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CSP Magazine

Opinion: How to Create a Mobile Path to Purchase

Convenience stores have become a weekly or biweekly destination for most Americans. But with the popularity of payment at the pump, the need to walk into the store has greatly diminished. This leaves a distant gap between business owners and customers, and therefore decreased sales of other products. This trend is forcing c-stores to further market their products and offerings to customers who don’t routinely leave the pump.

A great way to reach consumers is to meet them where they already are when at the pump: on their mobile phones. The average American spends 4.7 hours on a smartphone every day, according to research firm Informate Mobile Intelligence. Therefore, engaging consumers via mobile is a no-brainer.

While there are a multitude of mobile marketing tools available—including mobile apps, beacons and social-media campaigns—a good starting place for any business is text codes.

The Basics

A text code, also known as an SMS short code, uses a keyword and a five- to six-digit phone number to engage individuals and invite them to opt into a text program. To do this, customers must send a text message with a specific keyword to the designated number (e.g., “SNACKS” to 55555), informing the SMS provider in which campaign the consumer wants to participate. The consumer then will receive a message confirming his or her participation, and several options can be provided from there:

  • A link to a digital coupon to redeem inside the store
  • Multimedia messages such as videos and photos
  • A link directing them to a branded microsite to access the stores’ available information, such as product demos, promotional offers and loyalty rewards

While there are several reasons c-stores should deploy text codes, two key aspects are their cost effectiveness and high penetration rate.

Text codes have an extremely high market-penetration rate.

First, sending a text message to those subscribed to your list is extremely inexpensive (think a few cents per message). On the flip side, a majority of consumers have unlimited texting plans, or at least are allowed a few hundred messages per month. While convenience stores should not send daily messages because it might cause patrons to unsubscribe, sending a few each month is appropriate as a gentle reminder of the benefits of participating in the text program.

Also, text codes have an extremely high market-penetration rate. Nearly all mobile phones today have text-messaging capabilities, making it the most widely used basic feature. This allows retailers to broaden their market reach to more than just those customers who have a smartphone. With 90% of Americans owning a cellphone, according to Pew Research Center, this ensures that nearly everyone is capable of receiving a store’s messages. No other mobile marketing tactic can match this reach.

Getting Started

A plethora of options exist for deploying a text-code campaign to your customer base. Here are just a few examples to get the wheels turning:

Deals of the day. Display signs on gas pumps that have a call to action for guests to receive a special offer, such as half off the price of a gallon of milk. This is a great way to encourage impulse buys, because the customer may not have thought to go into the convenience store to grab items on their way home.

Contests and giveaways. Retailers can also use text codes to enter patrons into free giveaways or raffles to create a fun element while engaging with the brand. People love free items, and the chance to win “free drinks for a month” or “a tank of gas on us” will incentivize guest participation and leave a positive lasting impression.

Guest feedback. Remember to get creative beyond offering various special offers throughout the pumps and in store. Consider using this technology to interact with customers in a fun, nonpromotional way to gain guest feedback. For example, ask what new flavor of frozen carbonated beverage should be offered next, or if there’s any particular food item they would like to see in the store.

To be a part of your customers’ purchase-making mindset, convenience stores must begin marketing in a way that moves them beyond the pump. Consider using text codes and you’re sure to not only see more guests in your store, but also begin building a loyal customer base.


Andrew Levi is the founder, chairman, CEO and CTO of Blue Calypso, a Richardson, Texas-based provider of location-enabled mobile engagement. Reach the company at [email protected].

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