The Surprising Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Where We Buy Gas

In February of 2017, Market Force fielded research about the consumer experiences at gas and convenience stations. Over 11,000 responses were received. We asked a variety of questions—including what determines where they purchase fuel. The answers may surprise you:

Price  77% of consumers rated price as a key component for where to fuel. Price/gallon tends to be very competitive—within a few cents—so filling a ten gallon tank will only save a few quarters. But it still matters, and petro-convenience retailers will continue to pour money into real-time predictive algorithms to set pricing.

Good lighting  Security absolutely plays a role. We judge where to fuel based on whether a site is well lit and maintained and it’s easy to see inside the convenience store.

Fuel quality  The majors like BP, Shell, and Phillips 66 emphasize fuel quality. That matters as 48% of consumers gave it a 5 for importance.

Payment form  Consumers want a no-hassle experience at their petro convenience station. Offering different forms of payment (credit card, cash, a mobile app) can make it easy—but the credit card reader and the app technology had better work.

Easy entry and exits The choice to turn left or right, parking, and getting back out on the highway continue to matter.

In sum, consumers look at price, security, fuel quality, easy ways to pay, and ingress/egress when choosing where to purchase fuel. Brands must pay particular attention to these five items to be an attractive choice in a highly competitive market.

The graph below summarizes consumer ratings of importance for twenty attributes. Each was rated on a 5 point scale, where 1 = not at all important, 5 = very important.

If you’d like to learn more about our research and see the competitive benchmark results for over 30 brands, click here to schedule a briefing. And to see how one of our clients, Phillips 66, partners with Market Force to create great customer experience, watch the video.

Gail Funderburk serves as vertical practice lead for the grocery industry. She works with national grocery chains as well as regional providers, focusing on how to improve same store sales and capture market share in this fiercely competitive industry.

QSR and Fast Casual Restaurants: Your Guest Experience Feedback

In February 2017 Market Force conducted research with restaurant guests about their most recent dining experience at a QSR or fast casual restaurant. Over 11,000 US restaurant guests responded to the research, providing information about their experiences dining at 70 brands in seven different sectors. What did guests have to say?

App adoption has increased markedly. In 2015, only 11% of guests placed an order using an app. In 2017, that increased to 30%. While younger generations have overall higher app usage, the increase in app adoption spanned all age groups. In addition, 31% of all guests paid for their meal using an app.

Overall satisfaction with the dining experience varied widely by sector, with the burger sector having the lowest satisfaction ratings. In this sector, over 1 in 10 guests were dissatisfied with their experience and over 1 in 5 would not recommend the restaurant brand to a friend. In other sectors, about 1 in 10 would not recommend.

In each of the seven sectors, we identified the critical drivers of satisfaction. What matters most differs by sector—but fall into the primary categories of food quality, service speed, staff friendliness, and value received. Our lift models show a typical 80 point difference in satisfaction ratings when drivers are performed poorly vs. well.

Brand level performance is broken out for each critical driver. Brands execute very differently on the drivers—for example, in the chicken sector, 84% of guests gave Chik-fil-A a top box rating of 5 on staff friendliness. The nearest competitor, Raising Cane’s, received a 69%.

The research clearly identifies opportunities for restaurant brands to improve the guest experience—critical to increasing same store comparable sales. To learn more about the research or obtain a copy, please schedule a briefing. To learn more about how Market Force works with brands to improve the guest experience, check out the case studies below.

Five Guys Case Study Mimi's Cafe Case Study El Pollo Loco Case Study

As Chief Strategy Officer, Cheryl aligns Market Force's strategic direction with our clients' strategic objectives. She oversees the North American client base, Analytics and Insights, Winnipeg Operations and Marketing. She has a Ph.D. in social psychology and broad business experience in both private and public companies.​

Quick Service Restaurant | Market Research | Market Force

In-N-Out is favorite for burgers, Chipotle for Mexican food

LOUISVILLE, Colo., March 15, 2017 — A new large-scale consumer study conducted by Market Force Information (Market Force) reveals America’s favorite quick-service restaurant (QSRs) chains in five popular food categories: burgers, Mexican, pizza, chicken and sandwiches. In-N-Out is America’s favorite burger chain, Chipotle ranked first for Mexican food, Marco’s for pizza, Chick-fil-A for chicken and Firehouse Subs for sandwiches.

More than 11,000 consumers were polled for the study, which also reveals consumers’ QSR dining habits, brand preferences and in-restaurant technology use. 

Burgers: In-N-Out Burger is Favorite, McDonald’s Lands at Bottom

In-N-Out fans are known for their fierce loyalty and – in many cases – their pleas for this regional burger chain to bring a location to their town. The noted California-based chain ranked No. 1 in Market Force’s 2017 QSR study, followed by Culver’s and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. On the flip side, Carl’s Jr., Burger King and McDonald’s received the lowest scores among the 13 chains studied.

Graph 1: Favorite QSR Burger Chains

In-N-Out Dominates All Customer Experience Categories

In-N-Out was not only the favorite QSR burger brand overall, but also took the top spot in all eight customer experience categories, including value, food quality, service speed, staff friendliness, cleanliness, atmosphere, healthy options and curb appeal. Five Guys also performed consistently well, ranking second for food quality, service speed, cleanliness and atmosphere. Culver’s similarly landed in the top three in nearly every attribute. Results were based on the study participants’ most recent visit to a given restaurant.

Graph 2: Favorite QSR Burger Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes

Other Burger Category Highlights:

  • 45% visited a burger fast-food or fast-casual restaurant at least 5 times in the previous 90 days
  • 42% used the drive-thru during their most recent visit, and 42% dined in
  • 17% brought children on their most recent visit
  • Steak n’ Shake has the highest awareness for its loyalty program at 20%
  • McDonald’s has the highest mobile app awareness (47%)

Mexican: Chipotle Makes a Comeback, Taco Bueno Slips 

After a rough couple of years that included an e.coli outbreak and a hit to its stock price, Denver-based Chipotle once again leads the Mexican food category, a position it shared with Qdoba in the 2015 study before landing second behind lesser-known Taco Bueno in 2016. Moe’s Southwest Grill took second place this year, while El Pollo Loco ranked third, Qdoba fourth and Taco Cabana fifth.

Graph 3: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains 

Chipotle Leads in Food, Moe’s in Service

Chipotle’s effort to improve its customer experience over the past 18 months is clearly paying off as it managed to earn a top-three rating in every category except value, including taking first place for food quality, cleanliness and curb appeal, and tying for first with Qdoba and Moe’s for service speed, and with El Pollo Loco for healthy options. The study also found Moe’s has the friendliest service and best atmosphere, and Del Taco is the value leader. Taco Bell and Taco John’s lagged across the board.

Graph 4: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes

Other Mexican Category Highlights:

  • 37% of visited a Mexican QSR chain at least five times in the previous 90 days 
  • 31% used the drive-thru during their most recent visit, and 43% dined inside
  • 22% brought children on their most recent visit
  • Qdoba has the highest awareness for its loyalty program with 59%
  • Moe’s edged out Chipotle for awareness of its mobile app with 46% and 41%, respectively

Pizza: Marco’s Get Largest Slice of Votes

In the immensely competitive $44 billion pizza industry, Marco’s Pizza edged out Papa Murphy’s – consumers’ favorite over the past three years – to take the top spot for the first time. Second place went to Papa Murphy’s, third to Pizza Ranch, fourth to Jet’s Pizza and fifth to Papa John’s. [See Graph 5]. Marco’s, a fast-growth chain that is averaging at least one opening every three days, improved 13 percentage points over 2016 to move up two spots in the rankings.

Graph 5: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains

Papa Murphy’s is Healthiest and Tastiest, Pizza Ranch is Most Welcoming

Papa Murphy’s and Pizza Ranch took first and second in every customer experience category. Papa Murphy’s was head and shoulders above the competition for offering healthy options, and ranked highest for value, service speed, food quality and cleanliness. Pizza Ranch was found to have the best atmosphere and curb appeal, as well as the friendliness staff. Marco’s made large gains this year in service and value. 

Graph 6: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes

Other Pizza Category Highlights:

  • 28% visited a pizza chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • Take out (54%) is the most popular way to dine for pizza chain customers
  • 20% of pizza chain customers were dining with children on their most recent visit
  • Pizza Ranch led in loyalty card awareness – 93% of customers know they offer one
  • Domino’s has the greatest awareness for its mobile app – 64% are familiar with it

Chicken: Chick-fil-A Rules Roost for Third Consecutive Year

Chicken is one of the fastest-growing segments in the QSR space, with food that appeals to kids and adults alike. Chick-fil-A was named the chicken chain favorite for the third year straight with a 78% score, while Raising Cane’s ranked second with 70%, and Zaxby’s was a distant third with 61%. El Pollo Loco and Wingstop rounded out the top five, while Bojangles slipped two places from last year to sixth. 

Graph 7: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains

Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s Neck in Neck in Key Attributes

Category-leader Chick-fil-A received the highest scores in every category except healthy options, a top ranking that went to El Pollo Loco for the second year in a row. Raising Cane’s and Zaxby’s had strong scores, ranking second and third in most attributes. KFC tallied the lowest scores for food and atmosphere of the chains studied, as did Wingstop for value and speed.

Graph 8: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains Ranked by Attributes

Other Chicken Category Highlights

  • 30% visited a chicken chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • The majority of customers opted for the drive-thru (38%), followed closely by those who chose to dine in the restaurant (37%)
  • 20% dined with children on their most recent visit
  • Raising Cane’s again led in loyalty card awareness – 29% know they offer one, followed by Chick-fil-A at 18% and Buffalo Wild Wings at 17%
  • Chick-fil-A by far has the highest mobile app awarewess with 46%, followed by Wingstop at 37%

Sandwiches: Firehouse Subs Snags No. 1 Spot, McAllister’s Slips Three Places

Firehouse Subs rose to the top of the heap to be named favorite sandwich chain this year, after placing second in 2016. Jersey Mike’s and Jason’s Deli ranked second and third. McAllister’s, which was the 2016 favorite, came in fourth this year, followed by Wawa and Panera Bread. 

Graph 9: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains

Jimmy John’s Has Fastest Service, Jason’ Deli Has Healthiest Fare

While Firehouse Subs took the top spot in four of the eight customer experience categories, including food quality, cleanliness, friendliness and atmosphere, other brands emerged as winners in the remaining categories. Jason’s Deli ranked highest for healthy options, Jimmy’s John’s for service speed, Wawa for value and McAlister’s Deli for curb appeal. Jersey Mike’s placed behind Firehouse Subs for food quality and, while Panera also fared well in the food-related categories, it was last for value. 

Graph 10: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains Ranked by Attributes

Other Sandwich Category Highlights

  • 33% visited a sandwich chain at least five times in the previous 90 days, a drop of 6 percentage points from last year
  • Customers more often choose take-out in the sandwich category – 48%
  • Only 12% of customers brought children on their most recent visit to a sandwich QSR chain
  • Panera led in loyalty card awareness – 78% know they offer one, up four percentage points from last year
  • Convenience store sandwich chain Wawa has the highest mobile app awareness with 48%, an honor that went to Panera Bread last year

Ordering Up on Tablets is Up

QSR guests are increasingly using technology to place orders at QSRs, with 55% using a smartphone app or tablet at table to do so over the past 90 days, a 39% jump from 2015. Just under half said they prefer to order the old-fashioned way from someone at the counter, a more than 20% decrease from the 70% who reported that they prefer to do so in 2015. 

Graph 11: Use of Tech to Place Orders in 2017 vs. Past Years

In addition, 31% of customers recently used a mobile app or a digital wallet to pay for their QSR meal, up from 23% in 2016 and 19% in 2015.

“We are seeing strong year-over-year trends indicating that the adoption of consumer technology in the QSR industry is increasing dramatically,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. “Recent announcements of QSRs rolling out more kiosks, apps and delivery services should accelerate that adoption even further and have a huge impact on the future of dining out.”

Methodology

For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent QSR experience, and their likelihood to refer that restaurant to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Index score. Only chains that received at least 100 votes and representing 2% or more of votes were analyzed. 

Demographics

The survey was conducted online in January 2017 across the United States. The pool of 11,319 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions. Forty-one percent reported 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.

Learn more about Market Force’s services for the restaurant industry.

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 www.marketforce.com.

 

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Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Fortune Magazine logo

14 March 2017 — You know that Mexican restaurant that had a food safety crisis just over a year ago? Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill may still be down 22% since 12 months earlier, but the company is back to being the top Mexican food joint in the country, according to a recent report from Market Force Information. At least, from the consumer's perspective. 

Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Trends in QSR and Fast Casual

What can we expect from the QSR industry in 2017? A strong and improving economy over the past five years has restarted the restaurant industries’ growth engine. Money is flowing back into the space to fund expansion, growth, M&A, and revitalization initiatives, with Restaurant Brand International’s purchase of Popeyes as the most recent example.

We predict five major trends will help fuel the new growth in the QSR and Fast Casual:

  1. Culinary evolution. We are seeing the emergence of chef-driven fast casual concepts like Calexico, Larkburger, and Slap Fish. These culinary pioneers are pushing consumers into a wide variety of options that embrace themes of sustainability, farm to table, nutrition, and serving size proportions all while delivering exciting new flavor profiles. Hyper-local produce with onsite vegetable and herb gardens will become more prevalent, and craft sodas will become a new beverage category.
  2. Mobility and delivery services. Diners are far more likely to use mobile and delivery services to fit prepared food into their days. This opens up competition from fast casual, casual dining, and meal preparation services. Having the food you want when you want it has become the norm, and delivery from services such as Eat24, UberEATS and Grubhub have changed the way consumers connect with their favorite restaurants. Simply being conveniently available can give you an edge to claw back a few incremental visits from your valued guests.
  3. Technology advances. Apps will become increasingly important for choosing where to eat, ordering food and paying. Our new 2017 QSR research shows that adoption and use of restaurant apps has increased across all age categories, with about one-third of all consumers using apps to order and pay for food. In addition, we see increased usage of kiosks and tabletop technology.  
  4. Intense competition. There is more competition than ever for diners’ wallet share.  When faced with so much choice, many consumers are spreading their visits across a wider array of brands to diversify their experiences. In an attempt to capture as much revenue as possible, restaurants are battling back by offering meal solutions for more dayparts and snacks between meals, bolstering beverage options, and increasing their menu complexity. All of these measures create pressure within the four walls that can have the consequence of slower service and failure to meet operational standards. Operators must balance retaining consumer interest without falling into the complexity trap.
  5. Investment in CX. In the next two weeks, we’ll be sharing more information about our just-completed 2017 QSR/Fast Casual industry research. Brands invest heavily in customer experience (CX) initiatives to ensure locations deliver against the brand standards, delight their customers and grow their same store sales comps. Who’s winning the CX game? Watch for our breakout of brands that have won their customers’ loyalty in this extremely competitive space.  

Check out 2016 QSR summary infographics for these categories, and check back with us later this month for 2017 results.

Burger
Chicken
Pizza
Mexican
Sandwich
Coffee & Bakery
Frozen Desserts

eMarketer on What Makes Consumers Shop for Groceries Digitally

17 February 2017 — Luxury retailer Nordstrom has been in the headlines this month after its decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s fashion label. The move sparked an angry tweet from President Trump and boycott threats from Trump supporters, but a recent Market Force survey showed the upscale emporium is well-positioned to weather the storm.

Date: Friday, February 17, 2017

10 February 2017 — A recent consumer survey found that MAC and Clinique tied for the No. 1 spot as the most-loved beauty brands. Research group Market Force surveyed nearly 8,000 consumers across the U.S., ranging in age from 18 to 65 and among all income levels, and found that those two brands each got 13% of the total vote. Find out who the real winner is.

Date: Friday, February 10, 2017
Customer satisfaction survey of apparel retailers

Annual retail study also uncovers top shoe brands, and trends in consumer confidence, wearables and e-commerce

LOUISVILLE, Colo., Feb. 16, 2017 — Nordstrom’s fan base is as fervent as ever. For the fifth time in a row, Nordstrom ranked as the nation’s favorite fashion retailer in an annual retail industry study conducted by Market Force Information (Market Force). Market Force polled over 10,000 consumers for the study, which ranks top fashion retailers, reveals retail technology trends and looks at spending plans and habits.

Dillard’s and T.J. Maxx Climb Higher in Rankings

Nordstrom, which has built a reputation for incomparable customer service, ranked first among the retailers studied with a score of 64%, up 6% from 2016. Dillard’s made even larger strides from last year, gaining 16% percentage points to rank second with 54%, and was closely trailed by off-price retailer T.J. Maxx, which earned a 53% score. Ann Taylor and Nordstrom Rack landed toward the top of the rankings after not making the cut last year, tying with Kohl’s for fourth place. 

Graph 1: Favorite Fashion Retailers 

Nordstrom Top for Value, Dillard’s for Creating Full Looks

In the attributes that set one retailer apart from the others, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor and Dillard’s all performed exceedingly well. Overall-winner Nordstrom ranked first for value, atmosphere and ease of finding items, while Dillard’s took the No. 1 spots for creating a look and finding correct sizes. Ann Taylor landed in the top three in all of these categories. T.J. Maxx and Ross were called out for merchandise selection, and American Eagle has the fastest checkout speeds. 

Graph 2: Fashion Retailers Ranked by Attributes

Graph 3: Fashion Retailers Ranked by Additional Attributes

Sizing up Sales Support

Despite the fact that sales assistance is shown to boost satisfaction and sales, less than half (42%) of consumers report being helped by an associate during their last shopping trip. Lane Bryant’s and Nordstrom’s associates assisted customers most often, while Target and T.J. Maxx shoppers received the least help.

Graph 4: Sales Associate Effectiveness by Retailer

“Sales associates are the front-line representatives for retailers, and how they engage with customers can make or break the shopping experience and impact sales,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force Information. “The research shows that 90% of customers who were assisted by a sales associate bought something. When customers were not assisted, only 82% made a purchase. That 8% difference in conversion rate is a key reason why fashion retailers need to invest in their sales staff.”

Confidence Levels and Shopping Behaviors

Consumer confidence is high, with 40% believing the economy will strengthen in the next year, whereas 31% think it will weaken and 28% think it will stay the same. That said, approximately 70% of consumers expect to spend the same amount on apparel and footwear this year compared to last, and just 11% plan to spend more.

Graph 5: Consumer Confidence and Spending Plans

Currently, people are shopping for clothes rather frequently, and brick-and-mortar stores remain relevant to fashion consumers. The study found 80% have shopped at one of their favorite retailers’ physical stores at least once in the past 90 days, and more than half have shopped at least three times in the past 90 days. Value is by far biggest deciding factor in choosing where to shop, followed by service, atmosphere and the ability to purchase merchandise on a retailer’s website.

Wearables for Fitness and Fashion

Lots of consumers are donning wearables, but not all types are equally desirable. Market Force found 39% of respondents own a wearable device, with the highest adoption among those under age 45. Health & fitness is the overwhelming reason for owning one (cited by 78%), staying connected to phones and other devices was second, and adding style was third.

The most widely owned wearable devices are health & fitness trackers, and the most coveted are smartwatches. Smart eyewear and jewelry is seemingly less popular. In fact, while 36% own a fitness tracker and 12% own a smartwatch, less than 2% own smart eyewear or smart jewelry, and relatively few are interested in these devices.

Graph 6: Adoption of Wearable Devices

American Eagle Soars in E-Commerce

In the past 90 days, 42% of consumers visited their favorite retailer’s website and 68% made a purchase. The most purchased merchandise online was casual clothing, shoes and accessories. Practically no one reported buying items such as perfume, cosmetics or gift cards online. Respondents reported visiting Nordstrom’s, Macy’s and American Eagle’s sites the most, and making the most online purchases from American Eagle, H&M and Kohl’s. 

Graph 7: E-Commerce Visits and Purchases

Three-quarters do not interact with their favorite fashion retailer online, but when they do, Facebook is preferred. Lane Bryant customers tend to be more interactive with the brand.

Nike Swooshes To Top of Shoe Rankings

In the growing U.S. footwear market, where annual spending tops $29 billion, Market Force found Nike is consumers’ favorite retailer. Sketchers, which ranked first in 2016, fell to second, followed by DSW Shoes, Foot Locker and ALDO. 

Graph 8: Favorite Footwear Retailers

Out of the attributes studied, Nike ranked first for store atmosphere and ability to find the correct size. Payless Shoe Source led in value and checkout speed, but faltered in many of the other categories. Foot Locker rated highest for selection and ease of finding product needed.

Methodology

For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent fashion retailer experience, and their likelihood to refer the brand to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score. Only retailers with at least 100 locations were included.

Survey Demographics

The survey was conducted online in December 2016 across the United States. There was an overall pool of 10,714 respondents covering all four U.S. Census regions. Within the survey pool, 7,241 reported shopping for fashion at a favorite retailer within the past 90 days, and 5,494 reported shopping for shoes within the past six months. There was a broad spectrum of income levels, with 54% indicating incomes of over $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 75% were women and 25% were men.

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 www.marketforce.com.

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017
Market Force's 2017 customer satisfaction survey of apparel retailers

9 February 2017 — President Trump isn’t about to shop Nordstrom any time soon, yet for many Americans nationwide, the retailer remains their favorite store. Nordstrom’s popularity is underscored in a just-released retail survey of 10,714 adults in all four U.S. census regions conducted in December by Market Force Information. For the fifth year in a row, Nordstrom ranked as the nation’s favorite fashion retailer in the annual survey, winning on service, ease of shopping, ambience and for being a high-end brand with value, despite recent financial results indicating some challenges at Nordstrom’s full-line doors.

Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017
Customer satisfaction survey in Club Industry

25 January 2017 — Twenty-five percent of gym members are not happy with their health clubs, according to a Market Force survey. Members who were "very satisfied" (meaning they gave it a five-star rating) with their health club were 2.7 times more likely to recommend their gym than those who were "satisfied" with their club (meaning they gave it a four-star rating). Find out who ranked the highest.

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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