For convenience retailers, opportunity lies in using data to tailor loyalty programs to customers.
By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor
Tony Huppert, founder of Team Oil Travel Center in Spring Valley, Wis., was surprised to find the USA Rocket on the Team Oil Travel property is a Pokéstop in the popular Pokémon Go game, which launched in July. Huppert was first alerted to the fact by a neighbor who overlooks his property.
“She asked me if I have noticed the extra traffic flowing through the property. She had seen as many as six cars lined up by the Rocket at a time,” Huppert said. The 16-foot, 3,700-pound rocket is a replica honoring the USA Moon Mission. (See the image at right)
Huppert is hopeful the traffic to the rocket continues to move through his c-store. “I haven’t seen any negatives from Pokémon—traffic, friendly attitudes and appreciative customers that are just enjoying it while exercising,” Huppert said. “I truly believe businesses today have to be more fluid then ever to keep up with the needs of a fast moving society.”
Andrew Levi, CEO of Blue Calypso, which provides mobile engagement solutions, noted that marketers are already exploring how to capitalize on this momentum “by using lure modules on a ‘Pokéstop’ in the game to attract more users to a certain area, such as a store location, so that there are more Pokémon to catch.”
LOYALTY VIA GAMIFICATION
“There’s an opportunity for retailers to leverage what already exists in the form of Pokémon Go to get people to actually come into the store,” said Jeff Berry, editor-in-chief for Colloquy, a publishing, research and education practice that focuses on loyalty.
However, Berry noted the bigger opportunity is one in which c-stores create their own augmented reality app to attract their ideal customer and provide that customer’s ideal shopping experience through gamification.
“Within the c-store’s own app they would create a game that would draw customers into the store and require them to ‘check in,’ and the store would leverage loyalty program data to understand what these customers are interested in,” Berry said.
The app would send customers on missions within the store, such as visits to new sections to earn additional loyalty points. “Part of a mission could be to go look at a new product by Coca-Cola, so actually creating opportunities to engage in specific products not only areas around the store,” Berry added.
Such augmented reality loyalty apps would give stores the opportunity to move people around through incentives, and that gamified experience would naturally help customers feel more affinity to the brand. The challenges exist in finding the right technology and figuring out how to use it to enable a better customer experience that drives interaction with customers in a way that is entertaining for customers and profitable for organizations.
Given these challenges, it’s likely such a move is a ways in the future for most c-stores. In the meantime, the existing Pokémon app is a way for stores to test ideas.
“If you can get customers into the stores using a technology that already exists and find out if the customer actually shops more frequently that starts to make an argument to make the investment in your own app and your own experience around it,” Berry said.
While we wait for augmented reality to go mainstream, other trends are already evident in c-store backyards. Millennials continue to look for experience-type rewards and businesses are partnering to increase loyalty.
Chevron is capitalizing on the latter trend. This summer, Chevron Products Co., a division of Chevron U.S.A. Inc., and Albertsons Cos. expanded their joint fuel rewards program—first in Florida, then in southern Louisiana and most recently in Idaho.
For every 100 Reward Points earned by shopping at participating Safeway stores, customers receive a 10-cent-per-gallon gas reward. Customers receive one point per $1 spent on eligible grocery purchases; two points per $1 spent on qualifying gift cards; and one point for every out-of-pocket cost dollar spent on pharmacy, including co-pays.
“We’re building on a foundation of success with Albertsons,” said Doris Lee, head of loyalty for Chevron Products Co. Lee explained that after working with Albertsons in seven states in the West, Florida marked the first time the partnership expanded in the East.
“We’ve worked with Safeway for over three years. We started in southern California in the end of 2012, so it’s a testament to how strong the rewards program and partnership is,” Lee said.
The program has delivered so far.
“For Chevron, the program yields a great opportunity to increase our visibility, bring customers additional value, build our brand and grow our retail business in these key markets,” Lee said.
The loyalty program is now available at more than 900 Albertsons stores and 2,800 stations in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Louisiana, Idaho and Washington.
Green Zebra, based in Portland, Ore., rewards its loyalty customers with its Zebra Cash loyalty program, where customers get $1 back for every $100 they spend. Instead of swiping a card, customers access the reward program by entering their phone number at the checkout.
The program also includes a coffee club where customers get a free coffee after they buy 10, plus various promotions that allow them to accumulate reward dollars more quickly when they buy specific items.
Beginning in 2017, Green Zebra will offer its customers a way to donate all or some of their Zebra Cash to the non-profit of their choice, noted Lisa Sedlar, CEO of Green Zebra.
Meanwhile, Kum & Go, which launched its &Rewards loyalty app earlier this year, began engaging fans through Snapchat this past August.
“We made the decision to dive into Snapchat because we want to be where our customers are, providing valuable content and offering unique incentives that make the account worthy of our customers’ time,” said Mike Templeton, marketing manager for Kum & Go, which operates more than 400 stores in 11 states.
On any given day, Snapchat has more than 100 million users logging in, and the platform reaches 41% of all 18-34 year-olds in the U.S., according to Templeton.
“With this growth, it was important to us to be ahead of our industry and to be in front of this audience where they are most active,” Templeton said.
In honor of its 57th corporate anniversary and the launch of its Snapchat account, Kum & Go provided a barcode via Snapchat that customers could screenshot to redeem for a 57-cent fountain drink at their local Kum & Go.
“We’ll be evaluating the success of this campaign and continuing to work on unique and creative opportunities ahead to grow our audience,” Templeton said.
Moving into fall, expect to see businesses finally leveraging their data to target loyalty programs more specifically to their customers, Berry noted.
Gamification in the context of loyalty continues to trend, such as collecting badges for certain behaviors and experience-type rewards tied more directly to engagement in the program, not just purchases for points.
“Companies are really trying to build brand affinity. They’re trying to find more ways to actually create an entertaining experience,” Berry said. “The loyalty program makes a perfect mechanism because you know who the people are and what they’re doing. So you can really tailor the experience and the benefits of the program to those individual customers.”