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The Lowdown on C-store Loyalty Programs

MINNEAPOLIS – Convenience store retailers are increasingly turning to loyalty programs to not only win consumers, but also keep them coming back for more.

General Mills Convenience & Foodservice recently conducted two new research initiatives focused on loyalty programs across retail channels to identify ways that c-store retailers can build programs that resonate with their shoppers.

Among the key findings of these research initiatives, General Mills uncovered that convenience store shoppers are avid members of loyalty programs, although participation in c-store programs lags behind the grocery and drugstore channels.

Eighty-nine percent of shoppers currently participate in some type of loyalty/reward program across a variety of channels and categories.

Specifically, 64 percent participate in a grocery loyalty program; 52 percent participate in a drugstore/pharmacy loyalty program; and 35 percent participate in a convenience store or gas station loyalty program.

Those shoppers who participate in a c-store/gas station loyalty program are mostly satisfied, the research found. However, there is an opportunity to increase the percentage of those who are truly passionate about participation.

"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, signup 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."

Shoppers also detailed what they like best about retailer loyalty programs and what they would consider an "ideal" c-store program. The feedback focused on three areas:

  • Incent Trial: An easy signup process and immediate reward encourages shoppers to join. 
  • Make It Worthwhile: Shoppers like to see benefits that are easily attainable, without a significant change in their current behavior.
  • 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.

The General Mills Convenience & Foodservice Division serves the convenience, foodservice and bakery industries. The division is headquartered in Minneapolis and generates $2 billion in annual sales.

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