The Future of Convenience Retail is Here – Subscriptions! Are You Ready?

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


When a respected media brand like the Financial Times Adviser publishes an article explaining the reasons why “subscription models are good investments“, CEOs around the world assume they’re referring to well-known subscription stories like Salesforce, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

And for investors in these companies, there is absolutely no doubt that the subscription model is a powerful lever for success in these sectors, but the article makes the point that subscription businesses are “increasingly prevalent across multiple industries…… [where] its financial benefits are becoming more prominent.” 

And world-leading analysts agree.

A 2020 McKinsey survey on loyalty programs found that members of paid loyalty programs are “60 percent more likely to spend more on the brand after subscribing, while free loyalty programs only increase that likelihood by 30 percent”. 

With astonishing success stories in 2020 like Panera Bread’s coffee subscription and the international launch of Circle K’s subscription-based car wash product proving the point, Convenience Store CEOs are increasingly experiencing their own “a-ha moments” with the realisation that a subscription loyalty model is the game-changing opportunity for the convenience store industry to build sustainable customer engagement and loyalty like never before. The new economy of subscriptions for Convenience Store Retailers will create recurring customer revenue, brand loyalty and greater profitability.

In the words of the FT article: 

“From the customer viewpoint, there is the benefit of greater accessibility, flexibility, simplicity in pricing and value. Think of Spotify versus buying CDs. For the average person, you will likely find they probably have paid more over 10 years. However, the wealth of choice and access is unparalleled as it offers a tremendous amount more for your money.”

In 2021, very few customers are still buying CDs, but they ARE increasingly subscribing to their favourite brands across every category of retail. Led by the giant brands mentioned above that dominate home entertainment, software and eCommerce, consumers around the world have realised how and why they should subscribe to their favourite brands, and they have responded at a scale that no CEO would have dared to predict.

For us at Liquid Barcodes, we believe that the future of convenience retail is subscriptions. Are you ready to ride this wave of change in consumer behavior? Whether it’s for car wash, coffee, fountain drinks, sandwiches, salads or other products, we’re here to help. 


The Time to Act is Now

Digital transformation is a leading business strategy and operational objective for most convenience store retailers in this pandemic and post-Covid world. Subscription sales belong at the heart of this transformation – a new way of doing business to meet the needs of consumers changing buying habits – touchless with total ease of payment.

As customers begin to subscribe to packages for their favourite coffee, drinks and other products, along with other products and car wash services, they become inherently loyal, and one thing we know for sure is that customers don’t subscribe to more than one favorite store for their product or service needs.

So, as we slowly emerge from lockdowns worldwide, convenience store retailers that offer the simple, flexible and powerful option of subscriptions will enjoy the same “first mover” advantage as Amazon did as a simple online book store in 1996. It’s a huge opportunity for leading and innovative retailers to stand out and thrive in the future.

We’ve already seen the power of gamification, rewards, points, surveys and content to drive higher customer engagement scores in convenience retail, yet even after all of the loyalty programmes we’ve built so far, subscription-based loyalty will be the most powerful model yet.

Your Customers Are VERY Valuable 

In industries such as airlines where customer transaction values are high, yet operating margins are thin, loyalty experts have leveraged the “lifetime value of customers” to focus on these people as their most valuable asset.

As eCommerce and other sectors have become more sophisticated, some of the world’s leading academics are now expanding on this model, with the concept of “customer-based corporate valuations“.

Quite simply, the value of a company to investors will increasingly be assessed by disclosing the strength of underlying fundamentals of the business – such as the loyalty of the customer base. And while the leading convenience brands in the world all boast free-to-join loyalty programs already, there’s no doubt that it will be those that extend their marketing and customer relationships to a recurring-revenue / subscription loyalty program, will be the ones that most impress investors.

For convenience store retailers, this means a dramatic shift from the focus on “just” driving customers in to stores, to a longer-term perspective on the potential lifetime value of each of these customers who can be relied on to keep coming back. Transactional loyalty from the store’s location is no longer enough to keep customer’s returning day in and day out, especially in this post-Covid world as customers re-evaluate everything. Subscription programs will bring customers back to the store on an ongoing basis.

For Mega Growth, Grow Your Subscriptions

Even digital giants like Google and Netflix are focused on customer subscriptions, but without their own end-user customer relationships, they instead partnered with T-Mobile to grow their subscription TV businesses, because T-Mobile has the subscription billing relationships that they need. 

Harvard Business Review highlights that the subscription economy has been growing by 200% annually since 2011, and the “Subscription Economy IndexTM report” says that subscription-based companies have consistently grown five to eight times faster than traditional businesses. 

Could the next $100 billion company in the convenience industry be a convenience brand that sells its millions of subscribers to Google or Amazon? Whether or not that happens, there is certainly no doubt that the subscription model is the path to enormous wealth creation and strengthening customer bonds for convenience store businesses.

From our perspective as the leading global loyalty platform, we help design and operate world-class, tailor-made subscription and reward programs that make sure your customers always come back, and we specialize in the convenience store and foodservice industries.

Clients and convenience store retailers around the world are increasingly keen to learn how they can benefit from our experience with subscriptions, so our advice, support and excitement around the potential for success with subscriptions is guaranteed. 

About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty and digital marketing technology company specialising in the convenience store and foodservice industries. Our proprietary cloud-based technology platform allow retailers to create and manage their digital marketing campaigns with a proprietary process we call the “customer connection cycle’ to engage, promote and reward customers activities in real-time across digital and media channels.

How we do it:

We have developed the most advanced loyalty and digital marketing technology platform specifically for convenience store and foodservice retailers globally.

Retailers use our self-service dashboard to create and manage loyalty driven marketing campaigns that increase purchases with their existing customers, as well as effectively target and acquire new customers through partners or paid media channels.

One core component of live loyalty is gamification. We have gamified branding, loyalty and promotions. We believe this approach is essential in order to get customers’ attention and ultimately truly engage them with repeatable actions thereby winning their loyalty.

Check out some of our exciting/proven results here:

About Me:

Paula Thomas

Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes and Host of “Let’s Talk Loyalty” Podcast

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing content. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my consulting clients have included Telefonica O2 Priority, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer Group (UAE), as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a former judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards and proud host of the “Let’s Talk Loyalty” podcast – the industry’s first podcast for loyalty marketing professionals.



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