Whether knowingly or not, brands often fail to differentiate between frequent buyer programs and loyalty programs. Modern consumers are certainly familiar with frequent buyer programs, in which they are rewarded for purchasing with the same brand multiple times. But a true loyalty program is so much more than that. When loyal consumers form a connection with a particular brand, there are rewards for both parties. That brand is able to not only encourage repeat purchases, reduce churn rate and drive behavior, but also build a meaningful customer experience that is appreciated on a deeper level.
Modern customers have more information at their fingertips than ever before – and they are in an unprecedented position of power in terms of the brands they choose to interact with and how they spend money. In the fuel retail industry, this is especially important as customers interact with gas stations and convenience stores as a quick stop on the way to another destination. Using loyalty marketing to enhance customer engagement within fuel retail can have a profound impact on business in a modern and ever-changing landscape.
In this article, we’ll be examining the future of the fuel retail market, the challenges that lie therein, and how an effective loyalty marketing strategy can significantly improve the bottom line for gas stations and convenience stores.
The Future of the Fuel Retail Market
One of the challenges currently affecting fuel retail is the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global sales of electric cars increased by 60% in 2022, exceeding 10 million for the first time in history. This equates to nearly one in every seven vehicles bought globally being an EV. With rising oil prices and targeted government policies supporting their adoption, EVs are becoming increasingly appealing to cost-conscious consumers.
As fuel retailers look to keep customers happy, it’s important that their loyalty programs stay relevant and proactively adapt to the sustainability movement that is top of mind for many. Enriching loyalty programs with green-related benefits will keep members engaged.
Some examples may include:
- Offering environmentally-focused redemption options (e.g., nature conservancy donation)
- Introducing eco-friendly earning opportunities (e.g., extra points for recycling)
- Adding special perks for EV owners (e.g., charging stations unlocked with loyalty membership)
While sustainability will continue to play a major role in the fuel retail industry for years to come, the main attraction at gas stations is still gasoline – and there continues to be enormous earning potential for this top product. According to IBISWorld, revenue from US gas stations is soon expected to exceed $148 billion. And with today’s smart consumers, interactions at fuel pumps and convenience stores need to be seamless in order to retain their interest and prevent them from churning.
Why Loyalty and Rewards Programs are Crucial for Fuel Retailers
When it comes to the actual POS system at the pump, emphasis on mobile app integration is crucial. Customers should be able to use the brand’s app to locate nearby stations, discover which services are available at certain locations (diesel fuel, car wash, vacuum, etc.) and then navigate seamlessly using a preferred third-party platform (e.g., Google Maps). Once at the station, the interaction with staff and the POS terminal should be minimal. Via the mobile app, customers should be able to select and reserve a specific pump, facilitate the transaction with smart-car/smartphone integrations and then pre-pay for fuel with digital wallets already connected in the app.
Luckily for consumers, many of these features received a fast track to market due to the worldwide pandemic, which prompted all B2C industries to focus on touchless interactions and mobile capabilities. Although B2C business has largely rebounded from the height of the pandemic, it’s important to continue the adoption and expansion of these features to maximize earning potential for fuel retailers moving forward. That being said, a robust IT infrastructure is needed in order for convenience stores to expand upon such modern amenities.
All part of the common theme of investing in services beyond fuel, paying more attention to third-party partnerships can also help drive engagement. The partnerships don’t have to be directly connected with the core business of gas stations and convenience stores but can be more adjacent based on the needs of the customers visiting those locations. Establishing or extending partnerships with businesses such as ride-sharing services (cheaper trip for starting/ending trips at specific locations) and mega-retailers (drop-off point for receiving deliveries or shipping returns) – if executed properly – could lead to tangible benefits for all parties involved.
As pillars of a compelling retail loyalty program, these added features would just be that much more effective. When incentivized with relevant rewards and engaging perks, brands are able to drive customer behavior more efficiently while still providing a valued customer experience. Connecting with loyalty members across multiple touchpoints throughout the customer journey with consistent and useful messaging is paramount to building true loyalty.
The 6 Key Loyalty Program Features for Fuel Retailers
When managing a loyalty program, fuel retailers should keep the following key features in mind:
- Tiers: distinguish the most loyal customers by introducing tiers and offering specific rewards on each level (one free oil change per year, one free car wash per year, etc.)
- Individualized offers, messages and targeting: utilizing advanced artificial intelligence, machine learning mechanisms and marketing data analytics
- Subscriptions: set a monthly or yearly price paid on an ongoing basis by loyalty members in order to receive particular benefits (e.g., $10 monthly subscription for unlimited small coffees)
- Gamification: increase customer engagement by introducing gamified mechanisms such as badges, sweepstakes, personalized leader boards/rankings, scratch-and-win contests, shake-and-win promotions and mini-games
- Mobile Payments: scan-and-go inside the convenience store, pay at pump directly via mobile app, pre-ordering, click-and-collect
- Sustainability: eco-friendly offers, promotions and tier benefits related to carbon off-setting
Incorporating these elements into a fuel rewards program is sure to keep customers happy, engaged and, most importantly, loyal. In order to achieve this customer experience trifecta, a strong loyalty management system goes a long way. Whether it’s starting completely from scratch with no existing platform in place or revamping an existing fuel retail program, Comarch is recognized as a market leader in providing cutting-edge loyalty and customer engagement solutions. Comarch’s award-winning loyalty management platform is robust and comprehensive, having been on the market since 2001 when the company’s first loyalty implementation was completed for BP. Since then, Comarch has grown into an international IT powerhouse with over 7500 employees and nearly 100 offices worldwide.
How Comarch can Help
Comarch Loyalty Management has powered hundreds of enterprise loyalty programs for well-known brands in travel, finance and retail. Additionally, Comarch was just named a Strong Performer in the Forrester Wave Q1 2023 report for Loyalty Technology Solutions, earning a perfect score in multiple categories, including Community Engagement and Global/Local Support.
When it comes to Fuel and Convenience, Comarch has a proven track record – with its loyalty portfolio including ExxonMobil, Puma Energy and BP. The key loyalty program features mentioned above for fuel retailers are all available in Comarch’s core loyalty platform and are ready to use out of the box. Business users can rest assured that the backend interface is modern and intuitive, with no IT experience needed to build successful loyalty promotions and marketing campaigns.
And if there’s any help needed beyond the software itself, Comarch offers a full suite of loyalty-specific managed services, with teams of experts focused exclusively on loyalty strategy, design, program management and data analytics.
If you’d like a free assessment of your current fuel retail program and are interested in learning how Comarch’s experts can improve your loyalty and engagement efforts, click below to visit our dedicated page.