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In the Mood for Convenience

One never forgets their first driving ticket. Flying down the Pennsylvania turnpike heading towards Amish country, I was busted. $150. As a broke graduate student, I remember looking for cheap comfort snack food at WaWa. Read on for our take on the special place convenience stores have in our lives.

In recent years as the retail industry undergoes seismic revolution, the future of retail has become a much hotly debated topic. Department stores, supermarkets, specialist stores have been transformed with innovative formats such as Nordstorm Local, Amazon Go, and Dirty Lemon’s Drug Store. Retail inspiration is the new buzzword as retailers and brands strive to create more memorable, engaging experiences.

Amidst the discussion, the humble convenience store is often ignored — so ubiquitous and unchanging, it’s easily perceived with indifference. Yet few things provide as accessible a thrill and comfort than exploring the crammed aisles of a convenience store. The gushing over Japan’s konbinis, and the cult followings behind American convenience chains like Wawa and Buc-ee are very real.

What is it about convenience stores? What’s their allure? How have convenience stores managed to universally embed themselves into consumers lives?

To draw inspiration, we analyzed all Instagram posts tagged #conveniencestore. Examining how consumers spoke about the stores, we arrived at 5 key insights. The overwhelmingly emotive responses showed that convenience stores have transcended their original pragmatic purpose. At any time of the day or night, regardless of place, convenience stores respond to a wide spectrum of emotional needs for stimulation, entertainment, comfort, and gratification — and who can say no to that?

Tourist Attraction (26.8%)

Convenience stores are a magnet for tourists. As mini cultural repositories of a place, and often stocked with never-seen-before products, they intensify the sensation of foreignness and wonder that make travel so special. For tourists, convenience stores offer a vivid glimpse into what daily life is really like for locals.

Indulgence (19.7%)

For most people, convenience stores are delightful inventories of junk food and treats. A place where cravings get fulfilled and indulgences receive no dirty stares, the surefire promise of a sugar or caffeine rush make convenience stores strongly associated with calorific pleasure.

Play (14.5%)

So ubiquitous, convenience stores are easy meeting grounds to hang out with friends and have fun. There’s a pronounced informality to the convenience store that also encourages the loosening of etiquette, which brings out moments of spontaneity and fun.

Stimulation (11.5%)

Convenience stores are like Aladdin’s cave. Anything but boring, you can seemingly find anything and everything. Banana water, street food, 70s music CDs — the convenience store’s immense product variety within a concentrated display invite constant discovery and gift unexpected finds.

Comfort (5.4%)

For many, their familiar presence near the home and workplace have cultivated individualised routines, whether it’s picking up early morning coffee or the after-work chocolate bar. By being extensions of the everyday, convenience stores have nurtured strong nostalgic associations that endear and endure.

Efficiency (2.4%)

Convenience stores are valued as a one-stop access to shortcuts and solutions to almost all situations, foreseen or unforeseen. They are confidence toolkits that can alleviate anxiety and in many ways, think ahead for consumers. By empowering consumers in increasingly hectic lives, convenience stores earn their gratitude and loyalty.

Source: 42,368 Instagram posts tagged #conveniencestore

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