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State of the Industry: The Future of C-Stores

With 2023 ending, it's time for our annual State of the Industry snapshot for C-store retailers! In this year's State of the Industry report for convenience, there are three key trends that are shaping the convenience retail landscape.

  1. The continued shift towards quick commerce and efficient order fulfillment 
  2. The evolution from convenience hubs to experience-driven destinations 
  3. The growing push for C-stores to reimagine store space with self-checkout and digital solutions 

These trends aren't simply responses to change but strategic imperatives that hold the key to surviving and thriving in an industry marked for transformation. 

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Quick Commerce and Efficient Order Fulfillment 
In the world of quick commerce, convenience stores are diving headfirst into ultra-speedy deliveries. For example, 17% of these stores already offer instant delivery/quick commerce in 30 minutes or less. To keep up with this, C-store retailers must be masters of juggling inventory and order processing.

Additionally, 77% of C-store retailers are placing tremendous value on local online demand distribution. They see that value and are becoming local order fulfillment hubs. That means that many of these stores might soon be the go-to place for online orders, seamlessly connecting the digital and physical shopping experience for customers.

To make room for this shift, 53% of respondents are planning to expand their store space for rapid fulfillment over the next 12 months to enhance the order processing workflow. It's not just about shelves and cash registers anymore – it's about creating a whole new order processing and fulfillment experience. 

Evolving from Convenience Hubs to Experience-Driven Destinations 
Convenience stores are about more than just the quick grab-and-go. They're turning into spaces where customers can get more than just their essentials, and retailers are pulling out all the stops to give their shoppers an experience, not just a shopping trip. This is where creating new and differentiated services is critical. A whopping 71% of C-store executives highlight the significance of offerings like EV charging, showcasing an industry-wide commitment to providing services that set stores apart.

Additionally, convenience stores are allocating space to cater to health and beauty services, with 20% of executives planning to expand in-store areas for wellness services within the next 12 months. This strategic move responds to the growing demand for comprehensive shopping experiences beyond traditional retail offerings.

Reimagining Store Space with Self-Checkout and Digital Integration
So, we've seen how convenience retailers are prioritizing streamlining order fulfillment and turning their stores into experience-driven destinations, but all of this can happen because retailers are actively reimagining their store space around the integration of self-checkout technology. As the significance of traditional fixed checkout counters declines, self-checkout options are on the rise, freeing up space for more customer-centric areas.

However, adopting self-checkout technology can introduce new challenges such as theft and shrink. To address these concerns, 71% of convenience store executives emphasize the importance of Computer Vision for detecting potential shoplifting. As stores prioritize security, they are also focusing on elevating in-store aesthetics, creating a premium shopping experience that sets them apart in the competitive retail landscape.

Effortlessly unifying digital and physical experiences is another crucial aspect of this trend. Despite the growing demand for a unified architecture, 85% of convenience stores have yet to fully integrate digital and physical commerce. Bridging this gap requires addressing the need for more personalization, as 67% of stores are currently offering personalized promotions based on digital and in-store behavior. But it's important to note that retailers can build lasting connections with their customers by adopting a customer-centric approach.

Through personalized offers, retailers can create memorable and tailored experiences that foster loyalty, drive repeat business, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Establishing a strong foundation for unity, including features like a unified shopping cart, efficient inventory management, and consistent branding, is essential for meeting customer expectations.

In wrapping up our exploration of the 2023 State of the Industry for convenience stores, it's evident that the future of C-stores is not just about adaptation. It's about leadership in redefining the retail landscape. As convenience stores evolve into hubs of rapid fulfillment and customer-centric experiences, retailers are pioneering innovations, acknowledging challenges, and prioritizing security. Retailers embracing these trends are not merely adapting; they are leading the way in redefining the future of convenience retail.

**All statistics in this blog can be found in the 2023 State of the Industry: The Future of Convenience data report by Toshiba and Incisiv.  

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