Omnicom Commerce Group Releases New Retail Research

The study explores proximity and convenience-based retail in the post-COVID world

NEW YORK, June 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Omnicom Commerce Group (OCG) today announced its foundational research study on proximity and convenience-based retail entitled: “The Future Of Now:  Convenience/Quick Stop Shopping In A Post-COVID World”.  The report provides valuable insights into convenience shopping, helping retailers and brands understand how convenience store shoppers are changing their behaviors, how they are doing economically, at work and at school, and what they perceive the future will look like. 

“As the US begins a slow return to a newly defined normal, there has never been a greater opportunity for brands or retailers to permanently reshape behavior,” said Bryan Gildenberg, SVP of Commerce at OCG. “Everyone’s routines have been disrupted and will be disrupted again as the world reopens, offering a massive growth opportunity for c-stores and the brands that sell through them to lock in new shopping trips and routines over the next 12 months. At the same time, unplanned delights will drive both sales growth and profitability gains for this channel as it, and the world, rebounds from the great disruption of 2020.”

Some of the most critical insights from the survey include:

  • Economic Dislocation: During COVID (March 2021), over 40% of convenience store shoppers were on government assistance of some kind, up from 25% pre-COVID.  10% of these shoppers were unemployed in September of 2020, and that number slightly increased in March of 2021. 

Selling to shoppers in deep recovery mode requires a different strategy than the typical “pent-up demand” marketing narrative that dominates most conversations today. This shopper may be trying to resume normally after a time of deep economic struggle and may need affordable treats instead of splurges, value instead of premium experiences.

  • Educational Uncertainty: In March of 2021, over half of all c-store shoppers with children did not anticipate their kids being back in school full-time in the fall, and that appears to be having a significant impact on this shopper’s ability to plan their own return to work/commuting.  

It will be essential for brands to stay hyper-focused and nimble regionally to understand how school is impacting shopper’s plans to return to work and how meal occasions/needs may shift dramatically as these families return to having kids in school full-time. 

  • Travel Reduction: 15% of c-store shoppers stopped going to work during COVID, a massive reduction in trip frequency as 90% of US c-store shoppers typically drive for their commute. About half of the shoppers that stopped going to work anticipate resuming their normal commute, but almost 10% of pre-COVID c-store shoppers may permanently be driving less often. 

As a result, brands must reconsider campaign messaging for these shoppers who kept working out of home through the pandemic. A message of energy or refreshment might need to be positioned differently to shoppers who didn’t have a “work from home” during COVID.  

  • Anticipated Rebound: By a near 2:1 margin, shoppers that anticipated changing their post-pandemic behavior in convenience stores anticipated visiting the stores more often. With half of all c-store shoppers already visiting the store once a week or more, this creates a dependency upon high frequency shoppers. Therefore, to be most effective, brands should focus on engaging and positively disrupting a deeply habitual shopping trip and ensure value is stronger for regular, not occasional, shoppers. 
  • Impulse Driven: Half of all c-store purchasers buy something they weren’t planning to buy when they walk in the store, so even though interruption may be challenging, it is critical to the format’s success. Brands that know convenience know the importance of capitalizing on these unplanned purchases. Creating a balance between meaningful engagement/disruption and clutter is critical for the successful c-store operator going forward. Iconic and clear signage, compelling displays, sharp value communication and shopper paths that promote category visibility will be some of the keys to success. 

The Future of Now research was fielded in two stages to track shopper behavior throughout the pandemic, with the first research performed in September of 2020 and a follow-up survey executed in March 2021 to assess the employment situation, travel habits, children in school situation and meal planning of regular users of these formats, as well as critical insights into how these shoppers shop each format. OCG fielded this survey by partnering with Numerator ( Numerator is a key strategic partner for OCG and a data source that uses its unique data collection mechanisms to derive unique insights into channels that are driven by unplanned purchase and immediate consumption – channels that are notoriously hard to track.

“So much of the conversation around retail and how it has changed during the pandemic has focused on eCommerce and home delivery,” observed Gildenberg. “And yet, we haven’t seen any work that looks at formats that are incredibly dependent on people in motion and exactly how shoppers thought their behavior in these channels had changed and will change as a result of dislocation to those core habits.”

Download the full report at or by visiting OCG’s LinkedIn page.


Numerator polled shoppers on our behalf who had made a verified purchase at a C-Store. The questions were administered via Numerator’s mobile phone apps to those panel members who shopped at a C-store between September 25, 2020 – October 5, 2020. A sample of N=1,050 respondents was generated, 50% of which were households with no children, 50% had at least one child in the house.  For our second wave of fieldwork between February 24, 2021-March 3, 2021, a reduced question set was administered to N=354 of the same respondents in Wave 1. Numerator can recontact specific panel members within a sample, providing tracking capability with the same individuals.

For OCG, Craig Elston from The Integer Group co-authored the final report.


The US Convenience Store Channel is a $255 billion class of trade (National Association of Convenience Stores, April 2021) showing a slight increase in sales last year off of a dramatic reduction in shoppers but an increase in shopper baskets per trip, particularly in tobacco and alcohol categories. Unlike many countries where convenience retail is an urban phenomenon, the US c-store landscape is dominated by drive-up locations in less densely populated cities, suburbs and exurbs, and is a critical source of volume and profitable sales for brands in the beverage, snacks, alcohol and tobacco categories in particular. 


Omnicom Commerce Group (OCG) is an unrivalled community of commerce experts working with brands and retailers to offer best in class consultancy, creativity and capability focused on driving increased conversion and transaction.  OCG’s priority is to address the need for innovative multi-channel commerce expertise in the rapidly evolving world of retailing and shopping and at our core are four individual award-winning commerce agencies – Haygarth, The Integer Group, TPN and TracyLocke – employing over 2,500 people across 19 markets. 


Numerator is a data and tech company bringing speed and scale to market research. Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Numerator has more than 2,000 employees worldwide. The company blends proprietary data with advanced technology to create unique insights for the market research industry that has been slow to change. The majority of Fortune 100 companies are Numerator clients.

SOURCE Omnicom Commerce Group