4 Ways to Jump-Start Digital Loyalty in Your C-Store to Drive Participation and Profits

By: Lori Stout


2020 threw some powerful curveballs at the C-store industry. Not to be outdone, 2021 has ushered in a few surprises of its own. From shifting pandemic regulations to a cyberattack on one of the nation’s largest fuel suppliers, C-store operators have been forced to pivot on a dime to keep customer engagement strond and find new ways to drive traffic from the fuel pump inside their stores.

While some of the initial pivots to new technologies like curbside pickup, online ordering, and contactless payments were born of urgent necessity to keep customers safe, this new tech is here to stay. According to recent Accenture research, 87% of consumers will continue to use contactless payments for the foreseeable future, 84% will order in-app, and 78% will utilize curbside pickup.

As C-stores continue to compete in an increasingly consolidated retail and grocery market, a modern digital loyalty program is the fastest path to profitable engagement with shoppers. As you draw program members further into the loyalty journey, they will not only spend more at the pump and in-store, but also refer friends and family to participate, which quickly compounds the return on your loyalty program investment.

In a recent webinar hosted by Convenience Store News, Punchh shared four simple ways to capitalize on digital loyalty as a competitive advantage.

First, choose a loyalty platform that integrates easily and everywhere. When you use loyalty as the foundation for a tech stack that works for you (instead of trying to force-feed your goals into an ill-fitting, siloed stack), you ensure that you can easily add systems and applications that you may not even know that you need yet. 

Think about all of the new technologies and channels you’ve had to embrace over the past 5-10 years. Choose a loyalty provider with an open architecture and a proven history of deep integration with a variety of partners that can easily accommodate whatever comes next.

Integrations are the gateway to better customer engagement. An integrated loyalty platform gathers data at each consumer touchpoint to help build a complete picture of your shoppers. SKU-level POS integration makes it much easier to track campaign progress and offer redemptions, and identify potential interest in new categories or opportunities to upsell through personalized offers. 

Second, use 1:1 personalization to drive pump-to-store traffic. The average c-store gets about 1,100 visitors to its gas pumps per day, and only about 44% of those customers go inside the store. Before digital loyalty programs, there was little operators could do in real-time to entice customers to come in to make a purchase. Today, it’s easy to deliver the right marketing messages at the right time–either directly at the pump or via a mobile device–to catch your customers’ attention with offers that reflect their specific preferences. 

As you collect more zero and first-party data from shoppers through their engagement with your integrated loyalty program, it takes the guesswork out of how to gain and keep the attention of your customers. Armed with a 360-degree customer view, you can rely on a wealth of data to dictate what offers you send and when. And remember–personalization doesn’t always equal discounting. Most consumers are more receptive to an offer that reflects their unique buying preferences than one that simply offers a discount on a product they may not even want.

Third, create a great experience in every channel. Your customers expect a fast, personalized, & convenient end-to-end experience that feels consistent in every channel and every interaction with your store. Whether it’s at the pump, at the counter, in your mobile app, or at the curb– every experience should reflect your brand promise.

Traditionally, C-store operators have assumed that customers treat convenience store experiences as utilitarian and that they simply want to get in and out. After all, it’s called a “convenience store,” right? But what many brands are learning, and what the research reflects, is that shoppers expect the same level of customer experience from their C-store of choice as they do from any other retailer. And they will not hesitate to switch if they don’t get it.

Today’s consumers weigh their experience with you against how easy it is to shop with companies like Amazon, Uber, Doordash, and others. From ordering to pickup and delivery to providing reviews–every end-to-end interaction should be fast, personalized, and consistent in every channel. An integrated digital loyalty platform bridges the gap between the channels you have today and the ones you’ll need in the future to elevate each customer experience beyond the utilitarian and into the exceptional.

Lastly, simplify and scale with a single platform for loyalty, offers & data-driven engagement. 2020 proved that the world can change in an instant, and businesses have to be increasingly agile to survive. A streamlined platform and tech stack protect against future curveballs–good and bad. As you add new technologies and integrations, you’ll have the proper foundation in place to start collecting and utilizing data immediately. Instead of launching expensive and time-consuming development projects, you can realize faster time-to-value and leverage data as a competitive advantage.

We believe that customer loyalty is at the heart of consumer identity, sales growth, and higher CLV. The end goal is to understand your shoppers through their loyalty-based purchasing history and by collecting and analyzing customer profile data over time. It’s all made possible by:

  • Personalized offers that provide incentives for consumers to reveal their digital identity and convert to loyalty program members
  • Data collection at every consumer touchpoint and at a great level of detail–even down to the SKU level at the POS
  • Targeted, data-driven segments to ensure that campaigns and marketing communications hit their intended mark and compel the right consumer behaviors
  • New technologies like AI and machine-learning that use data to predict behaviors and make increasingly intelligent and targeted recommendations

Loyalty isn’t “set it and forget it.” It requires a solid, data-driven foundation with the right integrations and adjacent technologies in place to give you the agility and extensibility you need to move fast and act with confidence as the market and consumer preferences change.

We would love to offer you a complimentary assessment of your digital strategy and the goals you’ve set for your brand. Contact us today to speak with one of our convenience store loyalty experts.

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