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Alon convenience stores use date-night SMS text promotion to learn about customers

The Alon convenience store chain is using a St. Valentine’s Day text messaging promotion to continue to build its CRM database.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, more than 850 Alon convenience stores are giving customers a chance to win a dream date by texting “Date” to a short code. The new promotion is the first of a series of text messaging campaigns planned for 2012 with the goal of helping Alon learn more about its mobile customers.

“Our end goal is to build a loyalty program and we decided to use mobile as a means to communicate back to the customer,” said Lee Johnson, senior account person for Alon at agency Pocketstop, Dallas, TX.

“With this latest promotion, we are continuing to build out the CRM database,” he said. “Customer may have engaged with us before in mobile but how much do we know about that person? We are using these fun engagements to learn more about them.”

Alon has been using text messaging as it main channel for contests for a couple of years with the goal of building a loyalty program.

In the past, the chain has typically run one or two big text messaging promotions in a year.

The efforts have been successful so far, prompting the company and its agency Pocketstop to do more frequent, smaller text messaging campaigns in 2012.

For 2012, the retailer plans to run more campaigns that are smaller in size.

In the February promotion, customers of Alon stores in Texas and New Mexico will be able to text “Date” to a short code for a chance to win an all-expense paid date at the Alon convenience store of their choice as well as an all-expense paid trip to a big city chosen by the couple.

“We wanted to provide customers with something that would reward for them for the engagement they have with the brand,” said Sarah Toler, creative director at Pocketstop.

The campaign also includes date tips from a character created for the effort named Phil.

The contest runs through March 1.

The date night promotion primarily uses digital marketing to drive awareness. In the past, Alon has used in-store signage to promote previous text campaigns.

“Using the digital space, we are able to drive faster turnaround on these promotions,” Mr. Johnson said.

One of Alon’s goals for 2012 is to better integrate the text messaging program across channels so that customers will be able to not only learn about promotions but also receive coupons that can be redeemed at the point of sale. Another goal is to be able to allow customers to access campaigns from the Web site and Facebook as well.

“Eventually, we want to connect mobile to the point of sale to complete the transaction,” Mr. Johnson said.

“Right now, we are still educating consumers on this channel,” he said. “We are getting them used to engaging with us via mobile.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York