19 Aug 2021

Connected Convenience: Inspire Customer Loyalty with Rewarding Digital Experiences

By: Lori Stout

Strategy

It feels like the whole world is talking about “digital disruption” and “digital transformation” lately. But the challenge for many convenience store operators is simply knowing where to begin. Consumers are demanding a shift from old-school loyalty programs to modern, omnichannel loyalty solutions that create opportunities for personalized engagement beyond everyday transactions. As a result, savvy c-store operators are attacking the challenge of meeting modern consumer expectations head-on by building a holistic digital customer experience that centers firmly around how consumers really want to interact with brands.

We recently partnered with our digital growth partner Hathway to author an eBook based on our joint Convenience Consumer Study. It explores this brave new world of “emotional loyalty,” or the allegiance that comes from making a customer feel valued, seen, and understood. In addition, we uncovered some interesting data about how it compares to the concept of “rational loyalty” that typically stems from more traditional (and potentially less cost-effective) tactics like mass discounting. 

While many operators might assume that basic discounts and monetary incentives are enough to keep customers coming back, consumers have spoken loudly to the contrary. The study revealed that 81% of respondents reported that they would choose one c-store brand over another if they felt the brand understood them better as a customer.

But what does it actually mean to “understand” your customers?

For over half of the respondents in the study, it goes well beyond the scope of simple rewards. The research revealed that 52.3% of consumers find it either important or very important that a company aligns with their self-image and personal beliefs and values. When it comes to digital loyalty, that alignment is created by leveraging data-driven insights to offer incentives that connect directly to emotional loyalty. Whether it’s allowing loyalty program members to donate their points to a social cause, demonstrating trust by asking members to test new products, or providing convenience-based benefits that save time and effort, your customers want to be seen and valued.

So, where to begin on this digital pilgrimage to better understand your customers? It all starts with valuable zero and first-party data that you collect from each touchpoint and use to deliver a better experience back to your customers. The fastest way to earn and leverage that data is through a frictionless mobile loyalty experience. Over 77% of convenience store shoppers expect their c-store brand of choice to offer a loyalty program, and 75% view mobile loyalty as critically important. 

When asked what made them feel the most valued as a loyalty program member, we found that tailored promotions, a sense of added convenience, and the ability to select customized benefits rounded out the top three. Consumers also desire loyalty programs that provide greater convenience and beyond just points and discounts. They want loyalty programs that cross all lines of business at a c-store–from fuel, to the car wash, to packaged food and beverages. Having three disparate loyalty programs — at the pump, the car wash, and in-store — causes friction and unnecessary inconvenience for your shoppers. Instead, build a modern digital loyalty program that leverages data across every channel to earn emotional loyalty from your customers throughout their entire journey with your brand. 

Digital transformation is a marathon–not a sprint. Begin with the customer experience in mind and choose a partner with the right architecture and integrations to make emotional loyalty the heartbeat of your digital ecosystem. 

Ready to take the first step? Check out our recent webinar with Convenience Store News on how to create impactful digital connections with your customers. We also invite you to contact one of our loyalty experts to schedule a personalized demo of the loyalty platform that powers many of the top C-store brands in North America, including Casey’s, RaceTrac, and Hucks.