Wawa and Costco Are Consumers’ Favorite Places to Fuel Up, New Market Force Study Finds

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Study Reveals Consumer Preferences and Trends in Fueling

Wawa and Costco are consumers’ favorite places to fill up their gas tanks, according to a study by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions. Nearly 7,000 consumers were polled for the study, which was designed to uncover where consumers prefer to fuel up and why they prefer one chain to another, as well as trends in mobile app usage.

The study revealed that, while the majority of motorists still fuel up at traditional gas stations and convenience stores, grocers and wholesale clubs continue to gain ground. For their most recent trip to the pump, 69% said they visited a gas station or convenience store, while 31% chose a grocery, wholesale club or big-box chain. Because the critical drivers for customer satisfaction vary between gas stations and grocery or big-box stores, Market Force evaluated each category separately.    

Wawa and QuikTrip Favorite Gas Station/C-Store Brands
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent gas station or convenience store experience, and their likelihood to refer that store brand to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score.

Wawa ranked highest with 68%, edging out QuikTrip, which took the top spot in the 2014 study. QuikTrip was second with a score of 62% and Sheetz was third with 59%. All of the top three are corporate-owned, regional brands. Speedway and Phillips 66 tied for fourth, with Phillips 66 emerging as the highest-ranking national brand. [See Graph 1]

Graph 1: Favorite Gas Stations/Convenience Stores

QuikTrip Delivers on Service, Sheetz Wins on Loyalty
Market Force also evaluated how gas station and convenience store brands are delivering on a spectrum of attributes that impact customer satisfaction, such as service and appearance. Chevron ranked highest for fuel quality and Arco was voted the fuel price-leader. Wawa, which offers made-to-order hoagies, breakfast sandwiches and other food options, took the top spot in the fresh food category. QuikTrip came in first for customer service and appearance for a second consecutive year. Sheetz’s loyalty program was a clear favorite, and it also tied with Wawa for quality coffee. [See Graph 2]

Graph 2: Satisfaction Attributes Rankings – Gas Station/Convenience Store

“We found that one in seven consumers was dissatisfied with their most recent experience at the pumps,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. “With the plethora of options available to drivers, gas stations and convenience stores must both execute flawlessly on the basics like bright, appealing imaging and deliver in experience-related areas such as customer service and specialty foods.”

Costco No. 1 Among Wholesale, Grocery and Big-Box Retailers
Consumers seem to largely prefer wholesale clubs over grocery stores and big-box retailers for gas, likely for their deeply discounted prices. When Market Force ranked the top wholesale clubs, grocers and big-box chains on the Customer Loyalty Index, three wholesale clubs led the pack – Costco ranked first, BJ’s Wholesale Club was second and Sam’s Club was third. Kroger and Walmart rounded out the top five. [See Graph 3]

Graph 3: Favorite Grocery/Wholesale Clubs for Fuel

Costco and BJ’s Emerge as Satisfaction Attributes Leaders
When Market Force examined how grocery stores, wholesale clubs and big-box retailers were performing on a spectrum of attributes that impact customer satisfaction, Costco took the top spot in five of the nine categories, including fuel quality, fuel price, customer service, appearance and brand reputation. BJ’s also performed well, leading on ease of entry and exit and good coffee, and tying with Costco for fresh food. Kroger ranked first for its loyalty program by a large margin, besting Costco by nearly 40%. [See Graph 4]

Graph 4: Satisfaction Attributes Rankings – Grocery/Wholesale Club/Big-Box

Motorists Using Mobile Apps to Find Cheap Gas
Fueling-related mobile apps are picking up steam among motorists, particularly those on the hunt for low-priced gas. Ten percent of study participants said they have used a gas app. Generation X reported the highest usage rates, although there was little differentiation across age groups. When asked which features they have used within a gas app, gas price comparison came out on top at 78%, followed by finding a gas station and reporting gas prices. [See Graph 5]

GasBuddy, which uses crowdsourcing to check for the cheapest gas prices in an area, is far and away the most popular app, with 69% indicating they have used it.

Graph 5: What features have you used within your gas/convenience store mobile app?

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted in June 2015 across the United States. The pool of 6,935 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with nearly 52% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 64% were women and 36% were men.

To stay up to date on all of the latest gas station and convenience store news, trends and discussions, follow Market Force’s Convenience Store and Gas Station Insights page on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/convenience-store-&-gas-station-insights-from-market-force

About Market Force Information
Market Force is the leading global customer intelligence solutions company for multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. With more than 125 years of combined industry experience, Market Force has pioneered the industry with a suite of customer intelligence solutions – from proprietary decision-support tools to 600,000 field associates across North America and Europe who conduct mystery shopping, to real customer surveys, contact center solutions and social media monitoring. Its solutions enable brands to identify the actions required at the store level to increase customer loyalty and improve financial performance. Market Force was named one of Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies in 2011. For more information, visit http://www.marketforce.com.

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