NATIONAL REPORT — Identifying customers as individuals and knowing what they purchase and when — and even when they are in or nearby a store — is helping convenience stores offer a more personalized shopping experience. Whether it's coupons and promotions based on past purchases or enticing a gas-only customer to come into the store, today's technology, especially through loyalty programs and mobile apps and payments, is making it possible.
Today, many c-store chains are integrating their loyalty programs with mobile apps and point-of-sale (POS) data to track customer purchasing and behavior and, in some cases, know that customer's location and when he or she is near or in a store.
York, Pa.-based convenience store chain Rutter's has tested beacons to know when someone is within 200 to 500 feet of a store, so the retailer can remind them of a promotion or deal. The chain is also looking at the potential of the connected car, Derek Gaskins, chief customer officer for Rutter's, told Convenience Store News.
"Today it may be an app and in six months, you may need to have mobile wallets connected and in 12 months, it might be done through the connected car," said Jake Kiser, chief revenue officer at Hatch Loyalty, based in Chicago. "These are things already in the market now."
Consumers are looking for a more personalized experience in retail stores, similar to what they receive online from companies like Amazon. "It's only going to become more pervasive over time and even more of a consumer expectation," advised Jeff Hoover, c-store data strategist at loyalty provider Paytronix Systems Inc.
The recent 2018 NRF Show in New York showcased a number of personalization technologies, many centered around facial recognition, Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group, based in Chicago, relayed to CSNews.
"All these years, c-stores have been taking images of people when they walk into the store for loss-prevention purposes, and already have the monitors in place for something like this," Collupy shared, noting that one technology provider at the NRF Show showed customers taking a selfie image and linking it to their account so when they came into the store, a monitor could greet them and their image would also show up behind the counter for the clerk.
"It's something c-stores need to watch, and learn from what other retailers are doing," Collupy said. "Then, find a way of using some of the technology you already have in place and turn it into something more."
Facial recognition is also something that could be used at the gas pump dispenser and, when tied to a loyalty program, could identify a customer and push offers or promotions to them based on their past purchases and behaviors, according to Collupy.
"There are even pin pads being developed that use facial recognition to identify a customer, or a tone that comes from their cell phone to identify them," he added.
Look in the February issue of Convenience Store News for our full report on personalization, "HOW TO: Create a Personalized C-store for Every Customer."