eveloping a loyal following from your customers is a critical step in building a successful brand in the convenience store industry. One of the best ways to capture the consumers awareness of the brand is through a customer loyalty program. These programs, which are fairly inexpensive to implement, can boost growth and help build strong relationships with customers.
Loyalty programs are not a new concept. For some brands, this strategy has been in play for decades. Currently, US consumers have 3.8 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs. That’s an average of 14 per adult!
What’s different is that the consumer demand has shifted from simply earning points in exchange for rewards to loyalty programs that are customized to their individual needs and preferences.
“Loyalty programs are important because 80% of revenue comes from just 20% of customers.” Zach Goldstein, CEO, Thanx
In recent years, the lines between c-stores, grocery chains, and quick service restaurants have become blurred. This is especially true due to the COVID-19 pandemic which leveled the convenience playing field with most of these businesses offering similar home delivery and curbside pickup services.
While convenience is a major factor in deciding to go with a certain brand, people care more about being rewarded for their loyalty and product choices. This trend has been confirmed by the increasing number of customers who participate in customer loyalty programs. In 2018, only 6 percent of consumers participated in loyalty programs. By the following year, this jumped to over 42 percent. Most industry experts expect this trend to continue.
According to one study, 43 percent of customers visit a c-store because they are a member or a loyalty program. Another 53 percent admitted to visiting a retailer more often because they participate in the loyalty program. This new mindset is forcing c-store operators to rethink the way they approach brand awareness and loyalty.
People want to be treated special when they shop at a retailer. Increases in technology have allowed many companies to tailor the loyalty program and shopping experience to the individual’s needs and preferences. This approach is now expected of convenient stores.
There are a lot of benefits that can come with creating a loyalty program including brand awareness, increased sales, and repeat visits. While setting up a loyalty program seems easy, there are some challenges that c-store operations should keep in mind.
Loyalty programs will continue to evolve in the future. It’s highly likely that c-store brands will offer more specialized service for loyal customers such as in-store pick up or exclusive items.
Technology will also have a huge part to play. C-stores may use tools like artificial intelligence (AI) to help anticipate customer needs. This will allow the brand to appeal to the customer’s emotional side by offering the right products at just the right time. There may also be new technologies that are just emerging such as a metaverse-based store that allows loyalty program customers to browse a virtual environment and have products automatically delivered to their front door.
Another factor will probably be sustainability. More consumers are becoming eco-conscious so c-stores will need to find ways to provide zero-waste and anti-plastic options. These feel-good brands stand to gain a loyal cult following.
No matter what options c-store operators choose in the future, its clear that the companies with the highest levels of brand loyalty will come out on top.
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Brandon is a professional copywriter who has been producing content for websites, blogs, and other online publications for over 10 years. He specializes in a wide range of topics including business, finance, and travel.