Bringing the customers to the forecourt and then into the store is more important than ever, and location-based marketing offers retailers another avenue to make this happen.
Geolocating, geotargeting and beacons enable retailers to reach customers, build loyalty and increase engagement by specifically targeting the audiences they want to reach.
Patrick Raycroft of W. Capra Consulting Group noted that location-based tools can refer to basics like making sure a site’s information is accurate on Google Maps. Beyond that, promotions or messaging can come by way of in-app
notifications, as well as email or SMS.
These strategies are really common among quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) and other verticals, he said.
A famous example is Burger King, which launched a campaign in 2018 called “Whopper Detour” to promote its relaunched app with order-ahead functionality. For a limited time, when customers were within 600 feet of a McDonald’s, they’d be prompted to order a Whopper for one cent.
The campaign worked by geofencing McDonald’s locations across the country. If a customer was inside one of these geofenced areas and had the new Burger King app on their phone, the app would unlock the promotion.
York, Pa.-based c-store chain Rutter’s has also used location-based marketing to advertise to customers in and around its stores, via its app as well as third-party companies, noted Chris Hartman, director of fuels, forecourt and advertising for Rutter’s, which operates 78 stores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.
Before implementation, Hartman advised retailers determine the problem they’re trying to solve: “Are you wanting to reward customers who are on your lot for a long period of time? Track dwell time? Message customers nearby?”
After that comes execution: either through your own app or digital programs, or through a third party. The final step, he said, is to determine who you’re targeting — men, women, millennials, Bubba? Customers inside the store, on the lot or within a certain distance? And determine the end goal — increased fuel sales, food sales or inside sales?
“Once you can answer those questions, you’ll be in position to budget for and execute a successful geotargeting strategy for your business,” Hartman said.
Yesway has used location-based marketing as well, through its app, targeting nearby customers with offers or prompts.
It’s been an effective marketing tool, said Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer for Yesway, which operates more than 400 stores in nine states, including the Allsup’s chain.
But, Gaskins added one caveat: “It has the potential to be overused if you aren’t delivering compelling value that consumers will embrace,” he said. “We are convenient at our core, so any offers that notify a consumer on devices, wearables, etc. must be relevant, meaningful and welcomed or you run the risk of alienating more customers than you engage.”
Today’s consumers are so over-stimulated and overwhelmed with marketing that these types of programs can essentially backfire, W. Capra’s Raycroft said, if not executed thoughtfully. It’s also important to be conscious of data-privacy rules and regulations as well as the consumer sentiment toward geotargeting.
That said, some c-stores may find success with simpler strategies.
While Yesway employs a variety of forecourt marketing tactics, like music and messaging at the pump, as well as video and animated graphics on the screens, Gaskins said signage remains the most effective.
The key for retailers, Raycroft said, is to keep in mind that location-based marketing should be part of an overall digital engagement strategy.
H&S Energy Marketing and Sales Coordinator Araby Hassan said the Orange, Calif.-based company plans to introduce geofencing as soon as its new app is released. For now, it’s had success with geo-tagging on its social media posts.
“We posted a single car wash ad on our Instagram, which was redeemed 46 times within a few days,” he said. “We also receive thousands of impressions on our social media posts, which often translate to more customers walking into our stores, as some customers notify our cashiers that they saw us on social media platforms.”
Tyler Tanaka, vice president of digital and loyalty at Pilot Co., said the best way to engage and connect with its customers is to “simply listen to them.”
“We survey drivers about our loyalty programs frequently,” Tanaka said, “because we want to know what they love about it and what opportunities there are for us to consider for the future.”
In April, the company launched its Push4Points program as a way to help professional drivers save money through the app. Professional drivers were able to redeem their myRewards points at Pilot and Flying J travel centers to save on food, drinks, supplies, reserved parking and showers. In October, the program was extended.
As a whole, Tanaka said, the Pilot Flying J app is a huge touchpoint for the company with its customers, especially professional drivers.
“We strive to provide our guests with app features that offer convenience and utility to make their in-store experience faster, easier and more rewarding,” Tanaka said, “including touchless transactions for checkout (i.e. Apple and Google Pay), digital coupon offers, loyalty programs and, for professional drivers, the ability to reserve showers, parking and mobile fuel.” CSD
GEO-WHAT?! — A Quick Guide to Marketing Terms
This glossary offers definitions for some trending marketing practices.
- Location-based marketing: offers brands the chance to reach local consumers, avoid potentially expensive national campaigns and create loyalty with promotions, offers and information specifically relevant to the audiences they reach
- Geolocation: the use of location technologies such as GPS or IP addresses to identify and track the whereabouts of connected electronic devices
- Geotargeting: the practice of delivering content to a user based on their geographic location
- Geofencing: generally targets a broader population, serving ads or promotions to anyone that enters a certain ‘fenced-off’ area