Where Do C-Stores Rate on Loyalty Programs? (Infographic)

General Mills research offers channel breakout on consumer participation

General Mills Loyalty (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store Petroleum)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Convenience store shoppers are avid members of loyalty programs, though participation in c-store programs lags that of the grocery and drugstore channels, according to two General Mills Convenience & Foodservice research projects focusing on loyalty programs across retail channels to identify ways that c-store retailers can build programs that resonate with their shoppers.

A group of 348 c-store food and beverage shoppers, ages 18 to 64, participated in a nationwide online survey in Jan. and Feb. 2014. And a group of 382 c-store food and beverage shoppers, ages 18 to 64, participated in a nationwide online idea-generation exercise to develop an "ideal c-store loyalty program." The qualitative study was also completed in Jan. and Feb. 2014.

The research found:

  • 89% currently participate in some type of loyalty/reward program across a variety of channels and categories.
  • 64% participate in a grocery loyalty program.
  • 52% participate in a drugstore/pharmacy loyalty program.
  • 35% shoppers participate in a c-store or gas station loyalty program.

Shoppers who participate in a c-store/gas station loyalty program are mostly satisfied; however, there is an opportunity to increase the percentage of those who are truly passionate about participation (those who are "very satisfied"):

  • 35% say they are "very satisfied" with their c-store/gas station loyalty program.
  • 34% say they are "somewhat satisfied."
  • 31% are neutral or "unsatisfied."

What makes a loyalty program appealing? When shoppers talked about what they like best and their "ideal" c-store program, their feedback focused on three areas:

1. Incent Trial: An easy signup process and immediate reward encourages shoppers to join. Seconds count in a c-store visit, so making signup as quick as possible is important. Elements should include simple, speedy signup; an incentive to join (such as an instant discount or freebie); and a reward system that is easily understood.

2. Make it Worthwhile: Shoppers like to see benefits that are easily attainable, without a significant change in their current behavior, with points for things they're already buying. Elements should include rewards provided on a regular basis and regular reminders through receipts, cashiers or email that keep the program top of mind.

3. Bring a Smile: Make the program fun. Shoppers appreciate surprises and customized offers. They also look forward to higher reward levels when they spend more in the store. Elements should include surprise deals; personalized offers based on purchase history; and exclusive rewards for the most dedicated shoppers.

"Convenience store shoppers are familiar with loyalty programs from grocery and drug stores, but fewer shoppers participate in c-store loyalty programs. There is definitely an opportunity to expand," said Chris Quam, consumer insights manager at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice. "In keeping with the speedy nature of a c-store transaction, signup needs to be fast and friction-free. Once shoppers have joined and start participating, they will expect to see the benefits of patronizing the store on a regular basis so rewards need to be kept within reach to maintain their loyalty."

The General Mills Convenience & Foodservice division serves the convenience, foodservice and bakery industries by providing branded products with culinary, nutrition education and marketing resources to help operators succeed. Its brand portfolio includes Big G Cereals, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Gold Medal, Pillsbury, Chex Mix, Bugles and Gardetto's.

Based in Minneapolis, the division generates $2 billion in annual sales.