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NATIONAL REPORT — Loyalty programs continue to change and evolve in all retail industries, and with new and more powerful technology available today, these changes are happening faster than ever before. From upgraded point-of-sale (POS) systems and mobile apps to geo-fencing and beacons, rewarding customers is becoming easier and more targeted.
With the data and analytics available today, programs are moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach and instead targeting promotions and offers to a customer’s behavior and purchasing. While many convenience stores started a loyalty program offering cents off on gasoline, incentives are moving into the store as well, which is where profitability lies.
Industry insiders shared with Convenience Store News five best practices c-stores can utilize when either starting a new loyalty program or looking to maximize an existing one.
1. Keep It Simple
While loyalty and rewards programs may be complex and detailed on the backend, the message to the customer should be simple. Employees should be able to easily communicate how the program works and it should be easy for consumers to understand.
This is especially true when launching a loyalty program or trying to get more members because the simpler it seems, the more likely people will want to sign up.
2. Communication Is Key
Consumer-facing technology is playing a big role in today’s loyalty and rewards programs, including digital coupons, direct communication and mobile payment via smartphones and apps. And communication with customers is one of the most important marketing tools in loyalty.
A good communication program allows a company to keep customers active and engaged, while reminding them about promotions and more.
3. Personalize Offers
Like everything today, loyalty and rewards programs are becoming more personal. With data and analytics, as well as more sophisticated POS technology, c-stores can target promotions and offers based on customer behavior, keeping deals relevant to each individual, and even broaden the areas of the store a particular customer shops.
4. The Top-Down Approach
When launching or building a loyalty or rewards program, there needs to be internal communication from the CEO to the store level. C-store companies need to get everyone on board, and explain the goals of the program and what it will look like for customers.
Experts recommend offering an employee incentive program tied to the loyalty program for store-level employees to give them motivation when promoting the program or app. Also, everyone should understand the program and how it works.
5. Make It Mobile
With the introduction of mobile apps, c-stores can connect with loyal customers on the go, and utilize messaging and notifications to communicate relevant promotions and more. Some are even utilizing geo-fencing and beacons to target promotions to those in proximity to the store or out at the fuel pump.
Mobile apps also allow for gaming, another popular avenue for c-stores to engage customers. The next wave of mobile will be mobile wallet integration. Consumers will not have a wallet for each retailer, but they will be utilizing the big platforms like Google Wallet and Apple Pay.
For much more on the evolution of loyalty programs in the convenience channel, look in the November issue of Convenience Store News.