Many consumers have not recovered financially from the pandemic and should not necessarily be targeted with premium splurges.
That’s one finding from a new Omnicom Commerce Group (OCG)-- “The Future Of Now: Convenience/Quick Stop Shopping In A Post-COVID World” -- that looks at changing convenience store shopping habits.
Research occurred in two stages to track shopper behavior during the pandemic, and concluded with a follow-up survey executed in March 2021 to assess shopper employment, travel habits, meal planning and the status of school age kids (learning at home vs returning to school).
The goal of the study is to “help brands that rely on the convenience channel to understand how to kick-start demand post-pandemic, as the convenience channel for these brands is an important source of volume and profitability,” said Bryan Gildenberg, SVP of Commerce at OCG.
Key findings of the report include: 40% of convenience store shoppers were on government assistance of some kind, up from 25% pre-COVID. Ten percent of these shoppers were unemployed in September 2020, and that number slightly increased in March 2021.
Selling to shoppers in deep recovery mode requires a different strategy, per the report. This shopper may be trying to resume life following a period of economic struggle and may need affordable treats not costly purchases.
Fifteen percent of c-store shoppers stopped going to work during COVID, reducing trip frequency as 90% of U.S. c-store shoppers typically drive for their commute.
Half of the shoppers anticipate resuming their normal commute, but 10% of pre-COVID c-store shoppers may be driving less often permanently.
Brands must reconsider campaign messaging for shoppers who continue working from home. A message of energy or refreshment might need to be positioned differently to shoppers who didn’t have a WFH period during COVID.
One stat that surprised OCG was the economic tenuousness felt by c-store shoppers.
“The uncertainty around the future for the c-store shopper was more pronounced than we expected,” said Gildenberg. “The media narrative around ‘the roaring 20s’ and the euphoria from COVID recovery doesn’t necessarily reflect people whose lives were upended by what the pandemic did to their work and childcare situation. People who can’t Zoom their jobs had a very different experience during COVID than those of us who can, and those non-Zoomers are the backbone of the c-store industry.”