NATIONAL REPORT — In today's retail world, gaining a larger share of customer wallet is extremely important. Convenience stores now have the technology and tools to close the gap between them and other retailers, particularly quick-service restaurants. However, it's important to choose the right technology and then use it correctly.
For c-store customers, a good experience is no longer as simple as pumping gas and running inside to pay for it without issue. During a recent webinar hosted by Convenience Store News, Lori Stout, senior director of product marketing for loyalty and engagement platform Punchh, highlighted how consumers have become accustomed to seamless experiences through brands like Amazon, where browsing, ordering, paying and receiving an order all feels effortless.
"C-store customers want nothing less," she said, adding that if customers don't feel like they're getting the same experience as with other brands, they won't go out of their way to shop at a particular retailer.
Seventy-three percent of customers are likely to switch brands if they don't get a simple, personalized and consistent experience across every channel, including web, mobile, in-store, at the pump, and more, according to Punchh.
Creating a simple experience across digital and in-store channels is no small feat, however, and requires that retailers know and understand consumer identity, as well was what they bought and how much they spent, and connect the dots between in-store and digital purchases in real time.
To jumpstart digital loyalty, Stout said c-store operators should:
Choose a platform that integrates easily and everywhere;
Deliver one-to-one personalization to drive pump-to-store traffic and sales;
Create the omnichannel experience their customers expect; and
Simplify and scale with a single platform for both loyalty and special offers.
Choosing the right platform is the most important step, according to Stout. "It feeds everything else," she explained, advising that retailers should choose the tech stack that fits their brand, not one they're forced into.
Open platforms can future-proof operations by eventually integrating with systems that operators don't yet know they need, she pointed out. Additionally, the right platform will accelerate time-to-market and time-to-value by saving time, money and IT resources.
Consistency is key. Stout urged retailers to think of omnichannel not as simply having multiple channels, but as offering an experience that feels the same in every interaction.
The challenge comes as different channels gain popularity with consumers. Mainstream channels now include in-store; at the pump; online ordering; delivery; mobile/in-app ordering; ordering at the counter or kiosk; and curbside pickup.
Personalization is another way c-stores can build loyalty through technology by going beyond just offering discounts. By using granular data, c-store operators can make offers specific to who shoppers are, what they like and what their habits are. Coffee drinkers might be prompted to try a bakery item with their beverage, while parents could receive a deal on a pizza they can pick up on the way home from work.
When it's done right, modern loyalty turns unknown consumers into superfans — and they can have a big impact on a brand's bottom line.
Whatever platform a c-store operator chooses, it should iterate over time, and they should not consider the initiative completed, Stout cautioned.
"Loyalty is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing," she said.
An on-demand replay of this webinar, "Jumpstart Digital Loyalty to Drive Participation & Profits," is available here.