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NATIONAL REPORT — In today’s technology-driven world, interacting with consumers through their mobile phones is a new way to build a loyal customer base. Many convenience store companies are turning to mobile apps to accomplish this.
“Mobile apps offer c-stores vast opportunities to engage with customers, provide offers and build loyalty,” said Mike Schneider, chief marketing officer at OpenStore by GasBuddy, who works with a number of c-store chains, including Casey’s General Stores and QuickChek. “But it’s not ‘if you build it, they will come.’ Users now insist on great experiences.”
With location services and beacons, c-store operators can gather more data than in the past and target customers with specific promotions whether they are in the store or not.
“Retailers can use messages and push notifications to give customers the right experience. If they are away from the store, they can send offers to get them to come in. If they are in the store, they can try to upsell them or give them a surprise to make them want to come back,” Schneider told Convenience Store News.
The main thing to focus on when it comes to offers, coupons and deals is relevance, which can be accomplished through data collection and customer segmentation at a granular level, according to Jonathan Stark, an author and mobile strategy consultant, based in Providence, R.I., who has worked with retail companies including CVS and Staples.
“It’s about tracking particular patterns and what people like and then sending highly relevant offers or cross-sells at the exact time they want to receive them,” Stark said, explaining that he stops at a local c-store every Tuesday and Thursday night and they could send him relevant offers to get him to increase the money he spends each visit.
“The first step in this is remaining silent and not interrupting customers in the beginning. It’s about gathering data on people’s behavior and this will allow a company to send relevant, useful and valuable information to customers,” he noted.
When launching an app, one of the biggest mistakes a company can make is assuming people will just download it without any effort on the company’s part. No matter how amazing an app may be, if users don’t know about it or are not convinced they need it, the launch of the app can be wasted, said OpenStore’s Schneider.
Another error can be asking users to turn on location services without giving them a reason to allow this access. In navigation apps, the need for location services is obvious and 70 percent of users will turn it on, but this percentage drops to only 12 percent for a news app, he explained.
“It’s really important not to ask users to turn on location services until you need the data or have a great explanation for why they should do it,” Schneider said. “As the user learns more about the app and the features, then a company can ask them to turn on the location services and explain what they will get out of it using a message via email or a pop-up in the app.”
It’s also important from the beginning stages of development to have a plan to measure the effectiveness and return on investment of the app. Some people will spend the money, push the app out and then not get the number of downloads or ratings they desire. It’s usually because they went into it without a plan, said Stark.
“You can track success or failure of an app if you decide what the metrics are before you build it,” he advised. “A lot of people don’t do this.”
Editor’s note: Check out the October issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on how to profit from your mobile app. A digital edition of the issue can be accessed by clicking here.