How to Engage Customers Digitally Throughout the Buyer's Journey
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Whether you are a consumer or a convenience, drug or mass retailer, chances are that you’ve encountered the Plenti program at one time or another.
Known as the first coalition program in the United States for rewards, Plenti allows multiple brands — Exxon, Mobil, Rite-Aid, AT&T and Macy’s, to name a few — to reward customers with points that are redeemable at these locations, as well as other retailers.
However, as retailers like AT&T and Macy’s announce their departure from Plenti to build standalone loyalty programs and create a one-to-one relationship, questions have risen about what this “catch-all” rewards program means to the marketplace.
“Is it still beneficial to have this kind of coalition loyalty program, or is there possibly a better way for retailers to be able to market their loyalty program and generate even more loyalty with their brand and their consumers?” posed Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist at Paytronix Systems Inc., a provider of reward program solutions to restaurants and retailers.
In a recent webinar entitled “Before, During and After: Managing Your Digital Engagement Throughout the Customer Journey,” Convenience Store News and Paytronix looked to answer this question, as well as provide convenience store retailers with strategies to execute a successful loyalty rewards program.
According to Otocki, companies are looking to take back ownership of the customer experience and create a one-on-one relationship that allows customers to engage with their brand and sustains the longevity of brand loyalty.
“It’s really, really beneficial for brands to take back all of their loyalty programs and run it in-house. Instead of having that blanket program, they’re really able to make that connection with their customers that consumers today are expecting,” Otocki explained.
It’s a “difficult ask” of retailers to give up control of the customer experience in today’s retail environment, “where experience matters more than convenience,” noted fellow webinar presenter Joel Udwin, mobile product manager at Paytronix.
Putting himself in consumers’ shoes, Udwin said people typically don’t think about their experience with a brand as a journey, but rather as a cyclical experience. He presented the “Before, During and After Customer Experience Loop,” a format he says was introduced by Google Inc. This loop represents what barriers a c-store retailer may face when curating, implementing and executing a loyalty program.
These barriers include:
- Online ordering: exists in the “before” phase.
- Payment: exists in the “during” phase.
- Service: exists in the “during” phase.
- Irrelevant messaging: exists in the “after” phase.
- Loyalty operations: exists in all three phases.
To identify and determine which barrier(s) to tackle, Udwin presented the “Loyalty Impact Model,” which is an equation for c-store retailers to utilize. It looks like this:
Loyalty Impact = the number of customers enrolled in a rewards program X the percentage of customers who are active in the program X the change in spend between customers enrolled in the program vs. customers who are not in the program
“These are important frames of reference because when you’re solving these problems, you want to push down on one, two or all three of these levers,” Udwin explained. “You want to increase the number of people enrolled so you have a bigger pie to market to. You want to increase the percentage of active, so you can keep more of your customers engaged at a single time. And then, you want to have different tools and mechanisms to augment guest behavior and increase their lifetime value to your brand.”
Technology can play a key role in the way c-store retailers overcome the barriers outlined above. For example:
Create a borderless guest experience by entering the ecommerce space. “We need to take advantage of the physical proximity we have to customers and bring the fight back to Amazon,” the mobile product manager urged.
Consider accepting e-payments. “What’s cool in this area is the ability to simultaneously identify guests, so you can communicate to them more effectively. That will be a winning technology cue for your brand,” Udwin stated.
Incentivizing customers allows them to identify themselves so that c-store retailers can track information. Udwin suggests printing QR codes on receipts that allow customers to go online and earn points, while retailers learn who their customers are.
Two key areas that exist are receipts at the pump that give context of where customers are with a brand, and managing brand content via the mobile app. “Guests expect your mobile app to be updated frequently. If you want to train them to go in there and look for offers and see what’s going on and compel their behavior, it needs to be dynamic, changing quickly and not static. Otherwise, they’re never going to open it up again,” he advised.
Prevalence of registration and login of website, mobile app, etc. Paytronix has found that paginated forms increase conversions into a loyalty program. “If you’re able to separate registration, or that ask from your guests on more information, and segment it into things like personal information, contact info, password [and so on], and take them through a process, you’ll see a big increase in conversions to enrollments into your database,” he said.
A replay of “Before, During and After: Managing Your Digital Engagement Throughout the Customer Journey" is available here.