How to Engage Female C-store Shoppers With Loyalty Programs

Chelsea Regan
Assistant Editor
Chelsea Regan profile picture
female shopper at check-out
Forty-four percent of women say they shop a c-store two to three times a week.

NEWARK, N.J. — The gender gap in convenience stores is closing. While men remain more frequent c-store shoppers than women, women are quickly catching up, providing a significant opportunity for c-store operators.

The 2018 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle consumer study found that 11 percent of female monthly c-store shoppers shop a c-store "almost every day," compared to 14 percent of men. And among all c-store shoppers, an impressive 44 percent of women say they shop a c-store two to three times a week.

Convenience Store News, in collaboration with loyalty provider Paytronix Systems Inc., recently hosted a webinar titled "Proven Strategies to Attract the Female Shopper to Your C-store."

During the program, Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist at Paytronix, dove into various ways retailers can take advantage of the surge in female shoppers, including: how loyalty programs can be used to attract female shoppers, the most resonant promotions for the segment and how to engage these shoppers before, during and after they shop. 

As Otocki put it, "the Bubba persona is taking a backseat to new female c-store shoppers." While Bubba is still important, c-store operators would be wise to shift some of their focus to women. With many female shoppers heading to c-stores multiple times a week, retailers should be thinking about how to increase the basket size of these shoppers and also boosting their number of visits, according to Otocki.

Loyalty Programs

Thirty-nine percent of female shoppers say their usual c-store has a loyalty program, while 31 percent say they would enroll in a loyalty program if their usual store offered one. Otocki suggests that retailers look at their business as a two-way relationship: these shoppers are giving you business, so what can you give them? 

Much can be offered in a loyalty program, although Otocki warned against certain pitfalls, such as making it too complicated to reap a loyalty program's rewards. She also recommended that retailers take a cue from Amazon and serve up highly tailored and relevant information and deals based on a customer's individual wants and needs. 

A loyalty program should be convenient and available through the customer's preferred platform, according to Otocki. To get a leg up on the competition, a retailer's loyalty program should also go beyond traditional c-store offerings and include features such as mobile ordering and mobile payments to create the frictionless experience today's customers crave. 

Make It Personal

C-store retailers should segment their customers based on persona, specifically keeping in mind "Susie the Soccer Mom" and "Kristen the Professional."

Segmenting enables retailers to provide more relevant offers to shoppers and find more success in marketing strategies. This will, in turn, lead to greater retention, with shoppers developing deeper loyalty and visiting more often. And ultimately, this will result in greater spend that translates to increased revenue. 

segmenting customers based on personas

Personalization is a key part of providing relevant offers to customers, but so is geography — knowing what particular store branch is preferred by each customer. Other things to consider include: the size of an offer, a customer's preferred channel of communication, how often a customer is visiting and when they’re in a buying mode.

All of this boils down to customer experience — retailers must make sure they’re providing a great experience for their shoppers both on- and off-premise. 

Mobile Messages

The traditional view of the customer journey starts with awareness and moves on to familiarity and consideration. Then comes the purchase, and finally, hopefully is loyalty.

McKinsey's Customer Journey Model, which Otocki referenced, offers a slightly different path: initial consideration, active evaluation (information-gathering, shopping), moment of purchase and the post-purchase experience (ongoing exposure). This journey also features a "loyalty loop," which sees customers return to the moment of purchase following a positive post-purchase experience. 

Mobile messages, according to Otocki, are one way to achieve the sense of loyalty that stems from positive post-purchase experiences.

Reaching customers via SMS on their cellphone — the device that likely matters the most to them — gives retailers a chance to push out offers to customers and pull them back to the store. Retailers can also send out surveys, responsive emails and use geofencing to target offers. 


Fifty percent of customers say limited-time foodservice offers are enticing. How else can retailers more effectively advertise foodservice promotions?

The answer, Otocki said, is add-on promotions for select items, promoting freshness and better-for-you options, child-friendly offerings, and fuel discount tie-ins.

woman pumping gas
Seventy-four percent of female customers visit c-stores to purchase gasoline.

Pump-to-Store Promos

Lastly, she noted the value of running pump-to-store promotions. With 74 percent of female customers visiting c-stores to purchase gasoline, there’s a definite opportunity to translate those visits to greater in-store sales. Promotions that work best are:

  • Buy X amount of product, get X cents off per gallon
  • Visit 10 times for X cents off per gallon
  • Welcome reward for cents off per gallon in the first month
  • Free in-store beverage

Attracting female c-store shoppers will be key for convenience channel retailers going forward. Otocki closed the webinar by highlighting the five most important things to keep in mind when developing loyalty programs and promotions. These could apply to targeting any shopper segment:

  1. Keep them simple for the cashier
  2. Keep them quick for the customer
  3. Keep them accurate for accounting
  4. Keep them easy for marketing
  5. Keep them great for controlling value

An on-demand replay of this webinar is available by clicking here.