Yesway was recognized as a winner of the ‘Best Convenience Store Loyalty Launch’ in the 2018 Loyaltees. Launched in December of 2015 by Brookwood Financial Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts-based private equity firm, Yesway plans to acquire, improve and rebrand approximately 500 convenience stores in select regions of the U.S. over the next several years.
We invited Darrin Samaha for a Q&A session and asked him to share how the brand is achieving increased visits with the Paytronix platform.
Paytronix: How does your loyalty program serve as a customer touch-point, and an extension of your brand?
Darrin Samaha: Data is integral for building the customer experience through Yesway’s loyalty program, ensuring the right frequency and properly targeted messaging. In the past, you could put a sign up but could not know if the person coming to your store cared about that message. With loyalty, as customers engage with Yesway, we learn about them. We gain an understanding about whether a customer coming into the store will really care about an individual offer, and whether that promotion moves the needle.
With the type of messaging Paytronix offers and the data we’re seeing from the loyalty program, we are able to send more targeted and personalized messaging to each customer. We live in a world where personalized messaging and a personalized experience are important. We have looked outside of our category to both the airline and hotel industries to learn how they handle the customer experience and drive personalized offers. Then we asked if we could do that too—or something like it. We even had conversations about whether Yesway could have preferred parking at our C-Stores for our Super Smiles tier of most-loyal customers. We’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage our guests with un-announced or un-published rewards. Loyalty helps Yesway create a unique experience for our customers, in the store and at the pump.
Customers today have so many choices. What is going to make them turn left into our lot, versus going to the next store? Loyalty is that customer touch point to engage and motivate them. Paytronix makes it easy to try new offers or campaigns, so we can keep testing to see what works. Thanks to Yesway’s loyalty program we are able to provide a much more personalized experience communicating with our members.
Paytronix: Did you face any challenges with your loyalty launch?
Samaha: The ultimate success of our program will stem from the sales associates, who are on the front line and are responsible for selling our program and embodying the culture that the program represents. We’ve done a good job of training this core group to date, as our numbers and customer satisfaction shows, however we are constantly evaluating our methodology and looking for ways to improve.
The Yesway staff has been committed to the program since day-one, and did a terrific job during the launch, educating customers of the program benefits. To maintain excitement about the program and continue to drive penetration, Yesway introduced an Employee Incentive Program featuring monthly contests between stores. Associates engaged in friendly competition against each other, measured in terms of new registrations and penetration percentage. Six months later, our penetration percentage continues to climb each month and is sitting just shy of 19%.
The training and soft launch that we did for our associates were critical and that is something often overlooked but it is so important to make a program successful. Execution is key when driving any new innovation, and the training paid dividends as our employees were able to get familiar and comfortable with the program. They were able to communicate the value of the program to customers face-to-face, sharing their excitement and truly boosting the initial adoption of the program.
Paytronix: What features of the Paytronix loyalty platform are having the biggest impact for Yesway today, as well as in the future as Yesway continues to grow?
Samaha: We get the most use out of Paytronix Data Insights, loyalty messaging and of course the Paytronix mobile app. It is important to have a frictionless experience for customers and our goal in 2019 is to deliver this across all loyalty touch-points from in-store communications, to mobile, to website and customer payment options.
The Paytronix Data Insights team has been great from the start. They understand our goals and objectives, speak the same data language and despite having expertise to share well beyond our capabilities to start, it was a very organic fit for us. We can address multiple markets and multiple store formats with customized, creative offerings driven from the data. With Paytronix, the data allows us to do more targeted promotions and personalization through email marketing or the loyalty app itself.
When we first started with Paytronix, one of our stipulations was that since we are constantly innovating and want to be forward-thinking with our program, we needed to start by getting the basics right. Then along the way, we were able to take our learnings and improve the rewards and the offers, which we will continue to expand as we look ahead to the next evolution of loyalty.
We chose Paytronix with an eye toward implementing future technology, starting with mobile payment. We have already partnered with Zipline, chosen in large part for its easy integration of ACH payments with Paytronix, and have begun testing and offering Yespay debit—beginning with a 10 store pilot program in Iowa. Zipline’s close connectivity with Paytronix enabled us to offer Yespay debit as an upgrade within the Paytronix loyalty program, all from the same single sign-on. Paytronix is already helping to create full-function mobile pay within the Yesway app as well.
Paytronix: You’ve mentioned that data analytics were important to your selection of a loyalty partner. How are you leveraging the data to continually improve your program?
Samaha: Our marketing team is exceptionally focused on the Patronix analytics platform and works closely with the Paytronix Data Insights team. We aim to better understand the Yesway customer journey. Our ultimate goal is to know what message and with what frequency we should communicate to our customers and which medium we should use. The more relevant we can be to them, the more repeat visits we will drive.
The other platforms we evaluated did not have that depth of capability, and we knew going into loyalty that data analytics would be key to growing the loyalty program, both initially and long-term. Paytronix let us start immediately with loyalty in a “walk before you run approach”, gathering the data and letting the Paytronix data analytics team guide us with effective data-driven campaigns. With Paytronix we have a team of experts always analyzing the data to learn from and act upon new opportunities.
The Paytronix platform gives us a messaging channel to reach guests by email or directly through the mobile app that Paytronix built for Yesway. As the loyalty program data continues to grow, we will be able to send more targeted and personalized messaging to each customer.
Paytronix: What has your personal experience with Paytronix been like, have we helped you do your job better?
Samaha: Paytronix has absolutely helped with our efforts to build the Yesway brand, and to raise our team’s visibility as both a leader in the industry and as a key member of our firm’s operations group. Every Monday we have an executive meeting to discuss priorities for the week. It is not uncommon for us to spend 15-20 minutes talking about loyalty and marketing. There is always a deep conversation about recent activity, the next stage of the program and what are we doing to drive more visits. We hired Michael Caldwell, a loyalty industry veteran, as the loyalty manager on my team and the work he has done to develop loyalty into a revenue-driver has been tremendous.
It’s exciting! We’re a new player in the industry, but we’re doing things differently. The first year has been fantastic and I can’t speak highly enough about Paytronix and our future in loyalty.