Yesway, a convenience store chain with a total of 70 locations in Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, recently launched a new customer loyalty program, Yesway Rewards, that offers points for each dollar spent on fuel or in-store merchandise.
Loyalty360 talked to Darrin Samaha, vice president and brand manager at Yesway to learn more about the program and the company’s views on customer loyalty.
Has Yesway ever had a loyalty program before this; what are its goals with the new program from a customer engagement/customer experience perspective?
Samaha: Prior to its launch, we did not have a loyalty program. This is brand new to our customers and so far the registrations and feedback have been extremely positive. The program rewards Yesway customers with a friendly and fun currency called “Smiles” for each dollar spent on fuel or inside store merchandise. “Smiles” can be redeemed for a wide assortment of merchandise, including free fountain drinks, iced tea, and Yesway branded coffee, free roller grill items, and candy, and free Yesway fountain travel mugs, to name a few items.
We had three goals in mind with the program. First, from an engagement perspective, to offer our customers even more reasons to shop at Yesway stores in a way that is easy to use, either with a card or an app, (available for download on iPhone and Android). Second, from a product perspective, design the program to give our customers more of the items they want, when they want them. And finally, at the same time, the program needed to provide our team with the necessary analytical insights so that we can get to know our customers at a deeper level.
Did customer feedback play a role in designing and implementing the program, and if so, in what ways?
Samaha: Indeed it did! Customer feedback is critical to the success of any program, as are best practices and gleaning insights from outside of our category. For example, we receive customer feedback on social media about our store offers and have factored that into launch programs such as our Coke Club (purchase any six 20-ounce Coca-Cola products and get the 7th free) and Beverage Club (buy five hot or cold beverages and the sixth one is free). We also wanted to move away from a straight purchase to points model and build our own loyalty currency, “Smiles”, unique to our brand that epitomizes what we stand for–uplifting friendly service.
How can a loyalty program expand the company’s overall brand loyalty?
Samaha: As retailers, we must earn loyalty from our customers. To expand that loyalty, we believe we must fundamentally understand who our customers are–their lives, their needs, and their routines. From that insight, we can then build our program around meeting those needs in the decision moment, whether it be an impulse or habitual store visit. We can do this via technology with our app using push messaging and other channels. We can surprise our customers with new offers, incentives and visit challenges to make the experience fun for them. If we see that our customers like what we are doing and are responding, we have earned their trust, and we hope, their loyalty.
What makes this program unique?
Samaha: Everything! Two specific things come to mind. We take a holistic approach to loyalty and that is the core of our program. What I mean by that is we position our customer at the center of the entire loyalty experience. This includes the offers, the technology to deliver the offers, and the analytics to better know and communicate with our customers. An example of this is the event-driven marketing we’ve undertaken in support of Yesway Rewards. Yesway team members spent part of the summer on a multi-city “Yesway Block Party” tour, visiting select locations and treating customers to fun-filled activities, giveaways, music, and food sampling, and were also on hand to assist customers with signing up for the program and answer any questions they have.
The final piece would be the Yesway “Smile”, our loyalty currency. We wanted to move away from a purchase to points model and offer something that was unique to our brand. The Yesway “Smile” represents our core values and how we view customer loyalty–fun and friendly. So far, our customers have embraced and responded extremely well to the program and we’re looking forward to introducing new features and offers for them in the coming months such as ACH integration and mobile pay. We will certainly be tuned in for customer feedback as we expand our program.