Consumers Placing Greater Value on Saving Time

Discussion
Aug 28, 2009

By George Anderson

Consumers still want to save money, but according
to a new study, saving time is important enough that a good number of shoppers
will spend more just to move along more quickly.

According to research from The
Integer Group and M/A/R/C, 28 percent of shoppers in June said they would rather
save time than money. That number was up from 23 percent in May. The firms
conduct the research monthly polling 1,200 adults.

The firms see the new numbers
as identifying an opportunity for convenience stores.

“There has been an eight
percent rise in consumers who are willing to spend more money at convenience
stores if it makes their lives a little easier,” said Craig Elston, senior
vice president, Integer, in a statement. “The majority of shoppers surveyed
want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible and convenience
stores often give time back to the consumer to do other things.”

“Our data shows
us that convenience stores have an opportunity to draw a larger number of shoppers
if they focus on a few of the fundamental factors,” added Randy Wahl, executive
vice president, M/A/R/C. “For example,
providing a clean store environment would lead to a more pleasant shopping
experience with hopes that more people will consider shopping in convenience
stores to save time.”

Discussion
Questions: The study’s authors suggest
the desire to save time gives convenience stores a unique opportunity. Do you
see convenience stores having a greater opportunity than other competing formats
in this regard? What should c-store operators be focusing on to attract these
shoppers?

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18 Comments on "Consumers Placing Greater Value on Saving Time"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

There’s nothing like a survey to get this forum going. The reason one stops at a convenience store is only vaguely related to the time factor. Think assortment of single-serve immediate consumption items (and yes, I include my favorite–Devil Dogs–in this description). Should they become a viable purveyor of fresh milk, bread, and other quick-trip needs, their ability to move you through quickly might help. On the other hand, the space-dictated necessity to limit selection will probably work against them.

If anything, this should be a call to grocers to make adjustments to their offering–perhaps more express check-outs at peak times, perhaps more self-checkouts?

Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Aren’t convenience stores, by definition, about saving time (rather than money)?

If you’ve ever taken a microeconomics course you studies Indifference Curves and the classic illustration of “Labor versus Leisure.” Depending on the circumstances, people will work or not, largely depending on their needs for money or free time. That’s exactly the case with c-stores and why you’ve seen such stepped-up investments over the past 5-10 years to create more curb appeal.

Ironically, c-stores have always tended to skew towards more blue-collar demographics where there should be more price sensitivity. Time is everyone’s scarcest commodity, however.

Scott Knaul
Guest
Scott Knaul
11 years 8 months ago

Nothing shocking here, especially right now. Costs are closer across different retail channels so time is the variable customers will use to rate their experience and find value in.

Aside from that, nothing is more frustrating than standing in line at the grocery store with 5 people in front of you all with carts full!

Peter Milic
Guest
Peter Milic
11 years 8 months ago

While the hypothesis appears intuitive, I do not agree with the authors’ interpretation of the research. Those who agree with the attitudinal statement that they would rather save money than save time would also have to agree that a C-store offers the means to accomplish this objective. Getting in and out of a store quickly is not the only way to save time. How do we know that many of these consumers who would rather save time over money aren’t interested in Supercentres that allow them to complete a one-stop shop and thereby save time?

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

There is always going to some percentage of consumers who will spend more just to save some time. We have all done that at one time or another. Does it really matter if its 23% one month or 28% another? Do we need our intelligence insulted by having a survey conducted to tell us the obvious? That’s why convenience stores exist.

I don’t think C-stores have suddenly gotten a greater opportunity any more than in the past. What C-stores should be focusing on is making their stores more fun and pleasant to visit. For me it’s making sure you accept the credit cards with the 5% rebates on gas such as American Express and have clean bathrooms, plenty of loss-leader products, and free WiFi.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
The convenience of “Location”/”Convenience”/”Time-Saving” has been a benchmark of retailing for centuries. That close by outpost was critical for travelers and consumers who had to lay in provisions. In today’s retail scene, pharmacy chains, like WALGREENS and CVS hold that time saving/location advantage over big box players, as do grocery chains. Regional mall shopping centers offered the “Convenience/Time Saving” approach as well, over many local community shops, as multiple stops could be made. “Time,” by itself, is not going to provide c-stores with the unique selling proposition to success. It can be a slight advantage, but they still have to merchandise properly, have a trained staff that can pay attention to consumers, and keep the stores looking and functioning in a sharp manner. Consumers choose a retail shopping pattern for a multitude of reasons, e.g. Price, Selection, Location, Quality, Advertising, Newest Items, In-Store Experience, Knowledge of Staff, Store Appearance, and Store Location. TIME can be a portion of any of these areas, but it won’t be the driving force, but more of a “nice to… Read more »
Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

The money-over-time trade off seems to increase with economic robustness. Perhaps this is just what we are seeing here–an indicator of consumer confidence and perhaps, recovery.

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

No quibbles with the study–but the conclusion (assertion?) may be a stretch. Our own work suggests consumers do factor “time” heavily into their definition of “convenience.” But the time spent in the store making the purchase is only one part of the time influencing convenience. The biggest factor is usually travel time. That is why a consumer may go into a supercenter to buy a single can of soda from a checkout lane cooler. If the QuikTrip is a mile away and the SuperTarget is next door, it is by definition “more convenient.” When it is an applicable factor, proximity rules convenience retailing.

Brian Kelly
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Whoa, Nellie! We must be getting near to the college football season….

Let’s see the data behind the research. I challenge any research that would allow for a such sweeping conclusion of “time trumps money” in purchase decisions for all consumers in this economy. Was this research sponsored by the “Council of Convenience Stores?”

It is precisely this sort of research representation that motivated Mark Twain to say, “lies, damn lies and statistics.”

And why we say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
11 years 8 months ago

This study indicates a bright future for any retailer who focuses quickly satisfying the customer needs. It doesn’t necessarily follow that convenience stores have an exclusive on this opportunity.

If a shopper wants milk or cigarettes, you can’t beat convenience stores. But if the shopper also wants some asparagus and wine glasses, convenience stores can’t cut it.

I like the chances of any big box store that opens itself to appointment-based shopping and/or positions a service-oriented sales person near the door. The mindset has got to be not “how much can I sell you with as little service as you will tolerate?” It must be: “how can I provide what you came for in 15 minutes or less?”

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
As several comments have stated the c-store industry is built on the premise of convenience. In general, c-stores are not destinations, they are interceptors–they are a place you stop when you are on the way to someplace else (work, home, church, etc.). What makes them convenient is that they have easy access and egress, smaller lots, front door parking, etc. The big drivers of c-store traffic are fuel, beer, cigarettes, packaged beverages and in some cases foodservice/foodservice beverages. None of these would qualify as shopping goods. They are items which are generally consumed within minutes of being purchased (one hopes that does not include beer on the way home). For the items they carry, c-stores can be the channel of choice. A prime example would be cigarettes where fewer and fewer retailers are selling single packs. In other cases the items are pre-priced and therefore cost the same there as they do anywhere. What hurts c-stores in their efforts to attract more customers are those locations which do not meet the clean, neat, full, friendly… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

C-stores can be pricey, but they’re a delight to shop. Your favorite items–beef jerky, frozen treats, milk–are always in stock. Checkout people are cordial. You’re in, you’re out. What’s not to like?

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 8 months ago
If all shopping trips were equivalent I’d probably give this study greater credence. But of course, the convenience store trip is fundamentally different in purpose than the trip to the supermarket, which in turn is fundamentally different from the club store visit, et cetera, et cetera. So, what shoppers say about the time-versus-money trade-off is reflects an attitude that is often secondary to the need state of the moment. I’ve written before about the six dimensions of shopping time: time to access; time to search; time to transact; time to possess; time to return; and times of operation. The implication, in brief: The shopper’s definition of time-saving convenience, and therefore their channel choice, varies with the purchase occasion. Time is much more important than money sometimes–like when we need cold medicine for a sick child at midnight. But we trade off other time dimensions when we buy a book online–24-hour, rapid access at a good price, but a delay in possession. C-stores (and to some extend chain drug stores, and coffee shops) are engineered to… Read more »
Bryan Larkin
Guest
Bryan Larkin
11 years 8 months ago
As I read the article, it struck me that the one thing that I think of when I think of convenience stores is the idea of “dirty”. With a few exceptions, most seem less clean than grocery stores. And I was pleased to see the recommendation at the end of the article was along the lines – creating a clean store environment. Now, regarding the time versus price. Absolutely time wins out over price – and quite often for me. Why? 1. It is 10 miles to the large supermarket while I have 2 convenience stores and a small local market all within a mile or two. My milk and a few other items are purchased locally. It costs more but saves lots of time.2. When I do go to the supermarket, I have to compete with whoever happens to be in the store at the time and sometimes it is just downright irksome.3. Supermarket lines have been frustrating, though the Hannaford I frequent has instituted a single line concept sort of like a bank… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

The “C” in C-stores is for convenience. They exist because they are quick and easy. Shoppers have been making the time/money trade-off with C-Stores since they began.

Now to the study… It is probably right on. People are now more interested in saving time than ever. One of the reasons is that they are realizing alternatives on saving substantial time. It is called the internet.

This week we discussed the increase in back-to-school activity that was on-line. It is happening in every aspect of retailing. The realization of time-saving through use of the internet is earth shaking. Just consider when was the last time you used the “Yellow Pages” that came in a book.

Now, back to the discussion…C-stores have a purpose. Don’t try to make them something they are not.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 8 months ago

Cathy….what c-stores do you shop? My experience falls closer to the “dirty”, “surly” and “tacky”. That being said….

I immediately discount any survey or analysis that says “people….blah blah blah”. “People” is a concept that does not exist. Making sweeping comments about “people” is as useful as counting the grains of sand at the beach. Or worse, trying to build on them. Same thing. People are not a distinct group for whom insights enable action.

For some people, at the time they were asked, given the circumstances of those questions and the antecedents of the experience, may very well rate “convenience” as more important than “price”. How much convenience? At what sacrifice in price?

I know it’s a digest…but come on. This is silly. Here’s a scientific survey result of equal value: People rate quality over price. Some do. For some products. In some situations.

Ugh.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Everybody has said it, Convenience Stores are for convenience. They also can be located just about anywhere in urban settings because they are so small, so they are convenient. No surprise there. What is a surprise is that only 28% of those surveyed say they shop in a convenience store for that reason. What does that say?

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 8 months ago

Yes, c-stores do have an advantage as far as saving consumers time. The brevity of the vast majority of c-store transactions means consumers know they can get in, get the goods and get on their way in short order.

The problem is that c-stores don’t generally offer the broad selection of grocery products that consumers need on a regular basis, and most certainly not at the right price point. That’s where the express (small-store) format has an advantage. The rise of this latter format definitely indicates that traditional grocers and discounters are learning that consumers place a high value on a convenient shopping experience. It will be interesting to see if the ever-innovative c-store merchants respond to the rise of the express format by changing their product assortment.

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