International 2022 C-Store Shopper Insights Survey
Retailers are constantly trying to get in the minds of shoppers to know what they value and how their customer experience measures up against expectations. Online purchasing and Amazon have changed the way consumers make decisions. Publicly available and un-censored customer reviews are now the number #1 resource in making a choice. According to a recent 2021 study, 67% of all customer reviews are written on Google Review (Birdeye.com), making Google the go-to resource for customer research and retailer insights.
2022 Study Summary
CAF Outdoor Cleaning completed our third deep dive analysis into online google ratings across Europe to better understand what customers care about. Specifically, the study analyzed 1,824 customer reviews across 39 top-rated convenience chains in 18 different European countries. To gain the most insight, 5-star and 1-star ratings were selected to identify what customers raved or raged about.
The Average C-store Customer Experience is Down. Over the last decade, online ratings and mystery shop scores have increased year over year due to improved competition and standards. CAF 2022 Europe Google Review study shows average scores declined 5% since last year, while the average quantity of review per location nearly doubled showing increased importance and reach on online ratings.
While ratings continue to be mostly positive (73%), the results represent a 6.4% decline since 2021.
The average rating across all locations increased decreased from 4.2 to 3.9 (5% decline), signaling an definite slide in customer experience standards. Limited onsite visibility from leadership and continued labor difficulties are likely causes for the decline. This provides an excellent opportunity for retailers to differentiate from the competition as the importance of the Customer Experience is as an all-time high.
The need for a clean and inviting store is at an all-time high with recent NACS data showing that Customer Experience Tops Price. The report shows that 74% of drivers would drive five minutes out of their way to go to a c-store with a better experience. This is the first time experience has topped price in importance.
Convenience and Petroleum / Fuel Consumer Priorities
Beyond the 5-star rating, many customers leave feedback with their score giving insights into what the customer loved or hated about their experience.
Shoppers most commonly cited Friendly as the reason for a positive 5-star review. Food & Drink Options took the #2 and #4 spots for importance. Cleanliness ranked #3 with nearly a quarter (24%) of shoppers giving a 5-star review raving about the level of clean. This mirrors US data from Gasbuddy citing that cleanliness ranks highest in reason for selecting a pit stop when looking at what factor is most often cited in the top 3.
Unhappy, 1-star reviews also mentioned the inverse of those Top 5 Positive Reasons. Dirty, High Fuel Price and Unfriendly all continue to drive negative feedback. Although not a top reason for a positive experience - Bad Bathrooms and Speed both joined the list of reasons for a poor experience. It is difficult to “win” business with bathrooms and speed, but according to the results it’s a common reason for a negative experience.
Where Does the Customer Experience Start?
NACS research data shows that more than half of c-store shoppers never go inside the store, making the Forecourt Experience is their ONLY Experience. For all shoppers, the forecourt and store exterior are the first and last customer impression on EVERY visit. To often the c-store customer experience starts with a kind greeting when a customer enters the store, when in fact the decision to go into the store was likely made in the forecourt.
Summary and Recommendations
Customers value the basics of friendly customer service and a clean environment. Take a moment to look at the online ratings for your site(s). What are the common reasons listed for your 5-star reviews? Do the negative reviews provide actionable insights?
If only maintaining a clean and friendly store was as easy as it sounds. Convenience retailing is difficult and takes the right tools and partners. We invite you to reach out today to learn about how CAF can help introduce a forecourt cleaning program that will drive traffic and positive reviews. Let us share with you best practices and lessons gained from working with 35,000 retail locations worldwide to be your customer experience and cleaning partner.
Check out the European 2021 C-Store Shopper Insights Survey information on our blog.