Pop quiz: do customers prefer the path of least resistance? It seems intuitive that they would. After all, amidst such a competitive, price-conscious environment, you’d think that customers - at least as an aggregate - would navigate towards shopping experiences that prioritize ease, cost, and simplicity as fundamental purchase drivers. The cheapest gas station, the closest store, the fastest drive-through line; aren’t these the factors that matter most these days?
It may be interesting to hear that, in fact, customers’ feelings of loyalty towards the brands and businesses they love towers over nearly everything:
- 70% of shoppers would choose their coffee favorite brand over the most convenient cup.
- Of 2,500 U.S. shoppers polled, 78% said they’re interested in joining membership-based, premium loyalty programs and 72% already belong to one.
- Over half of customers polled reveal they are willing to spend more money to receive better service experiences.
Cameron Watt, president and CEO at Ottawa-based Intouch Insight Ltd., comments on findings released in this year’s Convenience Store Trends Report: “In a world where channel blurring is forcing c-stores to compete with other verticals such as grocery or quick-service restaurants, leaders need to go beyond being the most convenient option to being one that also offers top-quality products, speedy and accurate service, and a variety of shopping methods.”
So what’s the narrative here? Obviously, businesses with loyal followings can’t simply charge whatever they want or make the path-to-purchase heedlessly complicated. The truth is that a tactical combination of targeted loyalty strategy with exceptional CX will make any business push ahead of competitors. But for certain businesses, it may be comforting to realize that the power of loyalty can override cost or convenience, which can be notoriously difficult to change.
Message Consistency is Key
Functional loyalty is never “plug and play.” The platform needs to be inextricably linked to the brand and its values. And these values need to be deeply woven into everything the brand stands for, makes sense to offer amidst the competitive landscape, and what offerings it can accomplish given its own internal constraints. So, if your brand sits in a premium category with a bit of extra cost baked into your pricing scheme; or, if your product takes extra time and attention during manufacturing before it is able to reach your customer - embrace these characteristics, instead of trying to compete with low-price or quick-service strategies. But be sure to include these characteristics in your loyalty branding too, so that customers recognize and appreciate a seamless experience while interacting with the totality of your brand.
Let People Know!
The most powerful loyalty engine; the most compelling rewards; data-driven intelligence that zeroes in on niche customer segments…it’s all meaningless if people aren’t aware of your program’s existence. According to Intouch Insight, this is a growing problem:
“Mystery shopping data showed that only 28% of cashiers mentioned their c-store’s loyalty program and not all locations had signage/materials promoting the program. Better promotion will not only help attract more customers but influence their purchases too.”
So amplify your communications, double-down on your core strategy, and let loyalty do its job. And before you know it, you’ll be crossing the finish line victorious - even if you’re not the first off the blocks.