COLUMBIA, Mo. — Loyalty programs aren't simply about signing up new members. They're also about reengaging old ones and enticing current customers to increase their visits.
Those are the lessons Missouri-based convenience store chain Break Time has learned through its successful MyTime Rewards program, as Anita Bichsel, Break Time's senior marketing manager, and Bonnie Woods, senior strategist at Paytronix, discussed during the recent webinar, "How Break Time Pioneered Convenience Loyalty."
Hosted by Paytronix and Convenience Store News, the webinar covered everything from initial signups to types of rewards to customer engagement.
Part of what's led to the continued success of MyTime Rewards is finding an area of focus to concentrate on. "The one question that kept coming back to us [during our initial discussions] was, How can we drive more visits?" Bichsel said. "We determined that our primary goal with our loyalty program was to get more people on our lot and inside our stores. We wanted our loyalty program to be an influencer that could actually pull customers away from our competition."
Keeping that top of mind, Break Time built a tiered system for MyTime Rewards, allowing less frequent customers to still see benefits to membership while also incentivizing them to tier up and receive more robust rewards. This allowed the company to start building a base focused on those visitors who might like the store but weren't as motivated to visit as often.
"If you think about someone who visits once a week, we could reasonably expect them to perhaps visit one and a half or two times a week," said Woods. "Someone who's visiting four or five times a week, it's going to be a lot harder to get them to visit five or six times a week."
The Importance of Customer Outreach
Break Time finds every opportunity it can to remind customers of the loyalty program, such as using the graphics on its fountain drink cups to promote it. The company also provides multiple methods to sign up, including registration through the store, the web, its app and even over the phone.
Break Time has been able to see the signup impact from having those options in real time, according to Woods. In 2020, the pin prompt for MyTime Rewards was turned off in the stores' card readers in order to reduce customer time at checkout at the height of the pandemic. Break Time and its partners at Paytronix immediately saw a dropoff in in-store penetration. But when the prompt was turned back on, signups ticked back up.
"[The pin prompt] highlights how you can use technology to impact the success of your program, but it also shows how important the guest experience at the store level matters when trying to run a loyalty program," Woods said.
One of the other aspects of the program that's helped keep customers engaged is flexibility in benefits. For instance, when a customer qualifies for a free drink, they can choose coffee or a fountain drink without being locked into one or the other. Additionally, Break Time is constantly workshopping new ways to reach out to its fans, both to keep engagement fresh and illustrate the benefits of rewards for guests who haven't yet signed up for membership.
"We sent a free Snickers bar to all of our email opt-ins," said Bichsel. "And we had a fair amount of customers asking, 'Well, why didn't I get that?' So, we've got anecdotal data to tell us that there are people out there who understand that there are exclusive benefits to being in the MyTime Rewards program."
While the c-store operator is always looking to get new signups, it never forgets to keep nurturing the relationships it already has with existing loyalty members, whether that's offering them special deals or providing new incentives to bring them back to the store if they haven't visited in a while or make a purchase in a category they used to frequent. And in the latter case, although this may mean offering discounts on items that wouldn't normally get them, the payoffs speak for themselves.
"Once somebody redeems [an offer], we're seeing over 50 percent of those specific guests come back and purchase the item again after we've given them a discount on it," said Woods. "The bounceback program in place automatically puts them into a flow where they're renurtured back into the category."
Part of MFA Oil Co., Break Time's network comprises more than 70 convenience stores across Missouri.
A replay of this webinar, "How Break Time Pioneered Convenience Loyalty," can be accessed here.