DALLAS -- Convenience stores seem largely immune to the overall decline in brick-and-mortar retail sales, and loyalty programs are playing a big role in the success of c-stores, according to Excentus, a loyalty and marketing technology provider.
J.C. Penney recently announced plans to close 138 stores by the end of summer, and more retailers have already filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2017 so far than in all of 2016, according to a report in TheStreet. Meanwhile, the convenience-store industry saw $10.2 billion in pretax profits in 2016, its third-best year ever, according to NACS.
C-stores are listening to customers and giving them more choices, healthier food and drink options, and compelling loyalty programs, according to Dallas-based Excentus.
Here are four quick tips from the tech firm to build and maintain an effective loyalty program …
1. Short and sweet
Everyone seems busy in today’s world, and one fact of business that c-stores pride themselves on is the ability to get customers in and out of the store quickly. Customers value that fast experience, and c-store loyalty programs should reflect that “in and out” mentality, Excentus said.
Customers want loyalty programs to offer good deals on the brands and products they value. They also want the process of redeeming discounts and deals to be easy and straightforward. It’s important that loyalty programs reflect a store’s ability to get people in and out quickly instead of impede a store’s speed. No one wants to spend precious minutes arguing the minutia of a two-for-one deal with a store clerk.
2. Call the experts
Many shoppers still clip coupons, but today's consumers expect a more modern touch from loyalty programs.
These days it’s all about digital marketing, working with mobile technology and the finer points of customer engagement and loyalty, according to Excentus. The company points to multiple program vendors, outdated technologies and inadequate associate training as details that can lead to unappealing and lackluster loyalty programs.
3. Get the facts
Data is gold, especially when it comes to loyalty. Effective loyalty programs need real-time market data and business intelligence. This is important for two reasons, according to Excentus. One, chains need to know what customers are buying and when in order to offer them deals and discounts that matter to them and to enhance the customer’s interactions with the store. Two, accurate consumer data allows chains to track what works and what doesn’t. Operators can use data to keep their loyalty programs relevant and engaging.
4. Jack of all trades
Effective loyalty programs need to do a lot. They should attract new customers, retain existing ones, encourage higher and more frequent spending, and keep customers coming back instead of going to competitors, according to Excentus. Retailers need programs that are unique to their members and market. This is not a one-size-fits-all operation, so it’s important to choose a loyalty program that's consistent with existing customer behavior.