While only 35% of consumers overall reported participating in c-store loyalty programs, 49% of Midwest consumers joined and used the programs, according to Technomic.
The survey found that physical loyalty cards are the most popular method of accessing loyalty rewards across the industry, beating out mobile apps and phone numbers. The only exception to this rule comes with 7-Eleven, where 56% of loyalty program members use a rewards card and 63% use a mobile app, according to Technomic.
7-Eleven revamped its loyalty program over the past two years to focus its rewards around the smartphone. This enabled the chain to implement mobile checkout, mobile ordering and other amenities that now tie directly to the loyalty program. However, consumers who frequent loyalty programs of most chains use physical cards overwhelmingly more than mobile apps. At Speedway, an early pioneer in the c-store loyalty space with its Speedy Rewards program, 84% of loyalty customers use the rewards card, while only 28% use the mobile app.
Those most likely to use mobile apps include young males in urban markets. More than 40% of millennials and 35% of Gen Z c-store consumers have downloaded a c-store’s mobile app, higher than other generations.
Consumers in urban (41%) and suburban (35%) markets are the most likely to download c-store mobile apps. Once consumers have downloaded the apps, most of them (82%) report that they use it at least occasionally. However, 73% of all c-store consumers have never downloaded a c-store mobile app of any kind.
Do you participate in any type of loyalty program for any convenience store?
Most c-store customers do not participate in loyalty programs.
Ray Huff, president of Lakewood, Colo.-based HJB Convenience, owns and manages 18 stores in office buildings in Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Detroit. Most of the locations cater to lawyers and other high-earning office workers, but Huff has noticed an affinity for digital payments among his consumers.
“The urban customer expects technology,” he says. “It’s in their face all the time with Apple, Google, Samsung. Constantly. Adamant.”
Huff describes his customers as “educated and refined” and says they expect an exceptional experience at his stores, both because of their backgrounds and because housing the stores in city office buildings gives the sites a feeling of exclusivity.
As digital payments increase in popularity, the use of hard cash has become less common in Huff’s stores. “We used to take 80% cash. We’re down to about 35%, 38% cash now,” says Huff. “Credit has gone just crazy in our environment. Our cash deposits are next to nil compared to what they used to be.”
HJB uses a mix of loyalty and technology to drive traffic. The chain recently adopted Skip Checkout’s mobile checkout tool to cut down on wait times when lines are long.
The stores employ a phone number-based loyalty program, but they also offer a physical loyalty card. “We give them a tag that we really don’t need,” says Huff. “It’s more for them than it is for us.”