Case Study

Retail Case Study: Suncor


A global producer of energy products since 1967, Suncor is Canada’s premier integrated energy company. Operating under the Petro-Canada banner, Suncor has a network of 1,500 service stations across Canada.


Like many retailers in a tight economy, Suncor was challenged to increase sales at its Petro-Canada convenience stores. With 60 percent of the service station locations featuring a convenience store, company officials wanted to learn more about each store’s customers, how they used the outlet and whether the location offered the right mix of convenience and grocery items. What types of merchandise—and store layout—would enhance their experience and increase sales?


To develop a customer-centric solution, Environics Analytics blended local market information with Petro-Canada’s loyalty and transactional data to define what types of motorists frequent which stores. After classifying the customers in each trade area into PRIZM C2 lifestyle segments, EA created target groups of the most common consumers, and then profiled the groups using PRIZMC2 data linked to demographics and survey research from BBM RTS Canada. The portraits of customers and prospects suggested how adapting merchandising approaches to customers’ driving habits could increase sales. Bringing together these varied data sources, the company then devised five different store formats to better reflect the needs of customers in their surrounding trade areas.


The EA analysis identified two core customer groups for Petro-Canada convenience stores. One consisted of time-strapped customers who tended to use stores for quick refreshments, snack purchases and pantry staples such as milk and bread. The other liked to browse while on a break from their busy day, enjoying elaborate coffee displays and seeking more meal-type offerings. But many stores were not aligned with these core groups and lifestyles, according to Bruce Pratt, Senior Advisor of Guest Insights at Petro-Canada. “We realized that we weren’t capitalizing on potential revenue based on who was living in a trade area and how they were using a store,” he says. The marriage of loyalty, transactional and market area data provided a more nuanced portrait of how customers use the stores, and enabled Petro-Canada to tailor store offerings to local customer needs.

Such insights helped Petro-Canada roll out five different store formats across its network of stores, and target email promotions based on values data—“so one group would get a note that recognizes that they’re time-pressured and the other would get one about taking a break in their day,” says Pratt. Early results indicate Petro-Canada sales have increased as a result of the shift from a product-focused format to a more customer-focused product mix. “What we learned is that it’s easier to change your store to suit the guest needs than to get the guests to modify their behaviour,” says Pratt. “Our stores are no longer based on a product-driven model but a customer-centric viewpoint.”