The Lowdown on Loyalty programs in C-Stores

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Research Overview

As convenience stores work to build loyalty with shoppers, many retailers are exploring or implementing loyalty programs. General Mills Convenience & Foodservice recently conducted two research projects focusing on loyalty programs across retail channels to identify ways that c-store retailers can build programs that resonate with their shoppers.

Sample/Research Method

  • 348 convenience store food and beverage shoppers, ages 18-64, participated in a nationwide online survey in January and February of 2014.
  • 382 convenience store food/beverage shoppers, ages 18-64, participated in a nationwide online idea-generation exercise to develop an “ideal c-store loyalty program.” The qualitative study was also completed in January and February of 2014.

Key Findings

  • Convenience store shoppers are avid members of loyalty programs, though participation in c-store programs lags that of the grocery and drugstore channels.
    • 89 percent of c-store shoppers currently participate in some type of loyalty/reward program across a variety of channels and categories.
    • 64 percent of c-store shoppers participate in a grocery loyalty program.
    • 52 percent of c-store shoppers participate in a drugstore/pharmacy loyalty program.
    • 35 percent of c-store shoppers participate in a convenience store or gas station loyalty program.
  • Shoppers who participate in a c-store/gas station loyalty program are mostly satisfied. However, there is an opportunity to increase the percentage of those who are truly passionate about participation (those who are “very satisfied”).
    • 35 percent say they are “very satisfied” with their c-store/gas station loyalty program.
    • 34 percent say they are “somewhat satisfied.”
    • 31 percent are neutral or “unsatisfied.”
  • What makes a program appealing? When shoppers talked about the programs they like best, as well as their “ideal” c-store program, their feedback focused on three areas.
    • Incent Trial: An easy signup process and immediate reward encourages shoppers to join. Seconds count in a c-store visit, so making signup as quick as possible is important.
      • Simple, speedy signup.
      • An incentive to join (like an instant discount or freebie).
      • A reward system that’s easily understood.
    • Make it Worthwhile: Shoppers like to see benefits that are easily attainable, without a significant change in their current behavior.
      • Points for things they’re already buying.
      • Rewards provided on a regular basis.
      • Regular reminders (through receipts, cashiers, or email) that keep the program top-of-mind.
    • Bring a Smile: Make the program fun! Shoppers appreciate surprises and customized offers. They also look forward to higher reward levels when they spend more in the store.
      • Surprise deals.
      • Personalized offers based on purchase history.
      • Exclusive rewards for the most dedicated shoppers.

Implications/Advice for Retailers:

“Convenience store shoppers are familiar with loyalty programs from grocery and drug stores but fewer shoppers participate in c-store loyalty programs. There is definitely an opportunity to expand,” said Chris Quam, consumer insights manager at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice. “In keeping with the speedy nature of a c-store transaction, sign-up needs to be fast and friction-free. Once shoppers have joined and start participating, they will expect to see the benefits of patronizing the store on a regular basis so rewards need to be kept within reach to maintain their loyalty.”

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