CHICAGO — Kwik Chek, a 47-store chain based in Bonham, Texas, relaunched its loyalty app in May. For the customer, it created a new point system for earning rewards, and for the company, it’s yielded valuable customer intelligence. CEO Kevin Smartt says the ability to interact directly with customers through the loyalty program helped inform the chain’s choice to allow consumers to redeem points for foodservice products.
Earlier this year, Kwik Chek used its loyalty program to encourage customers to share their opinions of the foodservice offer. The chain incentivized its customers to take the survey by throwing in a free coffee or free soft drink once they completed the survey. More than 1,000 loyalty members participated and revealed that 48% of respondents had simply not tried Kwik Chek’s foodservice offering before.
“For us, that was a big ‘Aha!’ moment,” says Smartt. Armed with this knowledge, Kwik Chek launched its 100 Days of Summer campaign, in which participants could win one free prize per day playing a virtual scratch-and-win game.
Based on the results of the survey, prizes for a successful scratch-and-win game could include free tacos, breakfast biscuits, chicken-tender plates and more. “If it’s free, most people will try it, and hopefully that builds a return business into our consumption with that product,” says Smartt. “We’ve had such a spike in downloads with our summer scratch-and-win game.”
In a world redefined by the global COVID-19 pandemic, personalization has taken on a new meaning.
Crunching the Numbers
A recent Technomic survey shows how the pandemic changed consumer behavior.
“[Retailers] with a loyalty program, we’ve seen them recovering faster from the pandemic and the initial reaction of customers to board up their doors and stay inside in March,” says David Taylor, domain product manager for loyalty provider Paytronix, Newton, Mass.
Part of the appeal of a robust loyalty program is that brands have one more avenue to communicate with their customers directly, as Kwik Chek did with its foodservice survey to program members.
Taylor says this avenue of communication can be critical in a pandemic. Retailers can use loyalty programs to signal to customers when health products such as hand sanitizer are in stock. Similarly, the purchase data loyalty programs collect from those customers can be used to build the customers’ sense of connectivity to the brand. “All of these brands that maybe had [loyalty] as fifth on their list, it’s now No. 1,” he says.
Beyond communication, loyalty programs can help retailers meet changing consumer expectations as buying behavior changes during the pandemic. PDI, a global software company that has its hands in everything from loyalty to fuel pricing and other back-office operations, has had a front-row seat to changes in consumer behavior.
“Consumers rotated away from what I’d call immediate consumption goods, like a candy bar, or a 20-ounce single-serve beverage, and rotated into more future consumption purchases at c-store: cases of water or 12 packs of soda,” says Brandon Logsdon, president and general manager, of marketing cloud and fuel pricing solutions, PDI, Alpharetta, Ga.
“Tens of millions of consumers have now been exposed to order ahead because of restaurant, grocery, etc., way in advance of what the normal kind of process and timeline would have been for adoption.
And then as a result, that’s putting pressure on the convenience industry to align with really rapidly evolving consumer expectations,” says Logsdon.
7-Eleven Inc. was uniquely situated to respond to this sudden change in consumer expectations spurred by COVID-19. “We couldn’t have foreseen a global pandemic in 2020 and the ways it would change how people interact in the world, but we did anticipate how technology was playing a greater role in everyday convenience,” says Tarang Sethia, chief digital officer of 7-Eleven.
The 7Rewards loyalty program got its start in 2013 as an effort to attract new coffee drinkers. For the past two years, 7-Eleven has taken its loyalty program through a complete digital transformation. This included adding a points-based system, allowing customers to earn points with purchases and spend those points on other products.
Mobile checkout, fuel loyalty, augmented reality games, social media filters, and 7Now delivery and pickup are all features that have been added since 2018, either nationally or in select markets. Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven is even piloting a self-serve, no-cashier store.
Additionally, customers entering a participating store’s geofenced area can see the promotions and features available at that particular store. 7-Eleven also manages a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that customers can go to with questions. Today, 7Rewards has 35 million members.
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