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Technology has been the primary driver in blurring the lines of what digital commerce is and how consumers interact with retailers—including a massive shift in expectations. The consequences for c-store operators have been both swift and dramatic. You no longer have to compete just with other c-stores. You now have to compete with large retailers, grocers, QSRs, and heightened consumer expectations in general. Consumers have more choice than ever, and they’re great at leveraging the power of technology to decide how, when, and where they choose to interact with your brand. Yes, consumers can be fickle, and they’re certainly less loyal than they’ve ever been. Yet they expect more: more convenience, a frictionless experience, instant gratification, and even greater rewards for their loyalty. That’s not surprising when you consider which companies are redefining the consumer experience. Innovation stalwarts like Starbucks, Walmart, and Amazon are the primary reason why c-store retailers must keep up with ever-changing consumer behaviors. For example, Amazon completely redefined the online retail shopping experience and paved the way for premium paid loyalty. Starbucks smartly linked the payment experience to loyalty, resulting in a world-class consumer experience with payment options, personalization, and rewards—from mobile ordering to gamification. And digital transformation has been at the heart of that exceptional experience. Loyalty’s Shifting Landscape If you’re not participating in this transformation, consumers will quickly move on without you. But even if you know the future of convenience retail is digital, that doesn’t make your task any easier. You still need to understand consumer motivations, behaviors, and expectations in order to define your own digital strategy: What experiences do your customers want? Where should you focus your efforts? What tactics or strategies should you use? How do you know where to start? As consumer loyalty programs have evolved from basic discounts (remember getting your card punched on your way to a free sandwich?) to truly differentiated experiences, how do you maximize engagement in a way that actively promotes customer loyalty? Shoppers now expect a personalized experience in exchange for their loyalty to your brand. That’s one reason why the future of retail loyalty lies somewhere at the intersection of traditional loyalty programs and digital commerce, as part of a cohesive omnichannel experience. Challenge or Opportunity? It’s up to You. If you feel like the pressure to go digital is a bit overwhelming, try to think of it as an opportunity rather…

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