C-Store Loyalty Plans Spur Engagement

C-store loyalty programs are enticing customers, while mobile options bring new ways for retailers to engage with shoppers.

In spring 2018, NOCO Express, with 39 c-stores throughout western New York, partnered with Paytronix to launch a new rewards program.

NOCO’s contract with its previous program was coming to an end and it wanted a partnership that could join loyalty and mobile. It was also impressed with the Panera app (powered by Paytronix) that uses a ‘surprise and delight’ model instead of points, which Jim DeFilippis, vice president and general manager for NOCO Express, pointed to as the “best in class” model for loyalty programs today.

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Surprise and delight programs send customers coupons for free items, especially if they haven’t been to the store in a while, something particularly useful in driving fuel-only customers into the store.

“It keeps you interested because you never know what’s going to pop up,” DeFilippis said.

The improved NOCO Friends and Family program and app launched in May 2018.
In addition to surprises, with each purchase customers gain entry into seasonal sweepstakes for prizes like a fire pit or trip to the Bahamas. Once the entries hit a certain amount they double, then triple.

“People really seem to gravitate to it, so they really get it,” DeFilippis said.

Vendors are eager to donate prizes as they see the amount of publicity the sweepstakes generates. Winners are announced in the app and in-store so customers know people are actually winning prizes.

In-store customers can tap the app to scan a QR Code or use a card. At the pump, physical cards are currently still needed. With the card customers get three cents off per gallon of gas. NOCO kept the EZ Pay option that currently gives six cents off per gallon if the loyalty card is linked to a checking account.

NOCO is testing offering multiple sweepstakes entries for specific item purchases to move certain products.

“Our loyalty customers actually had about a $3 higher ring ratio,” DeFilippis said.
One big challenge was that the former program hadn’t recorded customer contact information, so just switching customers to the new program wasn’t possible. NOCO had to re-enroll customers, gaining information such as email addresses and phone numbers. More than 18,000 members have registered since May.

MOBILE MAKE-UP
“A loyalty program linked to a mobile application is powerful for retailers who have been able to get consumers to opt into the program,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead, BRP, a retail-management consulting firm.

Using today’s technological advances such as location data, geolocation, geofencing and beacon technology, retailers can leverage their ability to connect with the consumer electronically even before they pull their vehicle onto the property.

“These tools will continue to be used to speed up drive-through and in-store lines, offer personalized marketing while at the pump and in-store marketing,” Kramer said.
Unfortunately, 63% of retailers can’t identify their customer before checkout, according to BRP’s “2019 POS/Customer Engagement Survey.”

Kramer noted c-stores should continue to focus on loyalty programs that allow them to identify consumers and connect with them in a personalized way.