Why Personalized C-store Marketing Earns Customer Loyalty

By: Melissa Canellis


Gaining loyal c-store customers is no small feat in today’s marketplace. Currently, c-stores must contend with high gas prices causing fewer and shorter summer trips, competition from grocery stores and restaurants, and consumers that are continually redefining how they seek convenience. 

Retailers are in a position where it’s become necessary to differentiate themselves from the competition. Offering one-size-fits-all promotions and uninspired food offerings no longer hold the same value for customers. According to the 2021 Convenience Consumer study, 81% of respondents said that they would choose one c-store brand over another if they felt the brand understood them better as a customer. 

The 2022 NACS State of the Industry report also demonstrates a shift in some customer purchasing patterns that have required new tactics from c-stores. For example, foodservice sales reflected the trend of convenience stores selling more restaurant-quality food.  Sales of prepared food rose to 25.9% growing 15.2% from 2019. Overall, foodservice now accounts for 35.5% of in-store gross profits.

Additionally, the average in-store basket size increased 6.3% in 2021 and has grown 22.4% over the past two years, making up for a 6.9% decrease in in-store transactions since 2019. 

C-store purchasing patterns continue to change in terms of what products are sold and how they are purchased. Successful convenience chain retailers must adjust their offers as their customers’ preferences change and their definition of convenience evolves. 

Personalized marketing provides c-stores with the ability to give customers a reason to drive to their location and grow a relationship with the brand. Based on experiences from Amazon and Netflix, customers expect a certain level of personalization with the businesses they interact with. The good news is there are a number of opportunities for c-stores to create relevant messaging that resonates with individual customers.

Delivering the Best Offer to the Right Customer

C-store marketers can personalize communication by considering the channel they use to engage the customer on. Customers may be using their smartphone, email, or walk into a store, swipe a credit card, give a phone number or pick up WiFi. There is a spectrum of channels that offer an opportunity for c-stores to identify a shopper, present an offer such as while the customer is still using WiFi, print an offer on the receipt and/or send an email after the purchase has been made and the customer has left the store.

Making an investment to position yourself on mobile will deliver additional opportunities as well.  You have the location aspect of the customer as another channel to pursue. While the customer may not be in the store, they may be close to the store. With location information you can catch them on their way to work and thinking about their morning coffee or on their way home considering what to have for dinner. 

With the right digital capabilities you can capture a customer’s attention at the pump too.  You can build upon the customer’s own relationship with your brand. If a customer has downloaded your mobile app or become part of your loyalty program, a c-store marketer can combine channels to drive engagement and sales. 

Delivering the Best Offer at the Right Time

Traditionally what c-stores have done in the past is use signage, or at the pump, run a video. Convenience for the customer meant they wanted to purchase gas and go home. If a brand creates digital touchpoints for the customer, who, for example, gets an offer for a  breakfast burrito special on their smartphone while they’re pumping gas, the c-store significantly increases their likelihood of earning foot traffic into their store. Combining pump timing with a mobile app download and a personalized offer is the key element of how to do personalization.

With personalized c-store offers, especially for food, brands can drive behaviors toward items that deliver high gross margin (GM). Understanding your customers through data helps tell marketers when, how and what to offer their members, seeing as it’s possible a $89 tank of gas can be $6 in GM as could a $10 pizza also be $6 in GM. Therefore, from a c-store perspective, knowing each customer and trying to personalize behavior that you want them to have can be very important for the top line and even more important the bottom line. 

Punchh Loyalty helps c-store brands understand their customers and bring value to them. Learn more about our customized convenience store loyalty programs with a short demo of our platform. 

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