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Get on board the Friendly Express Train

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Get on board the Friendly Express Train
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Like many of our readers, we took a little time off this summer and went on a road trip. Probably not as glamorous as retreating to a house in the Hamptons, I had occasion to drive with family from Florida to New York. Driving can be tedious, but it opens up time for easy conversation with fellow travellers, and at no point was I threatened by invasive strip searches or asked to turn off all my electronic devices or have then confiscated.

Driving also provides a unique opportunity to see our country on a first hand basis. One of my observations was that while I was taking some time away from work, loyalty marketing remained on duty. I can’t tell you how many restaurants, convenience stores, and small shops enticed me with some form of punch card loyalty, not to mention encountering more sophisticated offers from big C-Store players like Sheetz.

One of the most impressive offers I discovered during our travels came from Friendly Express, a home grown convenience and retail fuel chain of 33 stores sprinkled across Southeast Georgia. I’m a believer in the importance of translating smart strategy into practical implementation. No matter how good the ideas of the planners, marketing communications have to be crisp and front line employees trained adequately to represent the program well to customers. Friendly Express gets high marks on all these counts based on the visibility of its “free rewards program” in its stores and the capacity of its employees to explain the value of the program.

Brightly colored brochures shout an easy four step approach to benefiting from the program:

  1. Join Now!
  2. Earn Points!
  3. Save on Gas!
  4. Enjoy the clubs!

The art of simplicity is on full display with this program and easy to understand benefits are underscored by clear messaging that customers can use their membership card as a debit card to purchase gas and earn rewards. You can click here to read the program benefits in more detail. Friendly Express is in line with Noco and other regional C-Store / fuel retailers offering to link a customer’s checking account with the loyalty program membership card as the centerpiece of the program. I had discovered Noco Friends & Family Club on a previous road-trip and wrote it about it here. Combining payments and loyalty makes great sense in this industry and being able to process purchase transactions using the Automated Clearinghouse House (ACH) network lowers costs for Friendly Express and others using the same model.

As we know, many people are skittish about linking their checking account to any form of automatic payment, much less a convenience store loyalty program. Friendly Express tackles these concerns head-on in its brochure found in the stores. Anyone taking time to read through the brochure copy (and it’s not fine print) can put themselves at ease with the program mechanics.

Using the Friendly Express Points Pass offers one additional wrinkle. Though savings at the pump is top-of-mind for most consumers, this program offers discounts on purchases made inside the convenience store and includes a group of frequency “clubs” where members can get free coffee, fountain drinks and other items based on their repeat purchases. The concept is simple and the benefits are straightforward in the Friendly Express “free rewards program”.

Not every loyalty program needs or should offer hot-air balloon rides and Friendly Express has built a well communicated program that is right on target for its market.

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