Despite news of the recent Facebook data breach and other high-profile misuses, data is not something to be feared. It is something to be captured and used in a way that benefits both c-stores and the customers they enroll in loyalty programs.
According to the Bond 2019 Loyalty Report, 73% of people are “more likely to recommend brands with good loyalty programs,” while 79% are more likely to do business with those brands and 66% spend more at brands with better loyalty benefits. The 2019 survey also showed that people want choice and are willing to share their data to get it, with 87% of people willing to have their purchasing habits and store visits monitored in order to receive more personalized rewards and relevant content.
That’s why loyalty programs should go beyond just taking down names, putting them on a card and sending out a periodic email blast.
“Analyzing customer data is the key to measuring the effectiveness of a loyalty program,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at retail consulting firm BRP. “In the last couple of years, there has been an increased willingness from consumers to provide their data as part of the enrollment process, as long as they perceive a value or reward for providing the data.”
That reward goes beyond five cents off gas or a free soda.
“It’s all about value and trying to connect with the customer at a deeper level,” said Darrin Samaha, vice president and brand manager at Yesway, which launched its Yesway Rewards program in 2017 and has seen exponential growth in both membership and offerings.
The program started with in-store rewards, but grew in part because it targeted all kinds of customers.
“Knowing we were operating in rural and even hyper-rural markets, we didn’t want to exclude any of our customers, we wanted to make sure the program was accessible to all,” Samaha said of the decision to offer both a card and an app. “The goal was to introduce the program to as many customers as possible, get them earning and redeeming points quickly, so they saw value in the program, and then over time, incentivize them to come in more frequently through some of our communication platforms.”
Yesway also captured data to determine who visited the store, the pump or both, as well as how often, so it could offer incentives to inspire the customers to take new actions. It introduced new perks, like private-label samples, trials and discounts and a “stack and save” program that merged fuel and in-store rewards. It even offered specific perks, like bottled water, and is looking into items like meat snacks and campaigns with suppliers that would draw in fuel-only customers.
“Customers were very enthusiastic about being the first ones to try products and have the opportunity to earn rewards based on buying Yesway products,” Samaha said.
Yesway worked with Paytronix to capture data, deliver email campaigns and review performance metrics. Now the companies are looking into one-to-one marketing, mobile wallets, machine learning and artificial intelligence, while also improving the app to make rewards redemption even easier; all while expanding Yesway’s ability to talk with customers.
“The more precise we can be with our messaging, the more relevant we’re going to be to our customers,” Samaha said. “Given our high transaction count, this is very much in our front view and we’re excited about it because it’s going to add more value to our program.”
Build and Adapt
Customer loyalty can be fluid. But positive experiences rule. The 2019 Bond survey showed customers who experience satisfying interactions with a brand have a 9.2-times better opinion of that brand and are more likely to recommend and spend more.
“To be successful and meet the changing needs of the guest, loyalty programs have to be adaptable,” said Steven Root, senior manager of loyalty marketing at Pilot Flying J.
“We hope to earn our guests’ loyalty, and personalization is key to that. Data enables us to effectively deliver the personalized value that we strive to provide our guests,” he said.
Pilot Flying J met this need with an improved app that gives drivers personalized experiences based on types of travel, location, preferences and needs.
“Our new app meets the needs of the driver, whoever and wherever they are on their journey,” Root said. “The app continues to be a huge touchpoint for us with all guests, especially professional drivers, as it allows them to maximize their myRewards experience by saving time and money at our Pilot Flying J travel centers.”
Neither Pilot Flying J nor Yesway would be able to expand their offerings without knowing about their customers. And that’s why segmentation is so important.
“Data segmentation enables retailers to divide their customer base into groupings for data analysis and marketing campaigns,” Kramer said. “The most effective grouping of segments will vary across retailer types. If you are a c-store that sells pizzas or fresh food, it will differ from a c-store that has made-to-order breakfast offerings and from another that has a large beer cooler.”
Kramer recommends 10 or fewer data segments, focused on key store areas and purchase history.
“Understand and continually refine the segments to tailor the value proposition to maximize enrollment and active users,” Kramer said. “Smart marketers will build customized marketing campaigns by store, region or customer demographic, which enables retailers to spend marketing and margin dollars where they are most effective instead of spreading them across the entire customer base.” C