turn, c-store operators large and small are working harder than ever to drive shoppers in store, which makes a strong on-site communications strategy that incorporates a variety of marketing tools, from signage to on-site promotions, essential.  



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For convenience and gas sites, the holy grail is driving fuel-only customers in store to increase overall revenue. However, 74% of shoppers say they don’t enter the store because they don’t need anything, according to From Pump to Purchase: Converting the Gas Shopper, a report from The Coca-Cola Company. Data shows time spent at the pump is a valuable opportunity to change consumers’ minds, with  31% of shoppers deciding whether to enter a store when standing at the pump. Here are five ways to make the most of the moment.

  1. Media terminals and video displays can inform, entertain and entice customers in store—they can also be easily updated with time-of-day specials
  2. Use pump toppers to promote special offers on food and drink
  3. Offer discounted fuel with in-store purchases
  4. Highlight ancillary services and products, such as ATMs and gift cards
  5. Invite customers to use your restroom 

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If the medium is the message then your store’s window is a valuable marketing tool that speaks volumes about your business. A cluttered window with out-of-date promotions, faded posters and general grit is a definite turn off and sends the wrong message to customers.

  1.   Keep windows clean.
  2.   Remove old posters etc. 
  3.   Update promotional signage from vendor partners.
  4.   Consider an LCD digital window sign that can be updated regularly and is eye-catching after dark.
  5.   Reduce window clutter by using sandwich boards to keep messaging fresh and engage consumers.

 Don’t miss

5 topline insights from C-store IQ: National Shopper Study

C-store IQ: Fuel Report

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Juul releases new study linking market entry to decreased cigarette sales

PlenariesAs part of Juul Labs’ AcademyHealth 2020 Annual Research Meetingthe company released a report linking Juul’s market entry to decreased cigarette sales in Canada. The conference, which took place virtually, focusesd on the intersection of health, health care, and policy.

The study, conducted and presented by Dr. Shivaani Prakash, Juul Labs’ director of health economics and policy research, found that the Juul System’s market entry in Canada “likely decreased combustible cigarette sales, especially in urban markets.”

Using city-level data on cigarette and Juul sales in Canada and variation in timing of Juul’s market entry in the study, the company says researchers ran econometric difference-in-difference models. In a release, Juul concluded: “Within the first 12 months of market entry, market entry and availability of the Juul System likely led to a 1.5% decrease on average in store-level cigarette sales volume, within one large retailer chain. Overall, this could translate to over 400 million fewer cigarettes sold in Canada within the first year of the Juul System’s market entry.”

In addition, the study found that the decline in cigarette sales magnified Juul’s market share increased in stores, suggesting that local tobacco market competition plays a strong role in uptake and purchase of vaping products. For every 1% increase in Juul’s market share at the store-level, there was an associated 0.5% reduction in cigarette sales.

“This work provides strong evidence that the availability of vaping products could reduce cigarette sales, and suggests that providing alternative nicotine products to adult smokers could drive down combustible cigarette consumption,” s Rasmus Wissmann, VP of dta at Juul Labs, said in a statement. “Further research is needed to determine the long-term impact of vapor products on cigarette sales, and the net population health impact of such products.”

The company says that “Identifying the impact of vaping products in global markets can help policymakers understand the role of alternative nicotine products in the commercial tobacco product market, and better evaluate the impact of such products.”

As part of the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) process in the United States, Juul Labs has built a research program focused on examining the public health impact of the Juul System. This includes research on the Juul System’s impact on the individual user, their ability to convert adult smokers from combustible cigarettes, and the net-population impact on public health.



Canadians’ quarantine cuisine unveils new habits and opportunities 



The COVID-19 health pandemic, and associated lockdown, has had a profound impact on consumer behaviour.  Locked away in our homes, unable to visit restaurants to grab a coffee or socialize over dinner, we adopted new habits in response to our new circumstances.

Quarantine consumption priorities

Key themes driving Canadians’ homebound choices include a return to the kitchen, with consumers eating together more often while socializing at the table or watching evening Netflix.  With many having more time, this renewed focus on social engagement together has also prompted a host of new behaviours, including more home cooking and baking. The requirement for options that meet sharing, nurturing and mood bolstering needs is also on the rise.

As consumers continue to balance their needs for emotional well-being with physical and metabolic requirements, they are increasingly prioritizing health and wellness.  Calories and fat concerns, which were on the decline in the pre-COVID environment, re-emerge as top priorities, as does sugar. Increasing concerns over intake management re-focus efforts on weight control (perhaps to thwart the much talked about ‘quarantine-15’ weight gain). 

Finally, uncertain economic headwinds will no doubt continue to factor heavily into future consumption choices. While we may continue to stockpile for a variety of reasons, at-home eating will undoubtedly be the benefactor of a financial downturn, even when dining out returns.

Return to traditional eating regime

We skipped fewer meals in April than at any other time during the past five years.  This renewed focus on a traditional meal regime that includes three squares a day, plus snacks, has had a beneficial impact for many food and beverage manufacturers.

Breakfast traditions surface

Shifting choices at breakfast include rising consumption of toast, cereal and fruit, while orange juice and hot tea are also being consumed more often during our first meal of the day.  Consumers, no longer fraught with daily commutes and the pressures of getting kids off to school, are eating breakfast. Early morning eating between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m. (-5% vs. Feb 2020) has given way to eating later on both weekdays and weekends.

Coffee consumption declines when compared to February’s pre-confinement drinking rates (-1.3%). A drop in pod consumption contributes to overall coffee softness, perhaps due to at-home occasions that may be better served by brewing a pot. 

Light lunches together

Lunch has regained the dubious honour of being the most skipped meal of the day. However, consumers are increasingly eating together and sharing options more often while at home. Choices are more likely to be a light gap fill than a gut fill, led by cheese, fruit, vegetable dishes, fresh cut vegetables and dips. Eat rates of both soup and salad increase when it comes to eating lunch at home.

Rise of dinner on the grill

Dinner remains the meal most often consumed with others. However, while we eat together more often, we are increasingly consuming our own options (+4% vs. March 2020), as opposed to sharing.  Scratch cooking has increased at dinner when compared to February 2020 habits (+1.7%) and meal kit usage has also increased (+2.7%).

While the stovetop remains the top appliance used at dinner, the barbeque is the fastest rising appliance, with an increase of 3.7% vs. April 2019.  Given our chilly weather across the country in April, we should expect a monstrous grilling season in 2020 to meet summer flavour, convenience and experience needs.

While the ‘lessetarian’ trend (those committed to eating less meat on a weekly basis), continues at pre-COVID rates, meat choices increased in April, led by rising consumption of chicken, beef and pork.

Canadians pave a pathway to the pantry at snack

Overall snacking has increased on a monthly basis, led by strong growth at both afternoon and evening occasions.  

Food choices at snack are a mix of healthy and indulgent options.  Health needs continue to dominate early day preferences, while more indulgent or treat-oriented options drive our evening choices.  Afternoon snack, the largest snacking daypart, remains the battleground daypart, where neither health nor indulgence trumps options consumed. Fresh fruit, cheese, chocolate, potato chips and cookies top our daily snack food choices. 

The fastest rising needs driving home snacking choices include options that relieve boredom and stress, while supporting the need to graze and treat oneself.  Nostalgia is also a rising driver, which has contributed to the rekindling of relationships with storied brands that provide cheer and happiness.

The increased beverage choice at snack more often includes carbonated soft drinks, hot tea, sparkling water and a host of alcoholic beverages, led by beer and wine.

As consumers prioritize eating and drinking as rituals that define our homebound routines, needs and habits will likely continue to evolve, particularly as we normalize our behaviours with the recognition that we may be at home for some time to come.

With change continuing to abound around us, it will be critical to continue to evaluate consumption habits to determine which shifts will actually stick in our new normal environment. 

Originally published in the July/August issue of Convenience Store News Canada.

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Health and safety as important as customer service for shoppers

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 11.48.52 AMHealth and safety protocols are the new standard for businesses, as provinces and municipalities begin to relax COVID-19 restrictions.

According to a new study conducted by Ipsos, three in five Canadians now rate health and safety equally important as good customer service. Canadians are looking for companies to step up when it comes to ensuring health and safety measures are in place.

“This new study brings to light the shifting expectations of Canadians as our world re-opens.”  The stakes are high for getting this right for companies with:

  • Eight in 10 (82%) Canadians considering health & safety measures to be the most important factor when considering returning to a retailer
  • Four in five Canadians indicating they will delay returning to shopping once restrictions are lifted
  • 64% of Canadians stating they will stop or temporarily stop shopping at a location that doesn’t take health and safety seriously.

The study also reveals generational differences, with boomers being the most likely to stop shopping at a location (71%), while millennials (58%) and Gen Z (50%) are less likely to change behaviour based on health and safety concerns.

Regionally, Albertans are most likely to feel comfortable returning to locations once restrictions are lifted, however this still only represents one in three (33%), while those in Quebec (14%) and Atlantic Canada (14%) are least likely to feel comfortable returning to reopened locations.

In turn, men (20%) are slightly more likely than women (15%) to share this sentiment.

Key takeaways:

  • There is a high potential for short-term switching behaviours, as well as long-term loyalty opportunities.
  • Companies must adapt and change their operational standards to attract consumers back to their locations as COVID-19 restrictions are loosened.
  • Customer expectations are high, and they are changing.

For retailers, there is great value in communicating efforts, both in store and on social media, as one in four consumers (28%) do not trust any industries for their cleanliness and safety protocols. While Canadians recognize that they must also play a role in adhering to health and safety guidelines, 43% feel they are putting in a greater effort than companies to do so. There is an opportunity for companies to do better and match that effort, with 69% Canadians feeling companies were not exerting the greatest effort to keep customers healthy and safe.


Cause for concern

Even in these times, barely a day goes by where there’s not a dire warning about the environmental predicament the planet faces. Climate change, for many, is no longer about what might happen, but rather what is happening. Extreme events ranging from hurricanes to rampant bush fires are becoming the norm. For Canadians, this raises the question of how their food purchases impact the environment.

Mintel’s recent report on Sustainability in Food looks at how Canadians view the connection between what they eat and the impact of that on the environment. The research also looks at what specific issues matter most to consumers, why they matter, what consumers expect from companies in the context of sustainability, and what actions they are willing to take.

Canadians do, indeed, say the environment matters to them when it comes to the food and drinks they purchase, and they are particularly motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and a pervasive concern about climate change. That said, Canadians don’t always make a clear connection between climate change and the food they eat; instead, waste ranks as their top concern—this includes both packaging waste and food waste. Fewer Canadians, however, consider carbon output when purchasing food. This makes sense because waste, of course, is visibly evident in one’s day-to-day life. It can be seen in one’s trash, recycling or compost bin, and also translates, in the consumer’s mind, to wasted money. Carbon generated through food production, by contrast, is invisible.

Younger Canadians are, however, more likely to make the connection between how their food is produced and the carbon footprint it generates, and they are more apt to express concerns over these categories. For instance, the younger generations—gen Zs and millennials—are more likely to be concerned about the impact of meat and dairy on the environment; we can presume this relates to the carbon emissions associated with the production of these products. Such concerns have undoubtedly underpinned the growth of plant-based foods and drinks.

More broadly, companies are in a quandary when it comes to their efforts to support the environment. On one hand, four in five Canadians agree that food and beverage companies are not doing enough for the environment. On the other hand, the same number of Canadians believe many companies engage in “greenwashing” and believe them to be untruthful regarding environmental claims. There’s also an element of confusion, with 80% of Canadians also claiming they’re confused when it comes to knowing which products are better or worse for the environment. The question is how to win consumers’ trust?

While there’s no easy answer to this question, initiatives that are visible and engaging can help build their level of trust. One practical way is to ensure shoppers can easily recycle the packaging from the products they purchase. This can include making them compostable or communicating a plan to extend the lifecycle of a package through “upcycling” initiatives. Other initiatives can involve using foods that would have otherwise been discarded in new packaged goods (for example, misshapen potato chips) or focusing on foods produced locally, which offers the dual benefit of supporting the environment and local economies.

When it comes to promoting sustainability in food, there are no shortcuts. But what is evident is that despite some skepticism, shoppers do view sustainability as an issue influencing their food and drink purchase decisions.

Joel Gregoire is a food and beverage industry analyst. Follow him on Twitter 

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s May 2020 issue.

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Research team to study impact of COVID-19 on retail food industry

Screen Shot 2020-06-02 at 9.18.54 AMThe University of Western Ontario’s Human Environments Analysis Lab (HEAL) has launched a study of employees and owners/managers in the grocery and foodservice sectors to determine COVID-19’s impact on their industry.

The new Food Retail Environment Study for Health and Economic Resiliency (FRESHER) study will explore the effects of COVID-19 on the retail food environment, with the study’s principal investigator saying its findings will help policymakers assess the impact of financial support programs on business survival.

“This study is not just about the numbers. We are not coming up with a vaccine,” says the University of Western Ontario’s Dr. Jason Gilliland. “We are addressing the long-term health and economic impacts of the pandemic. We are looking to listen to the voices of those who have been on the frontlines and those managing to keep shelves stocked and stores open.”

Gilliland says they also hope to hear from people who have lost their jobs and identify how multiple stakeholders including government, industry and community can work together to recover from the crisis.

In addition to tracking which businesses have remained open and how they have operated during the crisis, the study will delve into how COVID has impacted the financial circumstances, physical health and mental wellbeing of frontline employees.

Finally, interviews with employers will be used to determine the strategies that have contributed to business survival, as well as gather their perspective on the response to the crisis by all levels of government.

Grocery has been one of the few industry sectors that has performed well during the pandemic, with Q1 sales up a remarkable 22.1% in March over the same period last year, according to Toronto retail analyst Ed Strapagiel.

However, the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships says frontline workers are being negatively affected by a combination of factors—including possible direct interaction with COVID-19, isolation from family and friends, “chaotic” work environments and long hours and lack of equipment/resources.

The study questions were developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Western, Ivey Business School, Brescia University College, Wilfred Laurier University, University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph possessing expertise across human geography, business, economics, labour, sociology, food and nutritional science.

HEAL is recruiting participants via social media and PR and is also working with organizations associated with the grocery and foodservice industry at the national, provincial and local levels. Limited funding means it is concentrating the bulk of its efforts in Ontario. Early responses have included a number of grocery store employees, says Gilliland.

Gilliland says findings from the “fast response survey” are expected to inform government policies and programs as well as business strategies that will help preserve the livelihood of employees and business owners, sustain food security, support economic recovery in the retail food sector and improve resiliency to future pandemics and emergencies.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer. 

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COVID-19 will have lasting effects on consumer behaviour: Accenture

Several underlying consumer trends have risen to prominence during the COVID-19 crisis, leading to a wave of new behaviours—from online shopping to buying local—that are likely to persist long after the pandemic is over, according to a new study from Accenture.

The survey of more than 3,000 consumers in 15 countries (including Canada) found that people are purchasing more personal hygiene and cleaning products, plus canned and fresh foods. But it’s not just what consumers are purchasing that has changed, but how they’re purchasing.

According to Accenture, the crisis has led to a significant increase in e-commerce (particularly in North America) as well as interest in purchasing local. The study also reports an expected rise in so-called “conscious consumption,” characterized by an emphasis on limiting food waste, shopping more consciously and seeking out more sustainable options.

Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is in e-commerce—which has risen exponentially as consumers around the world have retreated to the safety of their home. Online grocery has become highly sought-after, though its sudden rise in popularity has exposed infrastructure flaws that retailers will need to address.

Most notably, says Accenture, the lack of system capacity left many consumers struggling to find a timely delivery slot. That led to many high-frequency users looking elsewhere (most notably to local brands) to fulfill their orders.

In the U.S., food delivery service Instacart saw its subscription grow 10 to 12 times in states with the most reported COVID-19 cases. Accenture found that one in five consumers who ordered groceries online during the crisis did so for the first time, a number that rose to one in three among consumers 56 and over.

According to the U.K. online supermarket chain Ocado, nearly every one of the close to 800,000 active customers it had at the end of 2019 wanted to place an order once a week during March. Basket size also rose in tandem with demand, growing by more than 50%.

Accenture says demand for e-commerce capabilities (both grocery and otherwise) will persist beyond the pandemic, with online expected to account for 37% of all consumer purchases of goods and services, up from 32% currently. The data suggests a “clear need for a substantial increased investment in this channel,” says Accenture.

As the crisis continued, survey respondents also indicated they planned to do fewer and larger grocer shops, as well as shop in closer neighbourhood stores and shop more cost consciously.

Originally published at Canadian Grocer.


Exclusive research shows COVID-19 is driving shoppers into c-stores



Among the many change-of-life impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, convenience stores are seeing an increase in shoppers who typically would go to supermarkets for their grocery needs.

According to a new study conducted by Convenience Store News Canada’s parent company, EnsembleIQ, 15% of shoppers said they are more likely to shop at convenience stores for groceries due to the pandemic. Fielded March 13-15, the survey was conducted among 1,001 primary household grocery shoppers in the United States.

Almost half of the respondents (44%) say they are stocking up on cleaning supplies, medications, personal care items and food to keep themselves healthy and prepared for whatever may come next.

Regardless of where shoppers typically shop for groceries, they are now turning to online shopping more often as a result of the pandemic, according to the findings.

Convenience stores also are capturing more shoppers, as are drug and dollar stores. Interestingly, many shoppers are going to specialty/natural stores more often, too.

Besides an increase in grocery shopping at c-stores and other non-supermarket outlets, the research revealed other behavioral changes, including a significant increase in online ordering and use of out-of-store pickup options.

Among shoppers who are visiting other stores aside from their preferred stores, 58% say it is due to product availability, while 34% say the substitute location is more convenient at a time when they do not want to travel further than they have to.

Other highlights from the findings include:

  • 23% of shoppers are making a fill-in shopping trip more often due to the pandemic, especially millennials.
  • 22% of shoppers are making a quick shopping trip for one to five items more often due to the pandemic, especially urban consumers.
  • 19% of shoppers are shopping more often for immediate consumption than they did before the pandemic, especially urban consumers and millennials.
  • 27% of shoppers who typically shop at convenience stores for groceries have a high level of trust that retailers are ensuring safe handling when preparing and delivering orders. In comparison, only 16% to 17% of shoppers who typically shop at grocery stores or supercenters for groceries have a high level of trust.

In addition, 24% say their typical shopping time of day has changed due to the pandemic: 61% of these shoppers are shopping at different times to avoid crowds, while 34% are shopping at different times when they think the store is cleaner and 41% are going when they think more products will be available. In addition, 20% are shopping around modified school schedules, and 11% around modified work schedules.

When it comes to purchasing food, 19% are more likely to buy food online for in-store pickup due to the pandemic. This is especially true among men, urban consumers, and younger consumers.

Research shows 18% are more likely to buy food online for delivery due to the pandemic, and 18% are more likely to buy food online for curbside pickup.

In addition to food, 83% of shoppers feel household supplies and paper goods are important to have on hand right now. This is especially true among women, Gen Xers and urban consumers.

Also, 75% feel OTC (over-the-counter) medication is important to have on hand right now, with the highest percentages coming from women, Gen Xers and rural consumers.

And 82% feel personal care items are important to have on hand right now, especially among Gen Xers, urban and rural consumers.

The study urges retailers and brands to think twice before abandoning all promotional activity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic because many shoppers are still looking for deals as they stock up for an uncertain future.

Three key takeaways about the state of shopping behavior at this point in time are:

  1. Shoppers are still shopping;
  2. Online shopping is growing; and
  3. Shoppers are ready to stay loyal.

For more on the study’s findings, click here.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

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5 topline insights from C-store IQ: National Shopper Study

Defining convenience: New data delves into the minds and habits of Canadian c-store shoppers

Convenience means different things to different people, but for most c-store shoppers it’s about saving time and effort.

As expected, the definition of convenience includes location, hours and product selection, however, for a growing number of Canadian consumers it also comes down to overall ease of experience. 

Convenience stores that prioritize simplifying the shopping and purchase steps are more likely to see rewards with increased traffic and basket size, according to insights from the new C-store IQ: National Shopper Study from Convenience Store News Canada.

C-Store IQ is the first convenience and gas specific study that delves into the wants, needs, perspectives and habits of Canadian consumers. We worked with the research team at EnsembleIQ and Canadian Viewpoint Inc. to survey more than 1,000 convenience shoppers across the country to bring our readers and our partners the insights and data necessary to better understand customers and achieve business success. 

Survey participants shared their definitions of convenience and so much more in this comprehensive study: This is a topline report and we will be digging into the data throughout 2020, both in the magazine and online. 

For starters, Canadian convenience store shoppers associate the word ‘convenience’ with overall speed—41% of those surveyed said it purely comes down to having a “convenient” experience and 34% define this as a “quick stop/in and out.”

Proximity—to home and work—is important, with 25% of shoppers saying convenience is “close to me,” while 16% said longer hours and being open when larger stores are closed is important. 

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A quick stop at a convenience store is part of the fabric of daily life for most Canadians: 43% shop chain convenience stores and 38% visit independently-owned convenience stores at least once a week.

Millennials lead the charge when it comes to convenience shopping: 50% said they shop a chain c-store at least once a week, compared to 45% of generation X and 36% of baby boomers. For independently owned c-stores, 42% of millennials are more likely to shop at least weekly, compared to 34% of generation X.


Location, location, location: For more than half—54%—the key element that prompts them to visit a particular c-store is proximity, followed by the need to purchase gas (46%) and loyalty programs (28%). 

More than half of c-store customers shop at a convenience store that has a loyalty program and 42% are enrolled in and actively use their store’s loyalty program. 

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Technology and related apps aren’t huge overall drivers for Canadian c-store shoppers, however when analyzing data by generation, new patterns emerge. Younger shoppers prefer less bulk in their wallets, opting instead for mobile apps.

Millennials respond more readily to digital promotional tactics (mobile app, social media promotions, mobile ordering and email) and younger shoppers in general are influenced by promotional signage or car wash promotions during their shopping trip. 

Here’s how digital efforts measure up:

  •     Mobile app: Millennials (14%) are more likely to be influenced than generation X (8%) and boomers (3%).
  •     Social media promotion/offer: Millennials (10%) are more likely to be influenced than generation X (8%) and boomers (4%).
  •     Text message: Millennials (5%) are more likely to be influenced than boomers (0.2%).
  •     Mobile ordering: Millennials (4%) are more likely to be influenced than generation X (3%) and boomers (1%).
  •     Email: Millennials (8%) and generation X (9%) are more likely to be influenced than boomers (4%).

All indicators are that the future is digital, which calls for better optimization and integration of stores’ digital infrastructures.  


Screen Shot 2020-02-11 at 12.56.41 PMCanadians are a loyal bunch, with 70% of shoppers saying they typically visit the same store each time. When considering the convenience store they shop most often, foundational attributes, including the price of products (40%), fun to shop (18%), quality of prepared foods (20%), loyalty programs (19%) and variety of products offered (16%) are the top five reasons why they favour a particular store. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-11 at 12.57.57 PMThe breakfast hours are ripe for shopper conversion, with only 17% of shoppers starting their day with a trip to the convenience store. Visits gradually increase throughout the day and peak during the rush hour/early dinner daypart, with visits from 39% of shoppers.  


In an ideal world, shoppers who purchase gas would also pop into the c-store to spend more money, however only 3% say they purchase merchandise and/or foodservice “every time,” while 17% purchase these items “almost every time.” In turn, 19% of shoppers say they “rarely” purchase merchandise or foodservice.

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Of the more than one-in-four people who shop for both gasoline and in-store merchandise at least once a month, 28% say they were recently influenced by frequent buyer/loyalty programs to make the trip inside and spend. About one-in-five were influenced by promotional signage and one in 10 were influenced by mobile app promotions/deals.

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Shoppers typically visit a variety of stores to satisfy their needs, however convenience stores are the channel choice of choice for a number of categories. 

Lottery tickets are a key driver, with 53% of shoppers purchasing lottery tickets in the past month, while 46% purchased gasoline. Traditional convenience products are among the most frequent purchases, with 36% of shoppers buying salty snacks, followed by candy or gum (33%), canned/bottled soda (30%), bottled water (26%) and hot dispensed beverages (25%). 

Screen Shot 2020-02-11 at 12.58.43 PMNot surprisingly, among those who purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products, c-stores are the destination of choice: 22% of consumers visit a c-store to buy cigarettes. 

Frozen drinks, almost exclusively the domain of chain c-stores, are a big pull, with 19% of shopping buying these within the last month. 

And, yes, the milk run is still a huge part of the c-store experience, with 30% of shoppers buying milk in the last month. 

There’s still plenty of room for growth in foodservice, with 16% of shoppers stopping for grab-and-go prepared foods (hot dogs, packaged sandwiches, salads etc.) and only 10% buying made-to-order food.

It’s worth noting that those who define themselves as “health-conscious shoppers” are likely to spend more than non-health-conscious shoppers, mostly owing to the higher priced better-for-you products. 


On average, shoppers spent $13.56 during their most recent convenience store trip, not including the price of gasoline. Cards are king, with more than one-third of shoppers (35%) using a debit card, while 31% opted for a credit card. Cash is still a major mode of payment for 30% of shoppers, while mobile payment accounts for only 1% of purchases. It’s worth noting, however, the generational divide when it comes to payment preferences: 38% of boomers and 29% of generation X are more likely to have paid with cash, compared to 22% of millennials. Instead, 41% of millennials said they paid via credit card, compared to 27% of generation X and 25% of boomers.

Younger shoppers already demonstrate higher usage of debit and mobile payment compared to older generations and, as a result, convenience stores will continue to benefit from opportunities to offer more digital or frictionless shopping, payment, and promotional solutions. 

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According to spending patterns, younger shoppers are the c-store shopper of the future: A large percentage of boomers spend less than the younger generations, perhaps indicating they depend less on quick c-store visits to buy essentials. 

Overall, however, as Canadian consumers feel increasingly time-pressed and, in turn, seek solutions to make life easier and more streamlined, c-stores have an important role to play in meeting these needs by delivering the right products, at the right time, right away:  It’s all about convenience. 

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