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Industry Innovation

The Future of C-Stores: Overview

New Technology and Consumer Demands Will Change the C-Store Industry Forever

futuristic c-store

he world looks very different since the first convenience store opened its doors in Dallas, Texas in 1927. The concept was born out of the need to have a convenient place for locals to pick up food and household goods. These locations quickly caught on and sprung up all over the nation. Over the decades, c-stores made minor adjustments to their services to meet market demands such as providing automotive fuels and accepting credit card payments.

Until recently, c-stores had little competition in the space and stores had the same look and feel as they did nearly 100 years ago. However, in the last decade, new technologies have begun to emerge that are anticipated to change the convenience store business model entirely. While technology adoption began slowly, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this change as many companies were forced to rethink the way they leverage technology in the face of government shutdowns and strict health regulations.  

Its critical for convenience store businesses to understand what factors are driving these changes and how their businesses will need to adapt in the future to remain competitive. C-store operators that fail to rise to the challenge could quickly lose market share to a competitor or risk becoming obsolete.

8 Key Areas Expected to Impact the C-Store Business

In the future, business practices that have worked for c-stores for decades will no longer be effective. The entire c-store model is expected to change. Fortunately, there are some clear indicators of which areas will be impacted the most. C-store operators who want to stay ahead of these emerging trends need to better understand the forces and technology driving these changes.

  • Ordering & Checkout Systems – Customers in the future will expect more options to order products, make payments, and checkout including contactless interfaces, mobile applications, and acceptance of new types of currency.
  • Delivery Systems – Convenience is no longer the primary competitive edge for c-stores. Operators need to evaluate how to best deliver products to customers who are used to a world with same-day shipping, curbside pickup, and at-home delivery service.
  • Operations & Maintenance – C-store operations and maintenance programs will need to become more efficient in the future to help control costs and enhance customer experience.
  • Store Layouts – Traditional store layouts are becoming ineffective at capturing the attention of younger crowds that no longer want to enter retail spaces. Store layouts in the future could incorporate more drive-up options, virtual environments, and augmented reality.
  • Brand Awareness & Loyalty – In an age of social media, more consumers expect to have constant engagement from the brands they love. In addition, they want to be rewarded for their loyalty through incentives, discounts, and customized shopping experiences.
  • Foodservice – C-stores are known for their offering of quick, and often unhealthy, food options such as fountain drinks and snacks. Many brands are bending to market demands to offer better quality food items including gourmet coffee, fresh produce, and plant-based options.
  • The Impacts of Electric Vehicles – The majority of convenience stores attract customers by offering fuel for automobiles. As electric vehicles take over the roads, c-store operators need to adjust their business models to attract a new breed of driver by offering charging stations and other amenities.
  • C-Store Technology – Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and big data will disrupt many traditional c-store operations by delivering new insights and customer experiences. The rapid pace of development could be a challenge for some businesses that are slow to adopt the new tools and technology.  

Anticipating the Future of C-Stores

Understanding what the future holds is the key to creating strategic plans to unveil new technology and push the boundaries of latest product offerings and customer experiences. In the following chapters, we will take a deep dive into each of the areas mentioned above. Our goal is to cover how each of these elements look today, what factors are driving their change, the challenges that exist, and what to expect in the future. With this new information and knowledge, you will be better equipped to prepare your c-store business for the exciting road ahead.

March 9, 2022