CB4’s Convenience Store Loyalty Awards honor excellence in c-store loyalty programs. And what a year to evaluate both convenience and loyalty, as the pandemic prompted shoppers in 2020 to seek out new chains and channels based, above all, on the need for safe and successful one-stop shopping.
Converting even a fraction of these opportunistic shoppers into recurring customers could be a potential game-changer for the top convenience store chains, and a loyalty program is an effective hook: Nearly 80 percent of consumers in a pre-pandemic survey said they were more likely to continue to patronize a store after joining its loyalty program.
But in a post-Covid world, your run of the mill loyalty program may not cut it. According to research done by McKinsey & Company, 76 percent of consumers have changed stores, brands, or the way they shop in the pandemic. That makes it more important than ever for retailers to have a competitive loyalty program that leads to higher customer lifetime value, bigger baskets, more incremental visits, and increased market share.
The top convenience store chains’ loyalty programs adapt with the times and are increasingly mobile-first. In this post, we’ll recognize what makes these the top loyalty programs introduced or enhanced in 2020.
Most User-Centric Loyalty Program: QuickChek Rewards
QuickChek Rewards, which launched in September, combines Buy-8-Get-1 perks—for beverages, candy bars and subs—with an additional layer of customer engagement. Customers are sorted into three escalating tiers based on how regularly they shop in-store, with accumulating rewards: “fans” (0-3 visits per month) receive free birthday cookies; “friends” (4-9 visits per month) receive birthday baked goods and free drinks and candy; and “family” (more than 10 visits per month) receive a birthday smoothie and double the free drinks and candy.
In a culture where individuals methodically track every step taken and flight of stairs climbed, there’s something particularly enticing about a rewards program that incentivizes incremental visits in such a clever way. And with fuel sales at more than half of its 160-plus locations across New York and New Jersey, it’s a shrewd move to drive customers from the pumps toward in-store food and beverage purchases. Over time, targeted offers will surface in the QuickChek Deals app based on a consumer’s shopping habits.
The QuickChek Deals App Gives Rewards for Good Behavior
Best Application of Gamification: Kwik Chek’s kwikcard Rewards
Kwik Chek’s loyalty program was completely revamped in 2020, with an entirely new mobile-app interface and a streamlined in-app payment system that has already paid major dividends during the pandemic. Another new feature: loyalty points can now be redeemed for per-gallon discounts at the retailer’s fuel outlets, or discounts on in-store food and beverage purchases.
But Kwik Chek’s 100 Days of Giveaways promotion helped the new app make its biggest splash to date. A virtual scratch-off game that ran within the app from June to September gave users a chance to win everything from a year’s worth of free coffee to signed footballs, golf bags and Yeti coolers; and from a customer engagement perspective. It also gave them every incentive to keep checking the app for the next opportunity to win gear or discounts on food and fuel.
Kwik Chek Deals Encourages App-Users to Keep Coming Back for More
Best Holiday Perks: 7-Eleven’s 7NOW
7-Eleven takes a multi-pronged approach to digital customer engagement. It’s 7Rewards program is already one of the best loyalty programs in the business. But with its newly revamped 7NOW delivery app, the c-store mega-giant has opened a new channel to engage its most committed customers while owning even more of the customer journey at a time when food delivery has never been more popular—or competitive. 7NOW also recently added an option to order ahead for touch-free pickup in its stores, where seasonal offerings were tweaked to include toys, face coverings and an increased suite of gift cards to increase the appeal for one-stop shoppers.
7NOW users were also able to take advantage of free 30-minute delivery—of everything from the chain’s signature Slurpees, to snacks, beer and last-minute batteries for toys—during the peak of the holiday season. And a time when many socially distanced family gatherings were being held outdoors in public spaces, 7NOW’s capability to deliver to parks in select markets proved to be a much-needed holiday miracle.
The 7Now App Gave 7-Eleven an Enduring Edge in the Pandemic
Best Cloud-Based Enhancements: Club CITGO
At a time when consumers are making fewer trips to the gas station—due both to higher-efficiency vehicles and a decrease in mobility due to the ongoing pandemic—each visit becomes more important for top convenience store chains that depend on fuel for foot traffic. For a petroleum giant like CITGO, the upsides of an enhanced mobile experience for its Club CITGO loyalty program are particularly apparent.
To improve the customer experience, CITGO partnered with cloud-based mobile commerce company P97 to further streamline c-store purchases—whether food or fuel. Among the under-the-hood tweaks: customized in-store offers and discounts on fuel that can be unlocked via integrated Club CITGO loyalty points. And with 4,500 locations across the country, marginal improvements at scale can have a significant impact on the bottom line for one of the country’s top convenience store chains. P97 are experts in the convenience retail and fuels marketing industries (the firm’s tech also powers the Kwik Chek mobile experience described above), and future enhancements, such as frictionless payments and fresh, made-to-order food upon arrival—are just a few of the possibilities customers may have in the not-too-distant future.
Loyalists Get Credit When They Check In with the Enhanced Club CITGO App
Best Loyalty Program Debut: Casey’s Rewards
2020 proved to be a challenging environment in which to launch any new product. But Casey’s General Store’s new loyalty program, Casey’s Rewards, has thrived in this new normal. Some 2.25 million members had joined the loyalty program by the middle of the year, and those numbers have only continued to increase.
The debut of the loyalty program came with a revamped mobile app experience, which gives customers the ability to track their rewards points and trade them for Casey’s Cash, which can be used on almost anything at the chain’s 2,000-plus outlets—or to make a cash donation to any school in the United States. The digital makeover also seems to have given the c-store’s pizza business a major boost, with nearly 45 percent of all orders coming through digital channels. Talk about taking a slice of the pie.
Casey’s Earns Extra Points for Design with the Casey’s Rewards App
Top Convenience Store Chains Eye Loyalty in 2021
The days of loyalty programs existing as a single wallet punch-card are obviously long gone. But we’re entering a new era where a loyalty program has to be about more than buying eight coffees and getting the ninth free. The winners on this list have all found ways to make transactions more seamless, more direct, faster and more fun through the medium of the mobile app.
Convenience and one-stop shopping should continue to be the dominant narrative into 2021 as the pandemic continues to inform shopping habits. But an entertaining and completely integrated loyalty experience—one that includes points, rewards, touchless payment options and even delivery and curbside pickup options—has started to become the table stakes for top convenience store chains. And those are just some of the factors we’ll be looking for when we reconvene for the next iteration of this best-of list.
Learn more about how CB4 helps top convenience store chains like Kum & Go, Circle K and QuickCheck make quick in-store fixes to ensure shoppers find what they came for.