How to Sell Age-Restricted Products on Your C-store Mobile App

Retailers and manufacturers can gain multiple advantages by leveraging age verification.
mobile app promotion

You may be thinking, “Age-restricted products, don’t those items sell themselves?” And while it may seem as though items such as cigarettes and beer sell themselves at your convenience store, it’s important to find ways to keep them in front of your consumer’s eyes. Only, it’s much trickier business than it may seem at first glance.

It can be difficult to navigate the advertising of tobacco products and alcohol due to the simple fact that they’re age restricted — meaning not all store visitors or loyalty program members have the ability to purchase the items until the legally determined age set by your state or local government.

Because of these restrictions, choosing when and how to promote these products becomes a more involved process to make sure you, your store, and your manufacturers remain compliant with local laws. This is especially true when you’re eyeing promotional space within your mobile app and loyalty program.

If you haven’t eyed it in the past, you may be now and thinking, “Can I advertise there?”

So, how do you advertise to of-age loyalty program members who would likely purchase these products when easily kept in mind? And is there truly a benefit to your store? Let’s start there.

Benefits of Promoting Age-Restricted Products

As restrictions on tobacco and alcohol continue to shift year over year, it’s important for convenience retail owners and consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands to understand the benefits of showcasing products via a digital presence. By doing so, you preserve the image of these products where they may have little or no exposure in your physical store.

Let’s look at tobacco for instance. This product has historically held a large amount of shelf space. Yet, over the years, that space has continued to dwindle as tobacco products and advertising have been downsized due to state and national regulations.

By moving your available tobacco products (cigarettes, vapes, dip, etc.) to your mobile app, you’re redeveloping visibility on a digital level. In turn, this can provide increased exposure compared to the limited shelf space within your physical store location.

As for alcohol promotion, the regulation varies on an even wider level. Knowing and embracing the flexibility of your local state and county laws can benefit you greatly. While some states allow rebates and direct discounts on alcohol, there are other states that provide the flexibility to include alcohol as part of a sweepstakes or giveaway in place of discounts. This affords creativity in how you promote these items within your mobile app and through your loyalty program as well.

Types of Advertising Models

Now that you’ve made the decision that it’s beneficial to advertise these products digitally, it’s time to discuss the various ways age-restricted content can be promoted within your app, along with the specific benefits.

Funding: There’s potential for receiving advertising dollars from manufacturers or CPGs for the promotion of these products. This provides additional impressions and brand exposure for CPG brands.

Loyalty Rewards: Build loyalty within your program by promoting similar or the same offers in-store and on your app.

Base Promotions: List the discounts and coupons for tobacco and alcohol products with the knowledge that they’re reaching the right audience.

Clubs: Depending on the manufacturer, you may be able to run information regarding tobacco clubs within your mobile app.

While these are just a few of the ways you can potentially promote age-restricted products within your mobile app, you may be wondering how age verification and local governance comes into play. Let’s take a look.

Enter, Responsible Advertising

Think of the last time you visited a brewery’s website. As soon as the site page loaded, you likely saw a prompt for entering your age or date of birth. This same thinking and capability can be applied to your mobile app’s loyalty program.

Once age verified, you can begin reaching those of-age members within your loyalty program and app through advertisements, promotions and specials for alcohol and tobacco — doubling as an added benefit of allowing you to responsibly reach a targeted, of-age audience.

So, let’s take a closer look at one of the advertising models from above. In the case of funding, where promotions and offers could be vendor funded instead of out-of-pocket, you and your vendors are gaining multiple advantages by leveraging this model.

With the added advertising medium of your mobile app, vendors of age-restricted products can comfortably rely on the age verification processes in your mobile app and loyalty program, so they can work within any potential restrictions they may typically face when making platform decisions for their advertising. This gives them direct access to your loyalty program and thus, your most loyal customers. At the same time, it provides you with more cash in your pocket to put toward customers for other promotions.

With the ability to support restrictions, mobile app advertising becomes a win-win for both you and the manufacturers you work with at your convenience store. You benefit from additional funding from the manufacturer to run promotions, and the CPG brands benefit from additional advertising and exposure that is targeted to the appropriate audience. All of this ultimately culminates in a win for the customer, who ends up with the product they want thanks to an offer they can’t refuse.

Melissa West is vice president, product marketing for PDI Software. Over her 16 years in the convenience retail industry, she has worked in sales, business intelligence, marketing and consumer engagement. Prior to PDI, West served as a field sales manager for Altria Group and led Outsite Networks’ consumer packaged goods business development division, working with top CPG brands across the industry.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.