Loyalty: Different Things to Different Retailers

80% of major chains offer a program, each with unique objectives
Photograph by W. Scott Mitchell

NEW ORLEANS — More than 80% of the top 200 convenience-store chains in the United States offer a loyalty program. And the programs vary as much as the business models that govern the c-store retail landscape.

In a category track during CSP’s 2020 Convenience Retailing University in New Orleans, Mitch Morrison, CSP’s vice president of retailer relations, discussed three mobile loyalty programs with very different objectives.

  • Break Time’s MyTime Rewards: Launched in 2017, the Columbia, Mo.-based retailer’s program had more than 132,000 members by the end of 2019. The rewards app offers a multitiered approach in which customers accumulate points based on purchases and visitation frequency. What distinguishes MyTime is that the points expire at the end of the month.“So if you have 130 points in February and all of a sudden it’s March 1 and you haven’t used it, sorry, but you’re back to zero,” Morrison said. “There is, in my opinion, risk with this. But the upside is it creates urgency, which is the opposite of complacency that plagues other reward programs.” MFA Oil-owned Break Time operates about 75 stores.
  • Murphy USA’s Drive Rewards: With roughly 1,500 stores, most no larger than 2,000 square feet, Murphy has a reward program built around gas and its aggressive pricing strategies, along with traditional convenience fare that leverages cigarettes, drinks and snacks. “Considering that most of their stores are smaller, and their convenience set is pretty traditional, it makes perfect sense for Murphy to do everything in its power to drive more trips to the pump,” Morrison said.
  • 7-Eleven's 7Rewards: With more than 9,000 associated stores, this program stands as among the most robust programs in the channel. 7Rewards, coupled with 7Now, is built around a frictionless economy in which self-checkout, on-demand delivery and even cashierless stores consume a greater share of the convenience customer experience.

Morrison also offered another form of loyalty. “This is one where the store and its employees are the loyalty,” he said, citing QuikTrip and Trader Joe’s as examples of great retailers that do not offer a formal loyalty program but rather rely on top-notch customer service to keep customers coming back.

Sharing Ideas

In a retailer panel, Coen Oil Chief Marketing Officer Keith Broviak spoke about lessons learned from fashioning the loyalty program at Ricker’s, a chain acquired by Giant Eagle, and how he and his team at the 65-unit, Pennsylvania-based Coen Oil are crafting an integrated loyalty app built on multiple entry points for the end user.

The program, he said, will ultimately include mobile ordering, ACH mobile payment, product promotions, member pricing, event-based promotions and age-21 opt-in deals. On the back end, Coen Oil's Club Coen will yield purchase insights and allow for greater customization in its offerings, he said.

Meanwhile, Cal’s Convenience, a 207-store Texas chain, will launch a mobile loyalty program in 2020, targeting a predominantly rural customer with a median annual income of about $50,000.

“Your program should be an extension of your current brand,” said Abigail Cerra (pictured), marketing manager for Cal’s, a chain of 207 Stripes c-stores based in Texas. Cerra cited excellent customer service and clean stores and bathrooms as foundations to a vital loyalty offer.

Over time, Cal’s loyalty will include a mobile wallet and allow for mobile ordering and self-checkout, she said.

And like Broviak, Cerra underscored the importance of personalizing the program with targeted rewards based on purchase behavior and multiple way for customers to redeem rewards. “What makes your customer feel good? Free products? Ability to donate points/rewards to charity?” she said.

Retailers are advised to build a program around those answers.

Next year’s Convenience Retailing University will be held Feb. 23-24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Click here for more information.

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