The Four Values C-Store Customers Share

Using first-of-its-kind data from a global study, NACS Leadership Forum speaker David Allison identified the values convenience store patrons have in common.

February 11, 2020

By Erin Pressley

MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—It’s common to hear how millennials have different character traits than Gen X, or how age determines how we think, but it’s wrong, explained speaker David Allison to NACS Leadership Forum attendees. Understanding your customers is best achieved through the lens of Valuegraphics.

Allison, author and human behavior expert, explained that demographics are simply not an effective measure from a marketing perspective—instead we need to look to Valuegraphics. His research measured 420 variables, digging into what people truly value. Using algorithmic survey-targeting techniques to collect survey information from 500,000 surveys, Allison said his data are an exact representation of the real world with 95% accuracy and a margin of error of 3.5%.

In simple terms, the data show how closely demographic groups relate and agree—or don’t agree—on 420 variables. Looking at baby boomers, Gen X and millennials, not one of the groups agreed more than 15% when looking at the 420 variables. Put simply, the labels we use to better understand the population, further distance ourselves from true understanding.

Demographics are valuable, but only as a description or definition of who you want to influence or talk to. Psychographics, such as how people behave around specific events, products, etc. are also valuable, but Valuegraphics add a third data set that Allison posits will help you change behavior.

Allison surveyed 1,850 respondents who shop in convenience stores three times a week to come up with four main profiles of a c-store shopper:

  • 51%       Workaholics
  • 17%       Loyalists
  • 15%       Pit-stop Adventurers
  • 12%        Everyday Debt-driven
  • 5%          Splinter groups

Workaholics love being a workaholic, and they work as much as 80 hours a week—or it feels like they do. Allison said, “They loathe wasting time since it’s time they could be working.” Workaholic customers want delivery, text ordering—essentially, they want more speed, “so anything you can do to help them save time will be a hit.”

Loyalists are very habitual and routine; they don't like things to change. “They will drive by the same stores, always sit in the same spot at one restaurant they like, and they value long-term relationships,” said Allison. Since they are store and product loyal, consistency is everything to them, so if you do change, do so slowly. These loyalists want multipack deals, delivery and pharmacy.

Pit-Stop Adventurers comprise 15% of the ecosystem. These folks love excitement: They want to taste everybody’s food, try everything and have a fear of missing out. “They see your convenience store as a place to get a dose of familiarity—they have a need to touch base and expect familiarity of basic products.” These customers want experiential items and services, and anything too expensive or wasteful is a deal breaker for them—what matters to them is the experience, not what they have.

The 12% that comprise Everyday Debt-Driven are unfazed at convenience pricing. “They are reactionists and want it now and will pay a premium for it—which is why they are also debt-driven,” Allison told the crowd. They gravitate toward consumption-based purchases and would want drive-thru and made-to-order specialty foods.

Allison encouraged audience members to consider how to apply these four values-based groups to their marketing and outreach, and determine what makes the most sense to appeal to the characteristics that trigger their behavior:

  • Strengthen family and relationships and belonging: What could c-stores do to make stores feel like the store is “their place and they are part of the family”?
  • Offer personal responsibility: “How can you help your customers get ahead and be more successful?”
  • Create financial security: Explain any premium pricing by sharing that you are helping customers not waste time.
  • Provide personal growth.
  • Leverage loyalty: Make it faster and easier for people who are loyal to you to do business with you.

Allison ended on a high note, telling audience members that “No matter what tech comes your way, you will be able to survive because you know how to take care of your customers. You know what they value.”

Look for more coverage of the NACS Leadership Forum in the NACS Daily this week and in the April issue of NACS Magazine.

Erin Pressley is NACS vice president of Education & Media.