The third chapter in TWC’s Research, ‘Forging a New Future in Convenience Retail – New Age Digital’, has highlighted the growing importance of technology and explored how this has been grounded in the c-store sector, further to Covid-19 pandemic and the change in consumer behaviours.

Forging a New Future established that 23% of consumers (circa 13 million adults) would like to have the ability to place orders online for delivery from their local c-store, with a further 22% saying they would like to see their local retailer offering a loyalty or rewards scheme.

Half of responders are looking online for back-store information around opening times and promotions, with an increasing number of consumers looking for direct engagement with their local retailer (through social media platforms), to ask questions and establish how busy the store is at certain times through the day. Five per cent of responders said they would like to go a step further and enjoy the ability to message other customers, in line with the growth in community engagement.

Speaking on behalf of TWC, Tom Fender said: “This report highlights some important factors for retailers to consider as we start to ease out of lockdown measures. It shows that the technical landscape is changing fast to adapt to the new normal under Covid-19.

“For many convenience stores, digital comms used to be about static comms where a retailer would put information on their website/social media pages, but now customers want 2-way dialogue with retailers via chat/messages, to ask questions to the store, to see how busy the store is at certain times etc.  Much of this will be LIVE chats (i.e. constant throughout the day).

“We hear much discussion and debate around how retailers can maintain the growth momentum in the months ahead, and this report highlights the appetite for loyalty and rewards schemes by the consumer which could provide a powerful mechanic in this ongoing quest for customer loyalty.”

Increased demand

The report went on to show that the Covid-19 pandemic has created an increase in demand for self-scan tills and contactless payment with 60% saying they use ‘contactless’ more when grocery shopping – a trend that is likely to continue well into the future.

The research also looked at how customer payment solutions could further advance in the future. One-third of responders said they would like to see an app that could be used to pre-order products from their local convenience store, which could then be delivered or collected and paid for on a remote basis. Two-thirds of people also said they would welcome either self-scanning tills or an app that could be used to scan products and pay for them when in store.

Recipe and food inspiration was also highlighted as a value-added service, which responders welcomed to be shared with them via digital and social platforms.

Fender added: “If six months ago I told you that 10% of the population would want recipe ideas from convenience stores, you’d say I was mad. But that was indeed the case.

“With half of responders saying that they are either aware of, or already following/interacting with their local store’s website or social media handles, there are some strong pointers as to how the sector can look to capitalise on the opportunities that are currently being signposted in what a new digital era looks like. There is a real window in time that will be important to grasp with both hands and will be critical to success.

“With no end in sight to the pandemic in its broadest sense, we know from our earlier chapters of research, that delivery services have in general seen a meteoric rise over the past three months with 82% of people saying they will continue to use these services after lockdown has lifted. This has to provide immense opportunity for retailers.”

Download a copy of chapter three – New Age Digital – and register to receive a copy of the full report, which will be published on 9 June.

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