New Market Force Study Finds Kwik Trip and BJ’s Are Consumers’ Favorite Places to Fuel Up

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With focus on fresh food, convenience stores eating into quick-service restaurant business

sheetz kwik trip quiktrip wawa

Graph 2: Favorite Gas Stations/Convenience Stores

Gas stations and convenience stores must excel in areas beyond price, such as offering multiple payment options or specialty foods

Kwik Trip and BJ’s Wholesale Club are consumers’ favorite places to fill up their gas tanks, according to a new study by Market Force Information® (Market Force), a leader in customer experience management. More than 10,000 consumers were polled for the annual study, which ranks gas stations in two separate categories – traditional gas stations and convenience stores, and grocery stores and big-box retailers with gas stations. It also uncovers trends in food, technology and loyalty at these establishments.

Market Force found that, even though most motorists still fuel up at traditional gas stations, grocers and big-box brands continue to be popular choices for their low prices and convenience. For their recent trip to the pump, 71% visited a gas station, while 28% chose a grocer or big-box retailer. Additionally, while fuel prices are important, they’re not the only factor influencing a consumer’s choice of where to fill up – payment options, fuel quality, and the ease of entering and exiting are other key motivators. [Graph 1].

Kwik Trip, QuikTrip and Wawa Favorite Gas Station/C-Store Brands
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent fueling experience and their likelihood to refer that brand to others. The results were averaged to attain a score on the Composite Loyalty Index.

After not earning enough votes in 2015 to make the list, Kwik Trip overtook Wawa this year to rank No. 1. QuikTrip and Wawa tied for second with 68%, and Sheetz, RaceTrac and Speedway rounded out the top five. [Graph 2]. Interestingly, the top five brands are all regional and corporate-owned. Phillips 66 is the highest-ranking national brand for the second consecutive year, earning a 51%.

Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip (known as Kwik Star in Iowa) operates more than 400 locations in the Midwest and is undergoing rapid growth. It aims to be a fill-in grocery option, offering fresh meat and even making its own baked goods, dairy products and snack foods. It appears to be a winning strategy, as consumers are increasingly turning to convenience stores for fresh food options.

QuikTrip Delivers on Service, Murphy Wins on Price
Market Force also evaluated how well fuel brands deliver on a spectrum of attributes. QuikTrip led in three of the categories, including ease of entering and exiting the property, cashier service and having cleaning supplies at the fueling station. Kwik Trip took the top spot for appearance and merchandise selection. Chevron ranked highest for fuel quality and Murphy was voted the fuel price-leader. Wawa also performed consistently well. [Graph 3].

“The brands are tightly clustered in nearly every category, which shows just how fiercely competitive this industry is,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. “With drivers having so many options to choose from, gas stations and convenience stores must excel in areas beyond price, such as offering multiple payment options or specialty foods to attract loyal, repeat customers.”

Customers Hungry for Fresh, Custom Food From Convenience Stores
With everything from freshly made salads to built-to-order hoagies, convenience stores and gas stations have upped their foodservice offerings, and are stealing market share from quick-service restaurants. Market Force found that 23% of customers bought a fresh food item during their last visit and 89% were satisfied with the quality. Wawa, Kwik Trip, Casey’s, Sheetz and QuikTrip led in fresh food purchases and all had relatively high marks for food quality satisfaction. [Graph 4].

BJ’s Ousts Costco as Fueling Favorite Among Grocers, Big-Box Retailers
In the grocery and big-box category, BJ’s Wholesale Club took the No. 1 spot in this year’s study, an honor that went to Costco in 2015. Fellow wholesale club Costco ranked second, Kroger ranked third and Sam’s Club dropped a spot to fourth. [Graph 5]. Competition is tight between the top two, with only a 2 percentage point difference on the Composite Loyalty Index.

Costco Has Best Fuel and Best Prices
When Market Force looked at the attributes that drive customer satisfaction, Costco led in three of the five categories, including fuel price, fuel quality and appearance. However, it lagged behind for ease of entering and exiting and availability of cleaning tools at the fueling area. [Graph 6].

Motorists Using Apps to Find Cheap Gas
As in 2015, 10% said they’ve used a gas/convenience store mobile app. App use has increased since last year among 45-54 year olds and decreased among 25-34 year olds. GasBuddy, which uses crowdsourcing to find the cheapest gas prices in an area, is by far the most popular app (cited by 59%). However, one-third reported using the retailer’s branded app. [Graph 7].

Price was the predominant driver for app usage. When asked which features they have used within a gas app, gas price comparison led with 71%, followed by finding a gas station and reporting gas prices. [Graph 8].

Survey Demographics
The survey was conducted online in March 2016 across the United States. The pool of 10,535 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 53% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 73% were women and 27% were men.

Follow Market Force’s Convenience Store & Gas Station Insights page on LinkedIn for the latest insights, timely discussions, commentary and industry news.

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information® provides location-level measurement solutions that help businesses protect their brand reputation, delight customers and make more money. Solutions include customer experience surveys, mystery shopping and contact center data integrated on one technology and analytics platform. Founded in 2005, Market Force has a growing global presence, with offices in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Spain. It serves over 350 clients that operate multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions and entertainment. More information can be found at http://www.marketforce.com.

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