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Does your c-store have an app? We want to hear about it!

Retailers, including c-stores and gas stations, are increasingly turning to apps to drive engagement with customers and promote frictionless experiences in store. Whether you’re a chain, a franchisee or an independent, we’re interested in how you are incorporating technology into your business.


Parkland teams up with Amazon Web Services to ramp up digital transformation

UnknownParkland Corporation is collaborating with Amazon Web Services to use analytics in order to improve its logistics and enable frictionless commerce.

“We are excited to be teaming up with AWS to advance our strategic priorities and support our ambitious organic growth targets,” Ian White, SVP strategic marketing and Innovation at Parkland, said in a release. “AWS is a renowned global technology leader who is laser-focused on customer experience and innovation.”

The goal, adds White, is to uncover valuable insights into “customers’ needs and preferences to provide enhanced services, products and personalized offers.”

The company says it has been building its internal capabilities to leverage digital technology trends for some time and has identified several technologies and customer-centric opportunities that support organic growth. These include:

  • Loyalty program data optimization (including the Canadian JOURNIE rewards loyalty program) and personalized customer offers;
  • Real-time price optimization using enhanced data feeds and machine learning;
  • Progressing a vision for the convenience store of the future.

Next steps include “monitoring fuel inventories in real-time and optimizing routing and distribution, harnessing digital to help scale the business without adding significant cost and complexity, and improving the speed and efficiency of M&A integration.”

White says that by embracing digital to focus on the customer experience, Parland aims to drive organic revenue growth and margin expansion. “Digital services are changing constantly and teaming up with AWS helps us channel those developments to elevate our customer focus and enhance our core competencies of retailing, customer loyalty, pricing, supply and distribution.”


Strategies for building loyalty in a post COVID-19 world

customer-loyalty-radarThe novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a dramatic impact on how consumers shop. In Canada, we saw attitudes and shopping preferences change in a way that will impact the consumer, retail and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) landscape even after the threat of the virus dissipates and we are living in the new normal.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening over the last several weeks in Canada. The week of March 21, 2020, was record-setting, with almost $3 billion in retail sales; this translates to an increase of +54% versus the previous year or an additional $1 billion in sales.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks to April 4, 2020 and year-to-date sales increased $3.1 billion, which is 27% higher than all of FMCG sales in 2019. Even though March was record-breaking for FMCG sales, April continued to post higher-than-average dollar growth, but the degree of increases slowed.

As patterns begin to emerge as the crisis continues to unfold, it will be imperative for companies in Canada to look beyond our own border to other countries. Our global counterparts in countries in Asia and Europe that are further along in the pandemic and closer to recovery can provide valuable learnings for Canadian retailers and manufacturers on how to succeed and plan for the future. Here are some things to consider:

Throughout the recovery phase of the COVID-19 crisis, consumers will be seeking greater assurance that the products they plan to buy are free of risk and of the highest quality when it comes to safety standards and efficacy, particularly with respect to cleaning products, antiseptics and food items. In the short term, this intensified demand from consumers will require manufacturers, retailers and other related industry players to communicate clearly why their products and supply chains should be trusted. In the longer term, and dependent on the eventual scale and impact that COVID-19 has on consumer markets, it may speed up a re-think on how shoppers evaluate purchases and the benefits that they identify as the key factors to consider.

More than ever, shoppers want to understand the supply chain, with complete transparency from farm to factory to distribution, and they want details of the measures being taken to assure their safety. Promoting a product’s local origins could help manufacturers and retailers assuage some consumer concerns. A Nielsen survey on disloyalty conducted last year found that global consumers report being heavily swayed by origin: 11% of global consumers said they only bought products manufactured in their country, while an additional 54% “mostly” bought local products. Manufacturers need to be transparent and reinforce their quality measures and protocols.

With millions of people working from home and digital connectivity taking even more of a hold on everyday habits, consumers will have greater motivations and fewer perceived barriers to more actively seek technology-enabled solutions to assist in their everyday tasks, including shopping. Companies that can leverage technologies—by meeting changing consumer demands online, enabling seamless interactions through direct-to-consumer offerings and enhancing consumer experience with augmented and virtual realities— have the opportunity to earn consumer loyalty well after consumers’ concerns subside. So, how does your brand play a role in helping consumers live a little bit easier at home? Retailers and manufacturers that can help solve the challenges consumers are faced with in their homes, such as cleaning, personal care and mental health tips will go a long way in building consumer loyalty.

Carman Allison is vice-president of consumer insights at Nielsen in Toronto. This article appeared in Canadian Grocer‘s May 2020 issue.

Small operators can employ big ideas to gain customer loyalty

loyalty-data_teaserA customer is the most important asset to any retailer. However, the goal is to attain that customer’s loyalty, not just that customer’s transaction.

Sizeable marketing budgets have enabled big retail chains to run fast and furious with customer loyalty programs, but does that mean small operators and independents don’t have a chance to keep up in the race?

Not at all, according to several experts who shared with Convenience Store News their best loyalty program ideas geared for smaller operators in the c-store realm.

Here are their suggested tactics and best practices:


Phan Meduri, director of product management for Riversand, a data sciences research firm and data management solution provider, suggests that small operators follow the key tenets of the top-ranked 2018 loyalty programs (as named by Bond Insights). They include Speedway’s Speedy Rewards, Amazon Prime and the Kroger Fuel Program.

What these program have in common, Meduri explained, is that they focus on ease of use and quick rewards, namely:

  • An easy registration process —  they give a pre-generated loyalty number vs. a user-initiated registration process;
  • Transaction accumulation toward a reward — for example, a digitized punch card/free coffee for every 10 coffees purchased; and
  • The ability for customers to unlock rewards in quicker intervals.

“Providing reward redemption at shorter transaction limits helps in quicker acceptance of the program,” Meduri said. “Smaller retailers must also communicate frequently on deals and promotions exclusive to members.”


Small retailers should choose just one of the key loyalty tenets — recency, frequency or monetary — to design their loyalty program upon, according to Jenn McMillen, CEO of Incendio, a consulting firm that builds (and fixes) loyalty programs, including the architecture behind GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program.

“Everyone wants everything, but a good program should be focused around one of the tenets to start,” McMillen told CSNews. “Do you want one more visit? One more incremental purchase? More visits in a shorter timeframe? Each of those things is a great goal, but best practices dictate that you choose one to start.”


Roi Kliper, CEO of City Hive, an e-commerce and data platform for the wine and spirits industry, believes the most important aspect of a small retailer’s loyalty plan is to be fair and honest. Kliper has a PhD in computational neuroscience.

“Your customers will see a fake loyalty plan from a mile away. If you are trying to pretend to give something, don’t,” he said. “Customers are smart. But that doesn’t mean a loyalty plan has to boil down to discounts or eroding margins.”

Good businesses know to reward their loyal clients with a personal touch, a better service level, and early or exclusive access to unique offers or events, said Kliper.

“The most successful ones manage to use their loyalty plan to build a community where members feel connected,” he added.

Some other loyalty tips from Kliper include:

  • Clubs are better to offer than subscriptions.
  • Cash is better than points.
  • Bother to know your customers.
  • Do not sell them a quantity discount, but rather a unique relationship. “Punch cards are so 1980s — even the digital ones,” he remarked.
  • Figure out what makes you unique and make that available for your customers at better conditions.
  • Measure the effect on your business.
  • Iterate — repeat these steps over and over again.

Originally posted at Convenience Store News. 

Customer experience key to loyalty programs

Loyalty-cards-360x426Is your loyalty program betraying you?

Perhaps, if that program is strictly transactional in nature (shoppers simply earn and burn points) and not capturing data to offer relevant, personalized experiences. In fact, marketers from two of Canada’s largest retailers–Sobeys and Canadian Tire–contend the term “loyalty” is misleading because a poorly executed strategy can have the opposite effect.

“There’s a general misconception that loyalty programs on their own drive loyalty,” said Shawn Bloom, vice-president, CRM and loyalty at Sobeys, during Retail Council of Canada’s Retail Marketing conference in Toronto April 18, 2019.

“It’s really about understanding customers and making them feel special. Loyalty results in great things–word of mouth, a willingness to pay a premium and a belief that your brand is trustworthy,” he said. “The reality is that loyalty really begins with the customer experience and you need to have great customer experience in order to have strong loyalty.”

A speedy checkout process and ensuring shelves are adequately stocked are a couple of ways grocers can build loyalty through exceptional customer service, said Bloom. He was part of a panel discussion–titled “Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty”–that included Shawn Stewart, vice-president, loyalty and customer insights at Canadian Tire, Rachel MacQueen, VP marketing at Air Miles and panel moderator Rob Shields, cofounder and COO at Paymi.

“The irony is we’re in a loyalty discussion, but loyalty may not matter,” said Stewart. “In year’s past, loyalty was a tool to engage the customer… But for us it’s identifying who our best customer is, and in today’s world with the enhancement of digital platforms—e-commerce, mobile app—if you have a killer digital experience you may not need a loyalty program to understand your customers.”

After identifying who those “best” customers are, it’s up to the retailer to deliver relevant and rewarding experiences. Canadian Tire, for instance, will send a technician to a customer’s home to change their car tires or reward them with tickets to a sporting event. Only then does loyalty become less about handing out points and more about curating experiences.

Bloom, who has been with Sobeys a little more than a year, said he was surprised to learn that even the grocer’s most loyal customers aren’t that loyal. Customers will split their baskets and go to one store for paper products and another for meat, he said. “Trying to capture that share of wallet is the challenge and the brands that will win are the ones who know their customers the best.”

Originally posted at Canadian Grocer. 

Gray_YCM Jan 2013_Loyalty_

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