SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Sac-N-Pac Stores Inc., San Marcos, Texas, recently initiated a social marketing strategy. Speaking to approximately 200 attendees at a NACStech conference in Nashville, Tenn., in May in a session focusing on mobile marketing, loyalty programs and social media, Kevin Brumley, president and CEO of Sac-N-Pac, said, "It's a communication that's going to happen with or without us."
"It's another layer of communication between us and our customers," he said.
The chain's efforts began modestly, but over time, Brumley felt a successful social-marketing strategy had to have its own resources. His information technology (IT) people were focused on day-to-day concerns, trying to keep the chain's technical engine running.
His 45-store chain would eventually bring on staff to address social marketing, creating goals that included providing customers a consistent experience. creating a strategy that would cross all operational areas and driving action so the customer interaction would lead to increased sales.
Though many results were qualitative, the chain found areas in which to measure success, including the number of times the chain engaged customers, increased participation in its loyalty program, increased database of customers and driving people to the chain's website.
The company began a points-based loyalty program a few years ago and today uses social media to augment that effort. Using Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and YouTube, it has initiated efforts such as having people take a photo of its company vehicle--heavily done up in the chain's color scheme--as it drove around town, then post those photos on Facebook.
Similarly, the chain would donate to a particular charity if people "liked" that charity's photo on Sac-N-Pac's Facebook page, donating $1 per like and an additional 50 cents for sharing the photo with friends. In that drive, 1,159 people liked the promotion's photo, while 816 shared it.
Pressure to engage customers is coming from multiple directions, other session speakers said. Houston-based Shell has already "crossed the line," according to Anton Bakker, president of Outsite Networks, Norfolk, Va., who moderated the panel. The oil company has moved its rewards program beyond ties to partner grocers to cross-discount fuel with c-store items, he said. And, he continued, "it will happen everywhere."
Mobile communication will become integrated with payment, loyalty and social marketing, with "the power shifting to the consumer," he said.
To tap into that growing energy, c-store operators are trying to differentiate themselves, reaching out to customers in an effort to stand out, according to Axel Kirstetter, vice president of product strategy for KSS Fuels, Florham Park, N.J. "They're injecting themselves more in loyalty and marketing activities," he said.
That increased activity benefits solutions providers such as KSS, because retailers are becoming more sophisticated with their operations and more interested in looking at options. He also noticed a shift in thinking regarding business-intelligence solutions, with dollars moving from capital spending to operational, giving way to software-as-a-service (SaaS) business models.
A growing interest in transaction data and electronically connecting with consumers is driving interest in mobile marketing and loyalty, evident in workshops and on the trade-show floor at this year's NACStech conference. NACStech sessions addressed the potential of mobile phones communicating discount offers, rewards updates and electronic coupons.
Click here to read more in the July issue of CSP magazine.