3 Ways to Plan a Successful Beverage Program

Strategies for boosting participation

Whirley cups

Brought to you by Whirley-DrinkWorks!

For convenience-store retailers, creating a strategic beverage program that satisfies both customers and retailers can be a challenge. That’s not to say it’s impossible, though. By watching trends and working to implement and promote programs that drive engagement, retailers can build a successful beverage program that drives traffic.

Expand loyalty programs

Loyalty programs within c-stores may not be top of mind with beverages, but in reality, when consumers feel rewarded for their patronage, they’re likely to keep coming back.

“Consumer research and industry best practices indicate that tying a refill mug LTO offer to an existing loyalty program can not only increase participation in the program, but also drive frequency and market basket,” says Jacqui Cintron, vice president of marketing at Whirley-DrinkWorks. “It’s a new way to rethink refill promotions, but requires category and marketing support to be successful.”

In other words, loyalty programs can help increase beverage sales, but customers need to know they exist. Keeping customers engaged on social media, putting up pump toppers and other outside signage to educate customers about the programs, and offering crew incentives for upselling the program to consumers are all great ways to expand loyalty programs’ engagement.

“It’s also important to understand what success looks like before you roll out,” says Dawn Boulanger, vice president of marketing for Tri Star Energy. “What’s the objective? What do you think success will look like and then how do you measure it? Make sure that everybody understands what the objective of the product is before you roll it out.”

Coffee: Breakfast and beyond

Of course coffee sales are strongest during the morning, but there is potential to expand sales throughout the day. Cintron says, “There is an opportunity to promote both hot and cold coffee specialty drinks, bounce back coupons or refill mug loyalty app offers to drive snack occasion visits.

According to Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, 61% of consumers purchase some type of coffee beverage for a snack at least occasionally, so expanding offerings beyond breakfast and morning hours can be an area of opportunity.

Consumers might be enticed by upgraded coffee options like cold-brew or nitro coffee, as well as seasonal LTOs or flavors. And, because those beverages are premium or higher quality, they can be sold at a higher cost. Jim Cox, retail development manager for CITGO, says, “I’m a firm believer that coffee drinkers know the difference between a cheap coffee and a really good coffee, and they will pay for the better coffee.”

Beverage trends bubbling up

To keep consumers coming in for drinks that aren’t just their regular coffee, retailers should keep on top of trends and continually offer new products. Cold brew is gaining popularity rapidly, and frozen drinks can also be a great hook.

Greer Palmer, director of cold dispensed beverages for Circle K North America, says, “I look at the more upscale concepts that are growing, such as Taco Bell Cantina, and they have a whole frozen wall—they really build their whole store around frozen dispensed beverages. I think that’s really interesting and we could learn a lot from them.”

Finally, consider offering healthy drinks such as dispensed protein beverages. Tara Anderson, category sales manager for Holiday Stationstores, says, “People, especially millennials, want something different. They want something that feels kind of cool and a little bit healthier.” Nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers ages 18-34 say that availability of healthy beverages drives their decision on where to purchase a drink, according to Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report, so for retailers who want to appeal to younger consumers’ preferences, offering healthy options could be very worthwhile.