During a session at the NACS SOI Summit, experts advised retailers to have a road map leading to the technology of tomorrow, instead of just planning for today’s rewards program.
At the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit on Thursday, April 11, John Keenan, principal, Anthem Marketing Solutions and Patrick Raycroft, managing partner, W. Capra Consulting Group, spoke on marketing and the current state of loyalty at convenience stores.
While the primary reward type at c-stores continues to be rewarding customers by giving back a percentage of their spend, the world of loyalty is evolving at a fast pace as technology continues to evolve. From NFC to various ways to give fuel discounts to apps that add augmented reality into the shopping experience, it can be confusing to know the best path to follow. As more customers are using the Internet and their smartphones to search for the best price on items they want to purchase, pre-shop planning tools and digital coupons are driving relevance through personalization.
It’s crucial that retailers take a step back now and look at what is coming down the pipeline with mobile and payments, and take that into account when making technology decisions. Loyalty strategies today include marketing, payment technology, forming coalitions—for example, between supermarkets and gas stations, customer relationship management through using transaction data more effectively, and social media strategy.
“Stay aware,” Raycroft noted. “Sit back now and align your technology roadmap with where your business is heading.” He advised retailers to engage their technology suppliers to learn how they are supplying upcoming technologies such as mobile and EMV and how they plan to offer mobile payments down the road. Start looking for opportunities now to move your business logic off-site to the cloud. The key is to know where you’re heading, so that you are not adding technology for today, and then facing a crushing expense later on when you are forced to change your entire system to meet the next technology requirements, Raycroft noted.
Before making technology decisions for the future, it’s vital to get clear on how you are going after customers, who you are marketing to and what information you need to generate, so that you can be clear on what type of data you need to be capable of supplying through your technology.
When it comes to testing and adding new technology, Keenan advised retailers to start small but with scalable and flexible technology. In other words, perhaps you test the technology in only a few stores, but make sure you’re using a system that could easily accommodate your entire fleet of stores.