C-store Mobile App Usage: Convincing Customers To Shop Via Mobile

If you’re struggling to get shoppers to use your c-store mobile app, you’re not alone.

The 2020 NACS Convenience Voices survey revealed that just 58% of shoppers were aware of the retailer’s mobile app. 

And while that’s up 19 points year-over-year, it still means a whopping 42% of shoppers didn’t even know the app existed. Plus, of the shoppers who were aware, only 60% had downloaded it. 

Of course, getting shoppers to download the app is only the first step. You still need to convince them to actually use it.  

And this is definitely possible in the c-store channel due to its high frequency of visits. 

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to convince your customers to shop using your c-store mobile app. 

1. Promote safe and convenient features like mobile pay and online ordering 

Image credit: Wawa

Why’s this a powerful strategy for c-stores?

Health concerns during the pandemic turned “nice-to-have” features like online ordering and mobile pay into “must-haves.” And at the time of this writing, amidst the uncertainty of the Delta variant, safety concerns are top of mind once again for many Americans. 

As such, promoting the contactless nature of these features is a good way to convince shoppers to use your mobile app. You can offer free delivery on orders using the mobile app or send mobile coupons redeemable with curbside pickup. 

You can also offer discounts for using mobile pay and remind shoppers in store that they don’t need to wait in line if they pay using the app. 

If you haven’t integrated mobile pay into your app yet, you can look into using a 3rd party service like Skip — the open platform software that allows customers to check out using their phone. Kwik Check, for example, recently partnered with Skip to roll out their mobile loyalty program. 

“At Kwik Chek, we want to make our customer journey as simple as possible,” said Kevin Smartt, CEO of Kwik Chek. “With the help of Skip, we’ve recently transitioned to a completely mobile loyalty program, offering our guests a convenient way to pay and earn points right from their mobile phone.”

And Smartt mentions the other major benefit of mobile pay and online ordering — they’re just plain convenient. Since convenience is one of the biggest reasons people shop at c-stores in the first place, it’s a good idea to remind people how fast and easy it is to shop on your app. 

As you can see in the image above, Wawa tells customers that the app is “The fastest way to order your faves!”

2. Use geofencing and location-based marketing to send push notifications at the pump

Image credit: VoiceBot AI

Why’s this a powerful strategy for c-stores?

Geofencing and location-based marketing allow you to identify customers that are on the premises fueling up or within a certain distance of the store. You can send them push notifications through the app with offers redeemable via mobile. 

This is an especially powerful strategy because customers can use the app to place an order while they’re waiting to fuel up — typically 2 - 3 minutes of idle time. When they’re done fueling up, they can run in to pick up their order or have it brought out to the car. 

And all this amounts to a faster, more convenient experience for the customer.

To establish or change habits at the pump, you can send frequent at-the-pump push notifications. We’d suggest offering a freebie first, like a free fountain drink or coffee, to really entice them to redeem the offer. 

You can then follow up with a BOGO offer the next time and a discount offer after that. This strategy can help create the habit of fueling up, getting a notification while at the pump, and then redeeming an offer on the app. (Sound complicated? Koupon can help set it all up. Get in touch to learn more.)

You can also send push notifications at the pump simply reminding customers that they can pay for gas on your app (if you have that capability). As you can see in the image above, customers can now pay for gas using 7-Eleven’s mobile app — and they can even use Siri to get it started.

3. Run a gamification campaign to boost engagement with your app

Why’s this a powerful strategy for c-stores?

As Brad Van Otterloo, Koupon’s CEO, and Brian Reinhart, VP of Engineering at Koupon, discuss on our podcast, gamification is on the rise as a promotional tool. 

And with good reason. Humans are hardwired to compete, even if it’s just against themselves. And we literally can’t resist the rewards inherent to gamification. As Reinhart explains, our brains release dopamine when we get a reward. And research shows the more you fail before reaching the reward, the more dopamine is released when you finally win. 

So that’s why you often see things like smaller rewards combined with a grand prize. It gives us just enough of a reward to make us want to keep playing. 

Take Kwik Chek’s scratcher campaign for example. The Texas-based c-store chain was looking for a fun and unique way to engage with their customers. So they partnered with Koupon (yep, that’s us!) to roll out a summer-long, 100-day promotion using our gamification toolset. 

Kwik Chek chose an interactive, match 3 scratcher-style game that delivered high-value offers to customers. And they leveraged their brand partnerships and proprietary foodservice offerings to build out a well-balanced selection of prizes — ranging from free fountain beverages and CPG products to signed memorabilia and free gas for a year. 

The Koupon data science team also built a custom dashboard for the Kwik Chek marketing team to have the most relevant and up-to-date metrics at their fingertips. And customers were encouraged to play every day throughout the course of the 100-day long campaign.

The results? The number of app users doubled during the campaign and there was a 230% increase in mobile pay users. Plus, the campaign drove over 50,000 in-store redemptions and an incredible 41% redemption rate. 

4. Promote your loyalty program using SMS, email, and social media

Image credit: Break Time

Why is this a powerful strategy for c-stores?

Loyalty programs and mobile apps go hand in hand. So the more loyalty members you can rack up, the more mobile app users you’ll likely have. 

A great way to drive loyalty program sign-ups is through your SMS, email, and social media channels. You can reach out to existing customers via SMS and email, offering incentives to join the loyalty program by downloading your mobile app. 

Incentives can include coupons, discounts, or prizes such as 

  • Download our app and get free coffee for a week! 
  • Join our loyalty program and get a free pizza on us!
  • Download our app for a chance to win free gas for a year!

To reach new customers, you can promote the same offers on social media. And to gain traction, you can offer incentives for sharing the post (be sure to make the post shareable first!). The incentive can be as simple as extra entries in the contest or bonus loyalty points. 

5. Run specials and exclusive deals only redeemable on the app

Image credit: 7-Eleven

Why is this a powerful strategy for c-stores to convince customers to shop via mobile?

As you can see above, 7-Eleven offers a rotating slate of exclusive deals to customers using its mobile app. For example, during the month of August 2021, mobile app customers can get a large pizza and 16 wings for $10, three Monster Energy drinks for $5.50, or a 79 cent medium coffee. 

This is a simple but effective way to convince customers to use the app because everyone wants to get the best deal. And 7-Eleven has wisely chosen products that are known to drive trips in the c-store channel — energy drinks and coffee. 

Melissa Jordan, VP of Client Success at Koupon, explains on our podcast that, “Energy drinks are a huge trip driver. The redemption rates on these products are absolutely crazy.”

Casey’s is another c-store chain that uses exclusive offers to drive mobile app usage. In addition to earning points and free pizzas, Casey’s loyalty members can find offers for things they love on the app and save them for easy access. 

Marketing a c-store brand? See how Koupon helps c-stores grow. 


Consumer behavior is evolving and it is challenging retailers to grow and adapt. At Koupon, we provide the technology you need to reach shoppers, attract them to your store, increase sales, create data-informed strategies, and drive digital impact.

No matter where you are in your digital transformation for your retail business, we have the solutions you need to grow. We can help you: 

  • Collaborate with CPG brands: As we mentioned, we help you attract incremental promotion dollars, funded entirely by leading CPG brands like Mars, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, and more. 
  • Drive shopper engagement: Reach new shoppers beyond your current loyal base and gain a greater share of wallet from existing customers. Digital promotions help increase basket size and drive store trips.
  • Simplify promotion execution: Don’t stress over the details. Our team takes care of it all, from offer set up to post-campaign analysis, and everything in between.
  • Make data-driven decisions: Evaluate consumer patterns across products, stores, and channels. We’ll help you use these insights to benchmark, adjust and launch strategic data-driven campaigns.

Our solutions grow with you. So whether you’re just getting started or fully accelerating, we can help. Get in touch to learn more