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    Kwik Trip Launches E-Mail Coupon Program

    Chain reports redemption rates in the double digits and more enhancements planned.

    By Linda Lisanti

    LA CROSSE, Wisc. -- Kwik Trip has made its first foray into e-mail marketing with the launch of a new e-mail coupon program that offers participants exclusive, "Members Only" promotions delivered right to their computers, CSNews Online has learned.

    The Midwest chain—operator of more than 350 Kwik Trip and Kwik Star convenience stores—began testing the coupon program at the start of this year with a full roll-out completed in June, director of marketing and advertising Gary Gonczy said, noting the program was created in-house and is fully controlled by the marketing department.

    Customers sign up for the program through Kwik Trip’s Web site where they are asked to provide basic information, such as name and address, as well as demographic factors like age, gender and annual household income. They are also asked to select from a list of 15 to 20 product lines which types of coupons they would most like to receive.

    Once a month, Kwik Trip sends each member a personalized e-mail containing no less than five and up to 10 coupons, which they can print out and redeem at any of the chain’s stores. Most of the coupons are related to the product lines selected, though Gonczy acknowledged all the coupons are almost exclusively focused on items in Kwik Trip’s "Red Zone," the area in each store featuring products the retailer produces itself.

    To date, the e-mail coupon program database includes roughly 28,000 names, and it’s growing about 6 percent every month, Gonczy told CSNews Online.

    "I just think this is where the consumer is going," he said, explaining the motivation behind the program’s creation. "This is a lot less expensive than direct mail or newspaper advertising, and the response rate is so much higher because the people receiving the messages want to receive them, and we give them what they’re asking for."

    Compared to the average national redemption rate of 3 to 3.5 percent, Gonczy said the average redemption rates for Kwik Trip’s e-mail coupons have been steadily in the double digits, ranging from 30 to 50 percent among those who print out the coupon. When a coupon is for a free item, redemption rates can be 75 to 80 percent, he noted.

    On top of growing sales and increasing customer loyalty, the e-mail coupon program is enabling Kwik Trip to gain valuable feedback from its customers. When individuals sign up for the coupon program, they are also given the opportunity to receive additional discounts and free items by joining the online Customer Advisory Panel. The chain sends out one e-mail survey per month—the latest one asked about its coffee program.

    Earlier this year, the retailer used the e-mail database to do research prior to its launch of Kwikade, a new private-label sports drink line. Kwik Trip e-mailed surveys to males aged 16 to 29 on the e-mail marketing list to see what they thought of the packaging, and ask whether they drink sports drinks and if so, what goes into their choice of brands.

    Going forward, there are plans to make the e-mail program even more beneficial by:

    -- Expanding the number of database members. “We’d like to get to about 100,000 names, but we haven’t really done any big marketing push around this, just signage at the store level and some [marketing] on our Web site,” Gonczy explained.

    -- Making the e-mails more targeted. The chain will soon send out a questionnaire to its database to find out their hobbies, so that it can do e-mail marketing around those occasions. Just recently, Kwik Trip sent a special coupon e-mail to its Wisconsin members for deer-hunting season, while another e-mail offered Thanksgiving savings. Similar e-mails will be going out for Christmas, New Year’s and Super Bowl.

    -- More sophisticated tracking. As of now, the company cannot track a specific e-mail coupon to a specific e-mail list customer, but hopes to have this capability soon.

    -- Get vendors involved. All coupons to date have been for Kwik Trip’s private-label items, but the intent is to have manufacturers become partners in the program.

    -- From e-mail to mobile marketing. Kwik Trip is not stopping at e-mail marketing, as Gonczy said the chain is going to start testing cell phone marketing next.

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