This article is brought to you by Hathway, a NACS Hunter Club member.
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As consumers’ expectations of convenience and value evolve, the need for convenience retailers to meet those expectations with a compelling digital experience is more important than ever. NACS Magazine recently interviewed Matt Carinio, vice president, strategy and consulting, Hathway, about the importance of custom loyalty solutions to deliver business results.
Q: Why is it important for retailers to offer a digital experience to customers?
A: The modern consumer is motivated by convenience and value more than ever before. Traditionally, c-stores have benefitted from a concentrated market presence with a store on every corner and a small format that made it easy for customers to shop, while also having enough variety to ensure they didn’t have to shop elsewhere. While this is still true today, the definition of convenience and value has evolved. Digital allows c-stores to extend into convenience areas of digital payments that streamline purchases across multiple business categories, order-ahead food and beverage solutions and value-focused loyalty engagement models of rewards, offers and branded communications. These solutions are viewed as table stakes by today’s consumers. These consumers are not comparing convenience loyalty programs in a silo but to all of the other programs they participate in. They are evaluating the functionality of convenience store apps to the other apps on their smartphone—providing retailers with the unique opportunity to offer a far more compelling digital experience.
Q: Yet many retailers struggle to tie together their loyalty program with mobile food ordering, fuel and so on. How can you help?
A: Digital transformation can feel like a daunting task. Designating an appropriate range to invest, defining initiatives, establishing what will resonate with customers, prioritizing the sequence of solutions, creating an experience that reflects your brand, mitigating fraud risks, while figuring out how to use all the data that is available—the list is endless and can feel paralyzing. In most cases, failure in digital isn’t due to a lack of motivation but is a result of not knowing where to begin.
Hathway’s digital transformation playbook integrates Consulting (the path to progress), Digital Experiences (best-in-class commerce web/app) and Growth Marketing (maximization of customer loyalty and engagement) solutions allowing c-store decision makers and stakeholders to do what they do best: manage their core business. We bring together category and tech expertise via our e-commerce accelerator, NomNom, to help retailers go to market with custom solutions that deliver business results.
Q: Should convenience retailers look to other channels when considering the best go-to-market strategies that drive loyalty, especially those offering foodservice, mobile ordering or curbside pickup?
A: Most customers do not choose where to shop by channel but rather by the purpose of the shopping trip. Understanding the shopping mission and how other retailers, such as QSRs, leverage loyalty programs and the digital experience can enable convenience retailers to replicate that experience. This applies especially to mobile ordering, curbside pickup and delivery, where the ability to deliver a digital experience that customers expect of QSRs will allow them to blur channel lines and drive growth of their own foodservice offers.
Q: Why is a customized digital experience so critical?
A: Your brand is unique, and the digital experience you offer customers should be just as distinctive. Customers should experience more of your brand than just customized logos, colors and images. Templated solutions can be attractive for a host of reasons, but unfortunately they don’t offer differentiation, and we’ve learned this from our extensive work in the restaurant industry. With dozens of loyalty and commerce solutions in-market, Hathway provides you the benefit of an accelerated time to market with investment savings (similar to a white label solution), while providing a custom feel that highlights your brand (dissimilar to a white label solution).
Q: And continued engagement with customers is critical to drive continued customer lifetime value, is that right?
A: Many convenience retailers have invested in loyalty programs that gained significant early adoption only to have them grow stale due to lack of ongoing engagement with customers. One of the main reasons for this decline is a lack of dedicated internal resources to support customer engagement beyond the initial launch. Loyalty isn’t attained through a single interaction between customer and brand—it requires cultivation and nurturing. Hathway’s Growth Marketing solution begins by looking at what, how and why your customers interact with and purchase from your brand. Our team of loyalty and marketing experts act as an extension of retailer marketing teams to identify your highest valued customers to create and execute strategies, programs and communications to increase brand affinity over time. By monitoring and adjusting programs to maximize your investment, we ensure that your business is always meeting your customers’ needs at the moments that matter most to them.
This Hathway Q&A, “Growth Partner,” is featured in the May 2021 issue of NACS Magazine.
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