I Just Discovered I Have Loyalty to a Gas Station

Gas stations and grocery stores have a lot in common in terms of how consumers shop them. The most critical selection criteria is locational convenience. Think about the grocery store you shop. Do you travel across town for it? Or is it right around the corner? Where my family lives in Charlotte there are three Harris Teeter grocery stores within just a few miles of my home. And they have been our go-to grocer for years. But a few months ago Publix came to town and overnight my wife became a Pubix loyalist. She actually drives past Harris Teeter now to do her weekly stock up trip. She grew up in Florida where Publix is a dominant grocer and she loves the shopping experience (and thinks the pricing is better).

Until recently I gave little thought to the gas station I used. If I was low on gas, I’d just pull into the most convenient station. But my behavior is starting to change based on some new players entering our market. QuickTrip, pictured above, and Sheetz now provide me a reason to seek out their locations. The in-store experience these chains offer is impressive: made-to-order foods, full-service espresso and smoothie bars, clean bathrooms, and amazingly helpful and friendly associates. Sheetz even has touch screen kiosks to order.

As someone who work in retail marketing and in-store design, I tend to geek out on this kind of stuff. But it clearly demonstrates how any retail brand – from grocery to gas stations – can earn genuine loyalty if they stand for something and commit to breaking from the fuzzy center so many retailers find themselves in. I have developed a genuine emotional affinity for these two gas stations (does that make me weird?) and love to see innovation happening in the most unexpected places.

Learn more about my agency Theory House and our expertise in retail marketing and in-store design at TheoryHouse.com.

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