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Harnessing the Power of Retail Media Networks in Convenience Stores

C-stores present a largely untapped opportunity in the realm of RMNs. Understanding their nuances is key for brands to crafting effective audience strategies, planning and activation.
Jeffrey Bustos
Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement addressability data, IAB, speaking at P2PI Live & Expo 2023

Catering to immediate, impulsive buying decisions rather than the planned purchases typical of grocery stores, convenience stores offer a unique retail media proposition and opportunity for CPG brands. The high foot traffic, combined with rapid purchase cycles, provides a dynamic environment for targeted, real-time advertising. Convenience stores (c-stores), with their rich data on consumer buying habits, can leverage their retail media networks (RMNs) to offer personalized advertising, transforming every transaction into a touchpoint for engagement. While grocery stores have been early adopters, convenience stores are an untapped market, ripe with potential.

Differentiating Factors — C-Stores vs. Grocery Stores:

  • Purchase Behavior: C-store shoppers are often on-the-go, seeking convenience and speed. In contrast, grocery shoppers are more inclined toward planned, bulk purchases.
  • Product Assortment: C-stores typically have a limited selection, focusing on high-turnover items, whereas grocery stores offer a wide range of products.
  • Shopping Frequency: Consumers visit c-stores more frequently but for fewer items, while grocery store visits are less frequent but involve larger baskets.
  • Data Dynamics: C-stores, due to their high transaction volume, have a rapid data refresh rate, offering current insights into consumer behavior, a contrast to the more stable, but less frequently updated, data from grocery stores.

“C-stores present a unique retail environment where immediacy and convenience are key drivers of consumer behavior,” said Jenn Olsen, commerce media director at The Mars Agency. “In-store media tactics like radio advertising, therefore, play a more potent role in influencing immediate purchase decisions in this setting as opposed to mass retailers. For brands, especially those in the categories of bottled beverages, snacks and quick-meal solutions, leveraging these differences can result in more effective and targeted marketing strategies, leading to better ROI on media investments.” 

For example, 7-Eleven's Gulp Media Network represents a pioneering venture into the realm of RMNs by convenience stores, particularly focusing on "immediate consumption purchase occasions" rather than stock-up trips. Its unique scale and coast-to-coast reach differentiates this approach for the immediate consumption consumer, one that shops six other convenience brands a year. A collaboration with Circana helps mine through first-party transaction data, providing insights akin to analyzing a plethora of receipts in a platform called C-Shopper. Gulp Media Network aims to engage customers by running campaigns with custom messaging, targeted to custom audiences built using C-Shopper purchase data. This customer-centric approach is further supported by The Brainfreeze Collective, a research community of about 280,000 7Rewards and Speedy Rewards members, and the introduction of Lab Stores equipped with cameras for deeper insight into shopper behavior.

Retail Media Activation Opportunities:

  • Digital Screens: Many c-stores install digital screens near the point of sale or in high-traffic areas. These screens display ads for products that are often impulse buys.
  • Shelf Strips and Wobblers: These are placed directly on the shelf or hang from the shelf and feature specific product promotions or ads.
  • Cooler Door Advertising: Ads placed on cooler doors are an effective way to catch customers' eyes as they reach for beverages or refrigerated items.
  • Pump Topper Advertising: For c-stores with gas stations, pump topper ads are placed on top of the gas pump and can target customers while they fill their tanks.
  • Floor Graphics/Clings: These are advertisements placed on the floor of the store, leading customers to specific products or promoting certain brands.
  • In-Store Radio: With this solution, an advertiser doesn’t have to try to distract customers from what they are doing.

For example, OXXO, the largest chain of convenience stores in Mexico, has boldly advanced its customer engagement strategy through its loyalty program Spin Premia, aiming to gain deeper insights into its customer base and deliver a highly personalized experience. 

Leveraging cutting-edge technology, OXXO has equipped its digital display screens with sophisticated segmentation capabilities, enabling targeted content delivery based on factors such as geolocation, time of day, day of the week, weather conditions, and basic demographic and sell-out information. This strategic initiative reflects OXXO's vision of seamlessly integrating advertising into the user experience, thereby providing customers with relevant communication and valuable opportunities, even in moments characterized by minimal shopping pre-planning. Acknowledging the significant role of impulse purchases in consumer behavior, OXXO recognizes the pivotal importance of convenience stores as prime venues for the discovery and promotion of new products.

navigating retail media chart
navigating retail media chart

“C-stores are unique in that they rely almost solely on physical stores to sell goods and engage with their customers. While shoppers often buy on impulse, cultivating loyalty to drive return visits is critical,” according to Anand Muralidaran, chief growth officer at Cooler Screens. “Digital in-store retail media allows c-stores to enable hyper-local, relevant consumer experiences which drive both sales and customer loyalty simultaneously."

Recently, a nationwide c-store partnered with Cooler Screens to use in-store digital smart screens to promote a seasonal contest for loyalty members who purchased Coca-Cola beverages. The campaign drove a 4.1% incremental sales lift for Coca-Cola products while at the same time rewarding loyalty customers and making it easy for new member sign-ups. 

C-stores present a largely untapped opportunity in the realm of RMNs, distinct in their operational dynamics from grocery stores. For brands, understanding these nuances is key to crafting effective audience strategies, planning, and activation. As c-stores begin to harness the power of RMNs, they not only offer a new frontier for targeted advertising but also promise to redefine the retail landscape, one convenience store at a time.

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