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7-Eleven expands Belly loyalty program in US, Canada after trial

The chain’s customers can now use Belly’s program to earn points and redeem rewards at 7-Eleven locations in the Northeastern U.S., along with parts of Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago and Vancouver. The expansion shows how major brands such as 7-Eleven are betting big on loyalty as the centerpiece of their mobile strategies and building long-term relationships with consumers.

“I am a huge fan of what 7-Eleven is accomplishing to improve mobile engagement,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director for Yankee Group, Boston. “Mobile customer engagement programs like these are a huge opportunity for businesses to improve customer acquisition and loyalty through mobile loyalty programs.

“Eighty-four percent of businesses are interested in proactive mobile communications,” she said. “Mobile solutions can help businesses gather contextual information such as an individual user’s location, stated preferences, behavior, for example, purchases, and social interaction. By capturing this data, 7-Eleven can gain analytical insight while delivering a customized experience.”

Representatives for 7-Eleven and Belly could not be reached for comment.

Earning serenades
In the program, users order a loyalty card with a QR code or download the Belly application to their smartphone, which displays the QR code on screen. Customers scan their card or app into the iPad that all 7-Eleven merchants have set up at the register to earn points toward free goods, discounts and over-the-top rewards such as a personal serenade from a store owner.

Stores can use the program to track customers’ purchases, award points and market to loyal customers more effectively. The app can be used to notify loyal customers when a nearby outlet is offering free treats.

The expansion builds upon the initial test at 85 7-Eleven stores in downtown Chicago and a pilot of 350 locations across Chicago, Austin and Los Angeles. Under the broader rollout, 465 locations in New York and Vancouver, British Columbia will get the program starting this month.

By year’s end, more than 2,600 stores, or about a quarter of 7-Eleven’s locations, will be using Belly’s platform.

The pilot programs of Belly’s service in Chicago also include brands such as McDonalds, Chic-fil-A and Domino’s.

Chicago-based Belly’s system is seen as complementing 7-Eleven’s own loyalty programs by driving in a different type of guest and influencing their purchasing behavior.

About 18 months ago, 7-Eleven started looking at ways to increase customer visits, bring new guests to its stores and increase frequency of visits while also increasing the amount of items customers were buying.

Since March 2013, the Dallas-based subsidiary of Tokyo’s Seven & I Holdings has run 20-plus marketing campaigns through Belly’s platform. Promotions ranging from charitable donations to Olympic-themes encouraged members to visit 7-Eleven to receive time-based rewards.

7-Eleven has been active in the mobile space for a while.

Belly app’s use is growing.

In 2012, it leveraged its SMS database to drive holiday-season consumers in-store with a time-sensitive campaign. It sent an SMS message to its opted-in users to promote its peppermint bark doughnut.

The retailer used the 2012 U.S. presidential election to spark interest in a new Slurpee flavor and build the company’s SMS database. The brand also has used an interactive Pandora campaign, including rewards and sweepstakes, to drive users to try new Slurp on a QR code initiative around college basketball’s March Madness.

Personalized rewards
“Forty-four percent of respondents state that they would strongly recommend a company to friends and family if it had mobile loyalty programs that offered personalized rewards,” Yankee Group’s Ms. Kingstone said. “While quantifying loyalty’s revenue impact can be difficult, businesses that motivate even 10 percent of their customers to visit 20 percent more often see compelling results.

“Cardless loyalty programs not only ease acquisition and redemption, but also gather the data necessary for targeting high-value customers,” she said. “Insight provided by mobile loyalty programs creates a rich customer profile that can enable unparalleled depth and breadth of customer segmentation to be used for improved customer engagement strategies based on the individual preferences and patterns of each customer.

“And customers want them: Forty-nine percent of survey respondents wished more stores offered mobile apps to collect and redeem loyalty points.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.