Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, data-driven marketing was an essential revenue-generating tool for convenience store operators, with retailers understanding that the right customer data could be translated into actionable insights.
Now, with the pandemic forcing convenience store buying behavior to shift, consumer outreach needs to be more proactive, meaningful and effective so that marketing campaigns can have a greater impact.
Plus, with the rise of e-commerce putting pressure on small retailers, forward-thinking convenience store owners need to leverage valuable consumer data to create a more targeted marketing strategy, expand name recognition, and draw more customers to their stores.
Invest in the Right Technology
C-store retailers can utilize technology to track purchases a customer makes across different channels. There are a wide range of digital marketing solutions for brands to gather data — point-of-sale, mobile app coupons, loyalty programs, geofencing, and email marketing with QR codes, to name just a few.
Investing in the right technology will help brands not only capture the right data, but also provide solutions to analyze that data, gather insights and apply those learnings to create more targeted marketing campaigns.
Technology also allows retailers to engage and interact with customers, while store visitors enjoy a tailored shopping experience leading to a quicker path-to-purchase journey and a better shopping experience.
For example, in the past, c-store retailers relied on vendors to determine the amount of product to stock. Now, with the right data-collecting technology, retailers can stock the products their customers are demanding, ensuring customer satisfaction and return business because they know they can rely on the store. Data can also help c-store owners negotiate with vendors by helping retailers determine ordering patterns.
Reward & Segment Your Loyal Customers
Loyalty programs offer another tool to track buying behavior and gather customer data. By offering incentives, loyalty programs allow c-store retailers to offer more targeted offers and messaging based on past purchases and reward redemptions.
Additionally, loyalty incentives encourage customers to buy new products and make more frequent purchases. According to PDI's 2019 C-Store Shopper Report, c-store shoppers love loyalty programs, with 42.5 percent of consumers belonging to a program in 2019, up 6 percent from 2018.
Currently, email is the most common customer communication channel retailers use to engage loyalty members. However, CRM (customer relationship management) is becoming more omnichannel, which provides more opportunities to engage members. C-stores can encourage customer engagement via other channels, including in-app messaging, geotargeting, short message service (SMS) and push notifications as part of the loyalty marketing mix.
When members engage with a loyalty program (to track and redeem rewards, visit a store, buy gas, etc.), the right technology solution can record and analyze information from those actions. That data will help retailers segment members according to common factors, such as demographics and rewards preferences, and allow them to deliver customized messaging and offers. For example, saving money on fuel tends to be the top loyalty currency for c-stores, and retailers should adjust their rewards to meet these consumer demands.
Test, Evaluate & Learn
In marketing, A/B testing is a foundational approach, but is still incredibly important. C-store retailers should create programs to test different variables, including offer type, email frequency, time of day, day of the week and more to see what resonates best with their target audiences.
By evaluating the results and gathering insights from the test on an ongoing basis, convenience stores can optimize the functionality of their promotional campaigns, merchandise mix, mobile apps and their loyalty platform.
A convenience store's small size and accessibility has always enabled the industry to adapt to changing environments and consumer preferences, making operators more resilient as busy price-conscious consumers search for the quickest and most convenient way to spend their dollars. While 2020 created a slew of new challenges for c-store retailers, there are a variety of ways that brands can invest in technology, analyze consumer behavior and test out promotional campaigns in order to create a more targeted and efficient marketing strategy for the future.
Mo Chaar is chief commercial officer at Givex, a global cloud-based operations management solution designed to streamline business efficiencies and generate valuable and actionable customer data. Chaar oversees commercial strategy and development worldwide, as well as managing the sales teams within North America. His experience in gift card, loyalty and POS has played a pivotal role in the success of some of Givex's largest partners, from restaurant and retail to hospitality and the service sector.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.