Source: CSNews

With today’s consumers spending more time engaged with their mobile devices than ever before, mobile marketing and customer loyalty are increasingly taking center stage in convenience store retailers’ quest to connect with shoppers.

During the “Taking Your Customer Loyalty Strategy Mobile” education session at the 2019 NACS Show, moderator Bill Hanifin, Impact 21’s practice leader in customer engagement and loyalty, shared some key figures and insights around consumers’ use of mobile:

  • 77 percent of American adults carry smartphones;
  • On average, American adults spend three hours and 43 minutes a day on their smartphones;
  • Americans use less than 50 percent of their average 80 mobile apps; and
  • In the last three years, mobile initiative spending increased from 3 percent to 11 percent.

In the good news column for convenience store operators, today’s consumer behavior is trending toward building relationships with retailers. Hanifin said retailers can build trust by: communicating in the channel of choice for consumers; personalizing messages as much as data permits; and continually improving the customer experience.

During the session, attendees also heard from three c-store retailers, whose customer loyalty programs integrate key trends and consumer insights to deliver enhanced mobile programs:

Mapco Express

“By listening to our guests and offering them solutions to pain points, it really propelled MAPCO’s MY Reward$ program,” said MAPCO Express Senior Guest Experience Manager Bobbe Morhiser.

Launched in 2012, MAPCO’s rewards program was built on three key pillars: everyday benefits, unlock rewards, and surprise and delight by providing MAPCO guests with what they want the most — to save time and money, to be rewarded, and to feel good.

MY Reward$ initially offered guests the capability to view their loyalty status, find c-store locations and compare gas prices, donate to the charity of their choice, access promotion codes, and mobile pay. However, after conducting focus groups, surveys and gathering information from its call center, MAPCO relaunched a simplified version of its rewards program last summer in order to stabilize its mobile pay system, increase guest engagement in donating to charity, and enhance the customer experience via team member training.


When Yesway entered the U.S. convenience store market in 2016, the retailer’s goal when it came to a loyalty program was to be broad and reach all consumers. However, as an operator predominantly located in rural areas with smaller footprints and margins, this posed a challenge, Darrin Samaha, vice president of marketing, explained.

Going back to the drawing board, Des Moines-based Yesway, operator of more than 150 c-stores, created specific goals for its rewards program. Key among them were to design a program with low friction, take an inside-out strategic approach, gain supplier support, engage customers, and test and test again, Samaha shared.

Yesway recently redesigned its mobile app and rewards program with enhanced offers designed to achieve the goals it laid out. New features include:

  • A gameification feature called “Spin to Win”;
  • Enhanced visibility to digital coupons;
  • Age verification to engage alcohol consumers, who can unlock age-restricted offers; and
  • Yesway Mobile Wallet, which takes on a more financial-institution look to make consumers comfortable with sharing their personal information.

Based on Yesway’s experience, Samaha offered session attendees a few suggestions, including to: engage associates because “a rewards program can live and die in your store”; utilize marketing analytics; consider incremental improvements as still movement; view feedback as a gift; and get inspiration by looking beyond the category.

Cumberland Farms

In 2013, the original goal of Cumberland Farms’ SmartPay program was to offer a fuel discount with a loyalty hook, by offering 10 cents off per gallon. As the industry has evolved in recent years, though, so has the SmartPay program, noted Cumberland Farms Director of Brand Strategy and Advertising David Heilbronner.

This summer, the c-store retailer relaunched SmartPay as part of the next stage of its Check-Link program. The SmartPay mobile app now features “members-only” deals, a Coffee Cup-Scription program, and an updated look and feel.

Key Takeaways

At the close of the session, the executives left attendees with three key takeaways:

  1. A central aspect of your mobile strategy has to be developing a reason for customers to download, open and use the app.
  2. Features like order-ahead payment and fuel discounts can create the incentives needed for customer engagement.
  3. Training is key, so make sure your employees understand the program to help customers.