A “hot spot,” a good place for a date, a place to pick up fresh foods, on the cutting edge of technology. These are all ways journalists and consumers have described South Korea and China’s convenience store scene. Overseas, convenience stores are driving the retail market and are setting new trends for convenience stores across the globe.
At this year’s NACS North American CEO Summit held in Chicago, CEOs and other senior leaders from North America’s largest convenience retailers and manufacturers attended a presentation by Jeanne Danubio, President, North America Connect, on personalization and the future of the convenience channel.
“The good news is that convenience has never been in higher demand, but it is evolving. There’s a lot that North American convenience retailers can learn from other markets and from adjacent industries that are already capitalizing on consumer’s increasing demand for convenience,” said Jeanne.
Jeanne provided recommendations into how today’s C-store can shift from tobacco, gasoline and beer to become central meeting places, to transform into ideal pick up points, and to embrace innovations that improve shoppers’ ability to customize and personalize their experiences.
To start, Jeanne advocated that convenience retailers adjust their spend to align with how people are discovering stores today, keeping in mind the latest evolution in navigation apps.
“We all know that more people are using their phones and other digital devices to discover and learn about their local store. Consumers no longer need to guess if they’ll like your store. They already have a pretty good idea without ever stepping in. Retailers, in general, need to prioritize dollars to meet consumers where they are,” said Jeanne.
The race toward frictionless payments and delivery has only just begun. Companies everywhere are investing in both simple and complex methods to make delivery easier, whether it’s lockers, a network of pick up points, robots or drones.
“Convenience stores are perfectly positioned to use their locations as an asset. They don’t necessarily need to be the distributors, but they can take advantage of new and emerging distribution channels, pick up points, etc. to drive more in-store traffic,” Jeanne recommended.
Convenience stores themselves are also changing, becoming more automated and unmanned. In the U.S., Amazon Go has announced plans of opening nearly 3,000 unmanned stores by 2021. In China and Korea, consumers are already experiencing a whole new level of frictionless payments thanks to RFID, scanner, biometrics and sound wave technologies.
In the U.S., more stores will begin incorporating personalized recommendations and discounts. Ultimately what convenience stores offer will evolve, whether that’s more fresh produce and meals or expanding to new recreation vehicles.