Customer Loyalty: Thinking Outside the Card
Competition in the retail petroleum industry is stiff, especially if you are an Independent C-store Operator. Lately, retailers have been turning to loyalty cards or similar programs to help. The problem is that these programs are expensive to maintain, hard to quantify, and won’t truly set you apart anymore. The actual reasons why your customers might choose your store over the competition may come as a surprise to you. Did you know that loyalty and brand programs are NOT the #1 reason that your customers will choose to visit your location over another? Now we are not saying that loyalty programs, such as cards, are not valuable. We know they are, and when managed properly, they can be a great asset to a convenience store in growing sales and profit dollars. The issue that we are talking about is differentiating yourself from the “Big Box” retailer or the “Mom and Pop” store down the road from you doing the very same thing. We are talking about giving your customers another reason to choose your location over theirs.
Today, loyal consumers define value as much more than just price and promotions. Loyalty programs reach far beyond these and to truly be different you must think outside the card! The truth is that “after street price, cleanliness is the number one reason customers choose to visit a convenience store” (M/A/R/C). Research has also shown that a clean C-Store has been proven to increase both fuel and in-store sales anywhere between 5 - 15% (source: Alon Brands).That’s huge!! Your consumers are becoming more selective of where they buy their fuel and where they choose to spend their dollars. Providing the consumer with a great experience can make all the difference for your current and potential customers in deciding where to buy their fuel and snacks. A recent study performed by M/A/R/C® Research and National In-Store found that 14% of consumers said they would stop visiting a store that was not as clean as they would like, and 29% said they would only visit the store to pick up a few items they could not find elsewhere. What does your store offer consumers that they can’t find down the street? Your customers have several places where they can buy most of the items every c-store carries, and if you aren’t meeting your customer’s expectations, the one down the street will. So the big question is Does your store’s image earn your customer’s repeat business or are you simply relying on promotions tied to a plastic card to keep them coming back?