In 2011, look for cause marketing to be a bigger trend. An expert panel at the U.S. Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) annual meeting revealed that the trend toward cause marketing is the next step in engaging customers and increasing loyalty. But it’s not enough just to pick a cause and throw together a promotion. Customers want to shop at chains with “authenticity,” the panel noted. If the cause is not authentic to the brand, and if the c-store isn’t integrating it into its marketing, the promotion won’t resonate as well with customers.
In an increasingly digital world, c-stores also need to reach customers before they venture out of their homes, such as through social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and a company Web site.
“The biggest trend we see is more companies are using their Web site to offer customer coupons so customers can print them out and take them to the stores, as well as applications to push coupons to a smart phone. Then they just scan the phone at the register,” said Bryan Zeiger, category manager for The Spinx Cos.
Spinx is currently testing online couponing and looking to develop a mobile application for smartphones, Zeiger said.
The chain currently uses Twitter to help push people to the Spinx Web site for coupons or to let customers know when it is offering a special.
As more retailers look to reach customers through online media, however, it’s important to grab the opt-in, in order to keep them from feeling spammed. At the 2010 NACS Show session “Cash, Charge—Or Cell?” panelists noted that while text messages have been a good way to reach on-the-go customers, the concept is still somewhat new and customers are not yet used to receiving deals on their phones. If they receive too many messages they could file complaints, or take their complaints to the Web, which could damage the retail brand.