Why Do Consumers Choose and Stay with a C-Store?

There is no lack of c-stores in our cities and along our highways. Consumers have the luxury of choosing from a couple, if not several c-stores with each daily commute. So what makes them cross the street to go to one or drive past the other?


Let’s take a look at the most critical factors consumers use to decide where to fuel up. This research is from Market Force as the result of an annual study in which over 10,000 c-store consumers were polled. It’s no surprise that fuel price takes the lead by a long shot, but let’s get more granular, and talk about the things that we have far more control over.


#4 Ease of Getting In and Out of the Location

We see that the consumer’s need to get in and out in a timely and efficient manner is extremely important when making their c-store choice. This tells us that consumers want the registers front and center, they don’t want to wait in a line, and they want to be able to find what they’re looking for easily.


The flow of your store needs to lend to getting people in and out. They don’t want a holiday display in their way. They don’t want to walk to the back to get to the registers. They want to walk into your c-store knowing what to expect from the layout. Consistency across stores is key here.


Smart staffing is also essential. Lines will happen, but they can’t keep happening and they certainly can’t keep happening during peak hours.


Do you currently have a way to track consistency in flow and layout across multiple locations?

Is there a process in place to ensure smart staffing during peak hours?

Are you keeping track of when lines occur and looking for a pattern?


#5 Overall Appearance and Maintenance

We are not at all surprised that this made the top five, and it affects many of the categories below it. For instance, “Availability of Good Coffee” and “Availability of Fresh Fast Food” are closely related to appearance and maintenance. You may have the best breakfast pizza and cup of joe west of the Mississippi, but if these areas are constantly messy, unorganized, and unclean, you won’t attract and retain the people seeking out those offerings.


This is one that we see most c-store managers struggling with. We understand the constant battle that is cleaning, stocking, and maintenance. Fresh bathrooms are a must. Floors need to be clean and dry. The outside needs to be well lit, clear of trash, and inviting.


Do you have cleaning and maintenance checklists that actually get used?

How old are your opening and closing checklists?

Does your staff know how to prioritize cleaning, stocking, and maintenance?

Are your food safety checks user-friendly and utilized properly?


#7 Brand Reputation

Smack dab in the middle of the list, likely because the brand reputation relies heavily on consistency in all of the rest of the factors. You don’t get a reputation for dirty bathrooms because they were dirty one time. And you don’t get a reputation for outstanding customer service because of one great experience. You gain a reputation, whether it’s bad or good, through consistency.


When it comes down to it, your brand reputation rests in the hands of your processes. Every c-store has a cleaning checklist, but is it used, how often, and how is it tracked? It all comes down to the process.


Are you still using paper-based processes and checklists?

What type of follow-up or accountability accompanies your processes?


#8 & 9 Customer Service Provided in the Store and at the Pump

This is very directly related to #4. Your customers want to get in and out and sometimes they need your help to make that happen. How many times have you stood in line because an employee didn’t know how to assist someone with their lottery tickets, or they struggled to change the credit card paper, or they didn’t know how to print out a receipt from a pump? It happens all the time and it’s why customer service made this list.


Do you believe your training is adequate?

What type of coaching forms do you use to track training issues?

How are store visits documented and then used after the visit?


With each critical decision-making factor above, we offered some takeaway questions, every one of which Action Card can help you answer or find a solution to. Action Card c-store clients across the country have elevated their store inspections, quarterly audits, food safety checks, store walk forms, opening checklists, daily cleaning lists, coaching forms, quick visit notes and more by taking their outdated paper processes and bringing them to the Action Card app. The app makes it easy to track trends across all locations and focus on areas of opportunity and address areas that need improvement.


Want to know more about Action Card? Let’s take a demo this week!