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Convenience or Experience?

A retail client told me the other day that one of their customers had ordered just one pack of chewing gum to be delivered through Uber Eats. That was the whole order- a pack of gum. Why would you do that, you ask? The answer is because you can. Welcome to the world of ultra- convenience.

Does this mean that retailers are now here to pander to the increasingly indulged couch potatoes of the world? Is pure convenience more important than a shopping experience?

To try to answer that, here's an example.

A large section of the convenience market is tied to fuel retail. The whole nature of this will change with the imminent transition to EVs. Canny fuel retailers are now looking at how their convenience retail offer can become more relevant and productive, even becoming something that can exist without the fuel offer. Shell, for example, has just launched its first standalone café, unbranded, in Poland.

bp prototype, Kingsway
bp prototype, Kingsway

The Great Uncoupling is coming as Convenience separates from Fuel. The current paradigm of Fuel + Retail (impulse based, and reliant on sales of tobacco, confectionery soft drinks and salty snacks) will go towards Retail + Fuel (a more considered, healthy and localised range). And eventually, Retail minus the Fuel.

Working from home means that workers will use their nearby convenience store a lot more for coffee, lunch, a quick dash for top-ups or even just to take a break and talk to someone in real life. The aspect of Community becomes more important here, the idea that a convenience store might have a social function of bringing local people together.

What will make it convenient is its location, its relevant, localised range, ease of shopping and speed of transaction. The Big Weekly Shop might not disappear but Convenience will cater for tonight’s dinner, lunch or breakfast on the move or at home, and quick emergency purchases. And let’s not forget that essential fuel that we all run on – coffee!

What we’re seeing is that where once customers were compelled to go into convenience stores because that’s where they bought their fuel, there are more and more walk-in customers, who have a choice in their neighbourhood of where they walk into.

So it’s not a question of convenience or experience- now you must have both to succeed.


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