Predictions for UK Convenience

Predictions of future behaviours or future economic growth and development can be a fool’s game. Many an hour spent in economics lectures at University would testify to that. You can model previous trends and calculate the most likely outcomes, but one thing always seems to get in the way – life.

Not many would have predicted where we would be today, 12 months ago. It would be a foolhardy person to confidently predict what the world will look like 25 years from now.

This week I attended the online ACS Summit 2020. The first thing to say is that it was a fantastic event, put together by the team at the ACS. It was an incredibly insightful day with some lively debate. With the ACS celebrating its 25th year, CEO, James Lowman, took this opportunity to look at where the convenience industry was, is, and may be.

Future trends in Convenience

Many predictions from many industry experts in the past haven’t come to fruition (guilty as charged!) For example the takeover of identikit stores throughout the UK and a grocery sector dominated by online. However, we have seen a lot of the underlying trends emerging, albeit perhaps slower than many predicted. For example, food-to-go becoming a major category, the rising importance of fresh produce, the role of services and the move towards a more cash-free society.

One thing that the last 6 months has done, is super-charge the progression of many of these trends. Latest figures from the Local Shop Report 2020 show that 12% of convenience stores now offer click & collect services for groceries and 17% offer a local delivery service. 1 in 4 also have in-store Wi-Fi and 1 in 10 offer a mobile app/loyalty scheme.

Growth in home delivery

Locals shops in the UK are now making more than 600,000 grocery deliveries a week. James Lowman said: “The way that local shops have responded to the coronavirus crisis to support people in their communities has been nothing short of incredible.”

According to our recent research, in partnership with TWC and Cirkle, 25% of convenience customers used home delivery and/or click and collect from a convenience store during lockdown. This equates to approximately 13m UK adults. Surely there is no turning back now for home delivery in convenience.

‘Convenience’ is ultimately about making life easier for shoppers, and home delivery is the natural extension of that. Now is the time for convenience stores to ensure they have the right digital solutions to ’scale up’ in their communities, with data being used to power the digital infrastructure.

Convenience stores get online

Other data from the ACS Local Shop Report shows that retailers are finally embracing social media and a wider online presence. 44% have a Facebook page, whilst 41% have a website for their store. It was also interesting to discover that more customers searched for local shops on Google during the start of lockdown (March 23-29) than any other time in the last 12 months.

Convenience stores’ Facebook and Twitter followers are most likely to be in the 25-34 age range (22% and 21% according to our research*) – worth keeping in mind when thinking of the type of messages you communicate. Social media can also be useful when trying to attract this younger age group. It’s often forgotten that younger consumers are under-represented in convenience store shopper demographics.

Embracing data will be key

The last 6 months has shown that there are still opportunities for convenience stores to attract new customers and drive new footfall to their stores – but a digital presence must be part of that strategy – as this is a key way that customers of today and tomorrow will be searching for their local stores. We also know from recent KAM Media research* that 53% of retailers are capturing AND using the customer data they are collecting from their home delivery service.

This data can be incredibly powerful, when used in the right way, to better understand who your customer is and allow you to evolve your store and your offer to better meet their needs today, tomorrow and for the long-term. You can never predict exactly what is going to happen in the future, but you can prepare well.

*KAM Media statistics featured in this article are taken from a recent research report commissioned in partnership with TWC and sponsored by Cirkle PR, titled ‘CONVENIENCE RETAIL: FORGING A NEW FUTURE’. You can download a copy of this report for free here alongside a host of other free insight resources from KAM Media.