Data-Driven Path Can Boost C-store Customer Engagement, Customer Loyalty

Officials at Paytronix believe that a data-driven model can help boost c-store customer engagement and customer loyalty.

Loyalty360 talked to Jeff Hoover, C-Store Data Strategist, Paytronix, to learn more about how c-stores can enhance long-term customer engagement/customer loyalty.

Can you talk about the plight of the c-store and how a data-driven path can boost customer engagement?

Hoover: C-store loyalty has historically focused on club programs in which a customer gets a free product after making a certain number of purchases and gas discounts. While these tactics deliver value to customers, they don’t necessarily change behavior, and they’re certainly not differentiated from the competition. This has led to passive engagement and a sense of entitlement by the vast majority of customers. Utilizing data to segment customers and target them with personalized offers can help brands deliver the same or better value, but in a way, that is profit enhancing for the brand, valuable for the customer and differentiated from the competition. Studies suggest customers expect this level of personalization from brands and those that deliver will be the ones that win.

Can you talk about how customer data plays a role in this?

Hoover: While the published components of a program are important to drive awareness, the best-performing programs use data to segment and target customers with relevant and behavior-changing messaging and offers. This limits the chance of subsidizing existing behavior by giving a free drink to a customer that already purchases them on a regular basis. Instead, you can target that customer with an offer that introduces them to other products in the store or encourages them to visit in a different day or week part.

This wealth of data also unlocks opportunities to utilize vendor funding in much more meaningful and impactful ways. Historically, vendors have funded one-size-fits-all promotions that are often the same from one c-store to the next, but more visibility to customer data can deliver more targeted, behavior-changing value. For example, a vendor could give a free or heavily discounted product to lapsed customers of its brand and a BOGO offer to customers that have purchased recently. Last of all, customer data allows for A/B testing of campaigns and holding out control groups, which provides directly measurable results and can often unlock incremental funding from vendors and other partners.

Can you talk about the predictive model that looks at fuel purchase frequency and projects the next fuel purchase, and its potential engagement impact?

Hoover: Determining when a guest has disengaged from a brand or moved to a competitor is extremely valuable, but also extremely guest specific. Historically, brands will attempt to re-engage guests after a set number of days without visiting but human behavior is not one-size-fits-all. Predictive models identify patterns at a customer specific level that not only tell us when “Joe” should fill up his tank next, but also alert us when “Joe” has likely chosen to refuel elsewhere when he misses a visit.

Leveraging this data allows a brand to implement a 1-to-1 customer re-engagement strategy that targets customers at the right time based on their past purchase behavior. This data can also be used proactively to target customers who should be filling up soon with a light offer to entice them to continue to choose the loyalty program brand instead of filling up at a competitor.

Can you talk about programs that have moved the customer from the pump to the store?

Hoover: While merchandising at the pump can help drive awareness and encourage customers to come in store, targeted data-driven messaging and offers play a key role as well. Since these customers don’t come in store regularly, if ever, it’s important to offer high value or free in-store items that entice them to change their behavior and come inside. Focus on broad-reaching products, such as fountain drinks, coffee or bottled water and other branded beverages. Vendor funding is often available here since these customers are often seen as an incremental business opportunity. Some brands have also had success targeting gas-only customers in real time at the pump via push notification or text offers. Once a customer identifies themselves as a loyalty member at the pump, the platform can identify if they’ve made a visit in store and if they haven’t trigger an offer to come inside for a free product.

Can you talk about other rich data insights that speak to customer engagement increases in the retail/c-store segment?

Hoover: One of the biggest opportunities for data insights is to use it to identify your second-tier customers that are less brand loyal. They may visit your store frequently, but are likely shopping your competition as well. While it’s hard to drive more visits and spend with your top five to 10 percent of highly loyal customers, this second tier can be influenced by way of targeted offers that change their normal behavior and capture more of their visits. 

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