Loyalty Points to Ponder

The following originally appeared in Convenience Store Decisions and is written by W. Capra Executive Consultant, Ed Collupy.

When considering a new loyalty program, asking the right questions can help you determine which option is best for your business.

Many convenience operators have their own experiences they can rely on related to loyalty programs either from their own efforts or one they’re supporting through major oil brand partners. In many cases, both continue to find ways to strengthen and expand their own programs while others are contemplating entering this marketing endeavor.

As they all do this, there are as many answers to questions about the importance of loyalty in convenience retailing as there are compelling questions that need to be asked and then understood.

STRIKE UP CONVERSATIONS

There will be many loyalty solution providers at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show this year waiting for you to meet with them. Keep in mind that you will often run into existing users of the provider’s program in the booth too—strike up a conversation with both and ask away.

Here are some questions to consider to asking.

  • How can my business/loyalty offering be ready for changes in technology and consumer preferences?
  • You need to build a 360-degree profile of each of your customers and use it to serve them with a relevant message in the right moment. How can you use the system’s data to create a better customer experience?
  • Your foot traffic is down; what system features can be activated to bring back people who have not been shopping lately or are only pumping fuel? Does their system allow customers to tap their phone at the pump to get an offer to come into the store?
  • Does the loyalty platform integrate with consumer packaged goods vendors for store-level promotions and campaigns, allowing your vendors to compete for your customers based on the consumer value of their products and their share in the category?
  • Consider other consumer services and offers you provide or are considering and find out if the loyalty solution can include ACH payment, a retailer-branded stored value card and Pump Authorization from one Loyalty ID.

POINTS TO CONSIDER

My colleague, Zach Pastko, recently led a team implementing a new loyalty program and from a lesson-learned session he took the client through here are a few questions to be asking:

  • How are relationships forged with third parties that inevitably are needed for the program not just to work, but succeed and expand?
  • What is the best organizational structure needed to support the program once implemented and to advance it as a true brand builder and customer experience?
  • Ensure support from the solution provider; what is their release schedule and list of priorities across clients you will be able to leverage?
  • On the priority front, be conscious of competing priorities. How can the loyalty program help management’s objectives of driving the bottom line and reaching other goals for the year?
  • It takes a team and your loyalty program needs to be an integrated part of your brand or you may want to use a loyalty program to build a new brand image; how does the loyalty program provider engage with your marketing team and agencies, what new sales and margin building offers will impact the marketing calendar?

LET FACTS LEAD

Come armed with facts for your conversations with solution providers.

  • Reference Brian Wise, sales manager for Infor CX, where in a recent article for Martec Advisors he asked the question, “So, how do Millennials react to traditional loyalty programs?” He contends that they don’t. What do loyalty providers think? Do they have capabilities, as he suggests you need to “flip the script” and treat the Millennial “in terms of how you can be loyal to them instead of them being loyal to you?”
  • Gone are the days of legacy loyalty solutions that take 12-18 months to implement, only to find that their program is outdated by the time it even gets to market. Ask the solution provider to demonstrate how their platform can enable a simple program you can take to market quickly and start learning about your customers. And ask for an introduction to a customer who has used a test, learn and iterate the process.
  • On the mobile front, a study from CodeBroker found 75% of consumers would engage more with loyalty programs that make rewards information mobile-friendly while Bond reported 85% of loyalty program members who have redeemed with their mobile phone say their experience was improved by that technology. Do the loyalty solutions you’re considering include a retailer-branded mobile app to engage with your customers? Ask solution providers how mobile app investments in mobile ordering, for both foodservice and other merchandise, can be leveraged with a loyalty program.

CONEXXUS CAN HELP

As part of your journey on the show floor be sure to stop by the Tech Edge booth (#6147) sponsored by Conexxus and visit with the staff and active members to learn and discuss what the Loyalty Working Group is up to.

Recent work by this group will result in an updated version of the standard that should be available for use in 2019. Such a version includes, among many things, support for new loyalty features on how to deliver messaging and offers to the consumer as they check out. In a prototype example in the proposal, a customer interactive screen could display current points available and a selection of merchandise offers where points the consumer chooses which, if any, points she wants to redeem for one or more of the offers being presented.

And question the future, what does the next generation of customer engagement look like for your business and how can a loyalty provider open new channels for your business?

Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group, can be reached at ecollupy@wcapra.com. Ed has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses and technology companies.