Make Sure Your Travel Center’s Loyalty Program Meets Professional Drivers’ Needs

There may be opportunities to improve your loyalty program to make it even more attractive to professional drivers.
Make Sure Your Travel Center’s Loyalty Program Meets Professional Drivers’ Needs

Article created for the digital issue of the NATSO Foundation’s magazine 

Loyalty programs are an essential part of a truck stop or travel center’s customer engagement and marketing strategy. They enhance drivers’ experiences, reward them for their purchases, spur sales and shape buying decisions.

While drivers benefit from loyalty programs, truck stop and travel plaza operators should also. “A loyalty program should be a profit generator, not a cost center. However, most companies struggle to quantify their ROI,” Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership said, adding that operators should analyze their data to determine a program's strengths and weaknesses.

Locations should also use the data from their loyalty program to improve their marketing and get to know their customers. “You can get check-level detail and insight into when they buy, what they buy, how they paid, and what point-of-sale was used. You can get into subcategory details so you can get granular with offerings,” Schulte said. “That is a powerful tool to help you better understand your guests.”

While loyalty programs can help bring customers inside, there may be opportunities to improve the programs to make them even more attractive to drivers. Make sure your loyalty program meets these standards.

Make Sure Your Rewards Meet These Criteria:

Are Redeemable Throughout the location. One solution is to offer points that drivers can redeem throughout the location. “If you start telling all of your customers that regardless of what they buy at the location, they can earn points to use them however they want, that can be meaningful,” Schulte said. “If the fuel discount isn’t important to you as a fleet driver and you don’t plan to fuel your personal car at the location, you can use your discount inside.”

Are Flexible. More importantly, Schulte explained that locations have the potential to turn professional drivers into personal customers by giving them flexibility with points. “If you offer the ability to utilize collected points on all purchases, fleet drivers may begin banking points to use at your locations anywhere; they may fuel their personal vehicles with you,” he said.

“Think of it like how business travelers utilize their hotel and airline pinots/miles for personal use. If I am a fleet driver and I am able to use my points for personal fuel purchases, I very well might consider becoming a loyal personal customer,” Schulte added.

Make Sure to Think Through These Redemption Options: 

Should it be for a Fuel Discount? “The fuel discount isn’t as important for a fleet driver because they aren’t buying their own fuel. Points to buy things inside mean the most because that is a cost to them,” Schulte said. “Years ago, when loyalty started, a larger percentage of the drivers were independent drivers, and that has changed.”

What elso do we need to know about amenities important to professional drivers? Greg Grant, executive director, sales and business development for Paytronix, said many of the rewards programs he sees are fuel rewards based and often do not tie into convenience or other services truck stops and travel centers. “While it is challenging, the key is to bridge those rewards programs to each other so that the guest can use points as they see fit, whether for convenience sales, showers, WiFi, etc.,” he said. “Without the ability to tie programs together, it’s very difficult to get guests into the store if the primary incentive is fuel discounts only. Their loyalty is then bound by fuel prices, meaning they’ll shop providers accordingly.”

Drivers like choice when it comes to how they can use rewards, but for most drivers, the ability to earn points on fuel purchases that they can use to make other purchases is the most appealing use.  Read Opportunities Abound at Travel Centers to Serve Professional Drivers and Grow Wallet Share Toolkit to gather for more details on loyalty preferences.


Make Sure It is Easy to Use:

To encourage use, loyalty programs also have to be easy to use. While programs were traditionally associated with physical cards, more and more are run through mobile apps. Drivers should be able to download and use it right away, and they often need motivation, Peter Rasmussen, CEO and founder of Convenience and Energy Advisors said.

“With Circle K, you download the app and get 25 cents off a gallon for a certain number of fills,” Rasmussen explained, adding that something that makes customers feel valued right away is important when users first enroll.

There is always a risk customers will download an app and only use it once. “There is a danger zone between the first and third visit. You have to be good at getting them to give it a third use. After they’ve been acclimated for the third visit, you see the steam pick up for the loyalty customer and their guests,” Grant said.

Make Sure Your Employees Can Explain It:

It is also important that loyalty programs are easy to explain. “You can have the best ideas to create a program, but you have to make it simple enough for employees to be able to explain it to customers,” Schulte said.   

Make Sure it is Personal!:

Rasmussen said personalizing loyalty programs can make them more meaningful to drivers. They can also enable direct marketing to promote specific offerings. “The Paytronix system is quite awesome in that if I haven’t purchased fuel or come inside in X number of days, you can send that person a personalized offer that gives them cents off per gallon or something that gets them in. It isn’t generic,” Rasmussen said.

In the Paytronix ebook Revamping Your Loyalty Program, Paytronix said one-size-fits-all marketing campaigns are ineffective with today’s guests. Instead, customers want personalized rewards that demonstrate a brand’s understanding of their wants and needs. Generic campaigns can create cannibalization with regular customers redeeming rewards on purchases they would make regardless of the discount.

// This article was created for Stop Watch magazine, the magazine of the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the traveling public's needs through improved operational performance and business planning. Visit for more information. (Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.)

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