Convenience Store Marketing: 6 Strategies That Actually Work

Convenience marketing is about the experiences you create for your customers. 

Whether it’s through your physical store, digital offerings, staffing, policies, or marketing efforts, these experiences contribute to the customer's decision to keep visiting your store or not.

So if you’re looking to attract customers and increase revenue, here are six of the best convenience store marketing strategies you can use right now. 

1. Use SMS + BOGO + discount offers to run habit-forming pump-to-store promotions

Image credit: Pilot Flying J

As you know, figuring out how to draw fuel-only regular customers into the store and increase foot traffic is often a frustrating dilemma. After all, Gas Buddy reports that over 70% of c-store fuel customers never come inside.  

But it’s a dilemma worth tackling. And personalized pump-to-store promotions can be a powerful strategy to do so. Especially considering recent digital innovations that make it easier than ever to deliver hyper-relevant, personalized offers in real time. 

To get the most out of a pump-to-store campaign, Brad Van Otterloo, Koupon’s CEO, recommends going beyond digital signage and sending frequent at-the-pump push notifications to draw customers inside on a regular basis. 

He suggests first offering a freebie to entice customers to join your SMS program. Then you can deliver a BOGO offer, followed by a discount offer. This strategy can help create the habit of fueling up, getting a notification while at the pump, and then heading into the store to redeem an offer.

These offers reward the customer for going in store, and if you consistently deliver these offers while customers are at the pump, they form a habit of going in store to make a purchase.

Plus, pump-to-store campaigns can be amplified through channels used while driving, such as Waze, GasBuddy, and OnStar. By promoting offers before customers are at the pump, retailers can extend the in-vehicle experience to an in-store purchase — further solidifying the habit of traveling from the pump into the gas station store.

2. Update your store using modern design concepts

Image credit: CSP

Consumer expectations are evolving, especially around food service, and many convenience retailers are rethinking the design of their stores. 

Following the lead of large c-store chains like Wawa, many c-store operators are adding or upgrading made-to-order menus, going beyond sandwiches to include concepts like taquerias and burger stations. 

And they’re changing the store design to go along with it. Mike Lawshe, president and CEO of design firm Paragon Solutions explains, “There are visual cues in retail design you can bring to the store that tell customers, ‘this a different kind of convenience store.’ Does it look, walk, and talk like an old-fashioned convenience store, or does it look, walk, and talk like a new, modern market? From a retail design standpoint, that’s the trend.”

To that end, many c-store operators are installing high-quality lighting, comfortable seating for dine-in customers, charging stations, Wi-Fi access and eye-catching TVs. 

According to a survey conducted by Technomic in partnership with DIRECTV for BUSINESS, the installation of TVs can provide multiple advantages for consumers and retailers. 

58% of customers say having TVs installed in the customer area of the store creates a more welcoming environment, and 52% said it encourages customers to stay longer and spend more.

So customers who are heavy users of convenience stores are especially interested in making use of in-store TVs, according to Technomic’s survey. The survey also found that 63% of heavy c-store users and 71% of super-heavy users said they would be likely to make use of in-store TVs.

So if you’ve not been considering updating your store with new design concepts or stalling the decision to do so, now’s the time to invest in it.

3. Use new digital innovations to spice up customer experiences in-store

Image credit: 7-Eleven

89% of all U.S. shoppers now use a smartphone at the store, up from 67% in 2015, and savvy c-store marketers are taking note. In fact, according to a recent survey of U.S. c-store owners conducted by NACS Research, 21% of U.S. c-stores have added contactless payment, 14% are focusing more on drive-thru experiences and 14% have added delivery. 

Casey’s convenience stores, for example, launched curbside pickup for their beloved pizza in 2,200 stores during the pandemic, along with a no-contact food delivery service. And 7-Eleven launched their mobile app, 7-Eleven Wallet, in December 2020 giving customers, even those who want to load cash, a contactless way to pay. 

These digital tools also offer endless opportunities for convenience store owners to boost sales by using personalized recommendations. For example, a special offer on a customer’s favorite chips when they add a hot dog to their virtual cart.

Social media is another important facet of the digital experience, with customers now expecting brands and retailers to have a reliable presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. 

Darrin Samaha, vice president and brand manager for Yesway explains, “Social media is critical for any B2C brand — both as a communication vehicle and a feedback mechanism. A B2C brand should not be afraid of that.”

So, as much as your available resources allow, use digital tools to spice up the experiences customers have with your brand.

4. Use the age-old text-to-win contests

Image credit: GSP Retail

This one’s an oldie, but it makes the list because it’s still a super effective tactic. If you’re not too familiar with this type of promotion, a text-to-win contest is a tactic where you ask customers to text a word to a certain number in order to win a free gift, discount, etc.

The image above, for example, shows a text-to-win holiday promotion by CEFCO last year. The signage tells consumers to “Text GIFT to 27640” to receive a prize (which in this case is a coupon for a free Snickers bar). 

Once consumers text the number, they’re opted-in to receive messages from you in the future. And you can use a platform like Koupon to run this entire process. The platform will also help you send an automatic reply (like the one below) providing the consumer with immediate gratification.  

Image credit: Neil Patel

Need more convincing about SMS being a great marketing tactic? Consider Haffner’s Oil, a c-store chain with locations in the Northeast. They recognized the need to communicate with new customers in different ways, but have found the most success with their SMS program. 

Jonathan Ketchum, vice president of retail with Energy North Group, which operates Haffner’s stores, explained: “Customers want to engage with your brand. Simple window signs and pump toppers are no longer the most effective means of communication. Much of our promotional success has been through text messaging, loyalty, and Instagram.” 

Haffner’s “Text to Win” campaigns have been especially successful. They’ve tried a variety of incentives and freebies, all of which generated strong customer participation. But their “Free Gas for a Year” promotion has resulted in opt-in rates that, according to Ketchum, “dwarf any other texting promotion.”

5. Optimize your customer loyalty program

Image credit: Sheetz

Data-driven brand loyalty programs are another powerful marketing strategy — because they’re one of the best ways to influence consumer behavior and drive repeat business. 

But you need the right offers to motivate people to sign up. And the right offer means promoting the right product, to the right person, at the right time. 

Starting with products, our data from across our network of c-stores shows that energy drink offers are especially motivating. Melissa Jordan, VP of Client Success at Koupon, explains this on our podcast How Convenient, “Energy drinks are a huge trip driver. The redemption rates on these products are absolutely crazy.” 

To maximize engagement, Jordan recommends promoting an enticing energy drink offer on your digital channels and tying it to a loyalty program sign up. 

Once you get people enrolled, you can send carefully targeted offers, pairing energy drinks with other popular products. According to our data, the top non-restricted categories to pair with energy drinks are snacks, beverages and candy. 

And depending on the time of day that your consumers are visiting, you can send an offer with special pricing to match the time slot. Across our panel, energy consumers tend to purchase between 4:00 AM and 10:00 AM — a good time to pair an energy drink with a popular breakfast item. 

6. Focus on breakfast 

Image credit: Rutters

As you know, the morning daypart has long been the stalwart of convenience store sales. The pandemic turned this on its head, of course, but breakfast is finally making a comeback. So it’s time to pull out all the stops to win back morning customers and establish new routines. 

There are several strategies for promoting breakfast items that work well in c-stores. Here are a few of the best for attracting potential customers: 

  1. Run specials on items commonly purchased in the morning (coffee, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, pastries, etc.) Rutter’s, for example, frequently runs a “2 for $5” special on breakfast sandwiches that they promote at the pump and through their loyalty app.
  2. Send mobile coupons directly to customers via SMS that are redeemable in-store only. 
  3. Alert customers in the evening of specials they can redeem in the morning. This strategy, which gives people more time to consider the offer, is especially effective coming out of the pandemic when people are changing routines and behavior. 

An example of this is 7-Eleven’s free coffee promotion. In the SMS notification below, you can see that they’re letting customers know ahead of time about the deal. That way, the free coffee is on their mind when they decide what to do in the morning. 

Finally, when structuring your specific offers, you can use your data to determine which products are most popular in your area. For example, our data shows that burritos are most popular in the west, capturing 30% of units sold, with biscuits at just 5%. However, in the southeast, biscuits account for 25% of units sold with burritos coming in at less than 10%. 

Running or marketing a c-store? See how Koupon helps c-stores grow


Consumer behavior is evolving. And it is challenging retailers to grow and adapt, using innovative marketing ideas. 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 c-store, we have the solutions you need to grow. We can help you: 

  • Collaborate with CPG brands: Attract incremental promotion dollars, funded entirely by leading CPG brands. You can launch these promotions across your own channels and grow sales.
  • 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