It’s one thing for travelers to pop into a convenience store for gasoline, food, beverages, and restrooms. It’s quite another to make the convenience store itself the main destination thanks to creative social media marketing.
And yet, that’s exactly what some of the country’s top c-store locations have become, with their positive reputations only growing through the powerful vehicle of social media.
Standout convenience store marketing transcends geographic limitations by smartly captivating audiences on social networks. We turned to the data to discover how best-in-class performers remain top of mind among target audiences, and reveal the social media trends and strategies that catapult them to the convenience store marketing hall of fame. Here are our findings.
The Convenience Store Top 20 Market Landscape
For our analysis, we evaluated 20 convenience stores profiled in the 2020 C-Store Digital Ranking and rated their social media performance relative to audience, activity, engagement, and top content over a six-month period. We focused our assessment on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
We surveyed top-performing convenience stores on social media between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Using this data and a weighted formula, we generated an overall engagement ranking for each c-store. The top-ranked convenience stores on social media have high engagement rates with average or better audience size and posting volumes.
We define engagement as measurable interaction on social media posts, including likes, comments, favorites, retweets, shares, and reactions. Engagement rate is defined as the total engagement divided by the number of followers.
As you can see below, Kwik Trip is the front-runner, edging out the competition by outperforming in overall rank and score, as well as claiming the top spot for Facebook and Instagram respectively. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and Kum & Go weren’t far behind in overall rankings, clutching second and third place in our landscape. Our content deep dive revealed the reasons why these brands dominate the convenience store marketing landscape.
|Overall Rank||Convenience Store||Rank||Rank||Rank|
|2||Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores||2||4||6|
|3||Kum & Go||9||2||3|
|8||Casey’s General Store||7||9||10|
|11||Pilot Flying J||5||18||5|
|12||United Dairy Farmers||10||6||13|
|17||The Spinx Company||18||16||10|
While Kwik Trip may be in the lead, other c-store brands deploy notable marketing strategies to firmly put their names on the map. Here are a couple of trend takeaways we observed.
Top Trend #1: Fan-favorite partnerships for a cause
To surprise and delight fans, top-performing convenience stores join forces with powerful brands to create unbeatable partnerships. For example, Kum & Go and Budweiser recently launched their first-ever merchandise collaboration: a limited-edition T-shirt and tank top.
The clever campaign is branded as “World’s Best Buds,” which is eye-catching and humorous enough that target audiences for both brands would reasonably want to acquire these pieces for their wardrobe. That said, it’s also a powerful corporate social responsibility story for both companies. As part of Budweiser’s partnership with Folds of Honor, all proceeds from the sales will go towards educational scholarships to families of fallen and disabled soldiers. Using social media to promote these products and the program at large earned significant engagement, to the tune of 4.6K likes on Twitter.
Similarly, Ohio-based convenience store United Dairy Farmers partners with USL Championship soccer club FC Cincinnati to raise awareness for the team’s philanthropic arm, the FC Cincinnati Foundation.
By posting mouth-watering product shots on social media, United Dairy Farmers encourages customers to stop in for a scoop of Caramel Pretzel Kick ice cream. A percentage of each sale goes to the FC Cincinnati Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of children in the Greater Cincinnati area through the game of soccer.
This online promotion worked well for UDF with a 4.34% engagement rate by follower, boosting awareness and sales for both United Dairy Farmers and the Foundation. These types of posts are popular among fans because customers can score a sweet treat while also supporting their local team and community.
Top Trend #2: Going the extra mile during COVID-19
By the time COVID-19 swept through the United States in March, increased e-commerce consumption by end consumers required more mid-mile transportation. As truck drivers delivered vital goods to families across the country, Oklahoma-based Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores wanted to express their gratitude.
Teaming up with vendors, Love’s took to social to offer truck drivers a $5 coupon as a token of appreciation to be used at any Love’s for in-store purchases. In addition to simply providing goodwill during an unprecedented pandemic, Love’s also used social to incentivize professional drivers to stop at their locations over competitors. Especially as the coronavirus pandemic created a sense of shared difficult circumstances and communities supported one another, this message was particularly timely and well-received at the time of posting.
While the pandemic increased demand for certain industries, others were not as fortunate. Practically overnight, many people quickly saw reduced hours and lost jobs across the world. 7-Eleven USA immediately took to social media to promote current job openings, suggesting that people facing reduced hours at work could find secondary or new employment with 7-Eleven. The brand’s Facebook post (which was likely boosted with social media advertising) earned over 73,000 positive reactions and many comments thanking the company for providing opportunities during the pandemic.
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Kwik Trip is the Landscape Leader in Total Social Engagement
In theory, one wouldn’t think a convenience store would inspire brand loyalty. They’re all pretty interchangeable, no? Gas, check. Food and drink, check. Clean restrooms, check (well, if you’re lucky). Ask any Kwik Trip enthusiast, and you’ll soon learn not all convenience stores are created equal.
With more than 700 locations across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, family-owned Kwik Trip is a favorite among Midwesterners and has the social media track record to prove it. After all, their 964K total engagements across all channels are head and shoulders above the landscape average of 126K.
Kwik Trip really knows their audience
Affectionately known as KT by loyal patrons, Kwik Trip knows what its fandom wants and serves on-brand content to both delight followers and fan the subculture flames. Best known for its friendly customer service, clean restrooms, high-quality food, and signature catchphrase, “See you next time!”, KT is more than a convenience store, but a place customers identify as part of their lifestyle.
KT could teach a master class in social engagement with one fundamental takeaway: Prioritize getting to know and listening to your customer base.
The brand is intimately familiar with its audience. They know fans will go out of their way to bypass competitors, even if that means sacrificing the convenience of other store options along the way. They know customers crave products they can’t get anywhere else, whether it be Kwikery cookies, pothole pizzas, glazers, or roller dogs. They know fans have a strong allegiance to the brand and a competitive spirit, believing KT to the superior choice on the road. Most of all, they know they talk about their KT passion among friends in person and on social media.
All of this means KT can confidently post jokes and shared sentiments they know will resonate with their fans. Just look at this top performing tweet with a 3.4K total engagements and a 6.63% engagement rate by follower.
Nice try, Chicago.
The approach, which may seem simple and even random to an outsider, works well for the audience that truly “gets” KT.
Inspiring the audience to share
As evidenced in the example above, KT consistently uses a witty, deadpan tone of voice. This personifies the brand, turning the convenience store into a familiar voice that customers often agree with, respect, and seek out. By sharing relatable points of view, the audience is invited to join the conversation, resulting in fans flooding the comments section with opinions and stories of their own.
For example, this humorous post triggered nearly 700 comments and 700 shares, as well as a slew of meaningful user-generated content.
The clever quip quickly turned nostalgic as readers shared funny and endearing stories of personal date nights past and present. By creating a space for followers to feel comfortable sharing, the brand strengthens its bond with consumers.
Humorous Kum & Go Crushes It on Twitter
Overwhelmingly, we found the convenience stores with the most effective online presence use an authentic and humorous approach to social content and engagement. After all, liking or following a company, especially a convenience store, is inherently kind of odd, right? Therefore infusing content with witty humor is the best way to make a corporate presence something worth talking about. It also goes without saying that the goal of any social media effort is to capture the target audience’s attention. If a brand posts great content and no one responds, something is wrong.
Iowa-based Kum & Go, another family-owned operation with 400 stores in 11 states, does not have this problem. The brand has some of the highest engagement rate by follower on Twitter in the landscape, with the average number of interactions per follower clocking in at 2.3%. Kum & Go’s average engagement rate by follower is exceptionally high when compared to other brands on our list who are falling behind with a median of just 0.13%.
With a name like Kum & Go, you definitely can’t take yourself too seriously. Luckily, Kum & Go has established an engaging and exciting presence by using creative and sometimes crude humor to successfully get the Twitterverse’s attention. Exhibit A:
It’s silly, it’s fun, it makes people want to RT. For reference, this tweet has a 12.2% engagement rate by follower, which is approximately five times greater than their average tweet.
High engagement rates now create higher engagement rates later
Much like when a stand-up comedian interacts with audience members during the show, Kum & Go applies the same philosophy to Twitter. People can either follow Kum & Go as a passive spectator, or engage to truly be part of the community. Many choose to engage.
Recently, Kum & Go ran a campaign asking followers to share their astrological sign and favorite food in exchange for a customized convenience store name. Kum & Go actually replied to nearly every single person for ten hours straight. The significant time investment pays dividends: the more frequently they earn engagement on the “fun” tweets, the more likely they are to get a similar level of engagement on more traditional business messages related to corporate social responsibility, product marketing, and news announcements.
The moral of the convenience store marketing story is: superior brand development, memorable products and service, and diehard customer loyalty directly contribute to putting top convenience stores on the map (both literally and figuratively). Those with the strongest points of differentiation, both offline and online, often attract loyal, lifetime customers; and reaching them through social media could not be more convenient.
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Did we miss your favorite convenience store, or do you just want to tell us what your convenience store name is? Let us know on Twitter!