‘What I Know for Sure’ – Rutter’s CCO Loyalty Insights

Paula Thomas, Chief Content Officer, Liquid Barcodes


With Derek Gaskins, Chief Customer Officer, Rutter’s

This article first appeared on Global Convenience Store Focus. 

As a newcomer to the convenience industry, living outside of the United States, I must confess I wasn’t aware of Rutter’s when it was first mentioned recently as one of the most respected brands in US loyalty and convenience retailing. A family-run business, about to open its 70th convenience store, they are predominantly based in the US state of Pennsylvania, so the brand could be forgiven for quietly running their business locally without trying too hard. Instead they’re driving the industry with a focus on excellence that’s been described by CSP Magazine as ‘beyond ridiculous’ – awarding the brand ‘record breaking‘ scores in their most recent mystery shopping awards!

Naturally I was excited to see how their approach to achieving such impressive operational excellence would also benefit their loyalty programme members, so I was delighted with the opportunity to chat to Derek Gaskins, Chief Customer Officer about how Rutter’s are changing the game and the industry.

As part of our ‘What I Know for Sure’ articles on loyalty insights from C-Level executives, Derek was clear what he knows for sure – and it’s what every true loyalty marketer knows. It’s the critical importance of identifying your MOST valuable customers and make 100% SURE they feel so truly rewarded, that they simply won’t go anywhere else! Many brands and businesses focus on customer acquisition, but with top tier customers ‘driving the engine of profitability’, these are the customers who really matter, followed closely by top potential customers – those who have the potential to join them in that top tier. It’s the Pareto Principle in practise, proving to be of immense value to Rutter’s, and a clear signal of excellence in convenience loyalty marketing. The Rutter’s Rewards loyalty programme is the platform built to capture all of the data and insights needed to delight this exclusive group, who enjoy ‘free stuff’ and save $.03 per gallon on their fuel purchases by buying any of over 1,800 products in Rutter’s stores. With fuel discounts consistently rated as the most aspirational benefit across all loyalty options, it’s clear how customer-focused this programme really is.

From a loyalty technology perspective, I was curious about customer adoption of mobile and app technology. Derek assures me we’ve ‘almost crossed the tipping point’ moving customers from traditional plastic loyalty cards to accepting and enjoying the dominance of digital! It’s particularly challenging to deliver technology solutions in convenience retail with every fuel pump a point of sale, along with the latest touch screen technology in stores. Fuel pumps can sometimes be in use for up to thirty years old, with customer-focused brands keen to satisfy consumer demands for rewards and recognition benefits and deliver cashless and frictionless experiences. Derek is envious of global brands with simpler point-of-sale solutions such as the extra-ordinary adoption of mobile by Starbuck’s customers in US and describes his own technical challenges as akin to herding cats!

Given the focus on recognising and rewarding customers, I asked Derek how he works with his partners and suppliers. The convenience industry is characterised by a commitment to sharing best practise like no other industry I’ve worked in, with organisations like NACS created to allow every stakeholder in the business to learn and benefit from what customer’s want, as clearly then customers ultimately GET more of what they want. Derek agreed that the industry is highly collaborative, and highlighted recent meetings set up by senior global leaders in both Pepsi and Hershey’s who were only too delighted to share and showcase their customer research, technology partnerships and marketing insights so that Rutter’s could learn and apply that expertise in their stores. From their side, Rutter’s are able to offer insights on market share and basket data on consumer purchasing patterns in stores, as well as opportunities to develop compelling and ‘transformative’ loyalty campaigns through Rutter’s Rewards programme that incentivise product trials for partners and drive top line profit for all. A true win-win-win for everyone!

Perhaps the most fascinating perspective that came through from chatting with Derek was Rutter’s innovations in the foodservice category. Already renowned for its dairy heritage and own-brand successful products, Rutter’s foodservice category is directed and led by an Executive Chef. Even the positioning in-store is innovative, with the introduction of Chef’s Coats to help customer’s appreciate Rutter’s differentiated proposition in the convenience category.

A product innovation is the development of the ‘Red Bull Smoothie’ – developed by observing customer trends for sophisticated hand-crafted drinks in the hot drinks category. These same customers are demanding healthy products like smoothies for nourishment but also need energy. These insights have been cleverly combined in the creation of an exclusive product – the hand-crafted Red Bull smoothie – giving customers another reason to consistently choose Rutter’s when they’re looking for refreshment.

More dramatically, state legislation has also opened up the opportunity for Rutter’s to operate as an off-license selling alcohol for take-away, so in true Rutter’s style, the brand has taken this a step further and successfully licensed themselves as restaurants! With this comes a whole new category of products and positioning, and Rutter’s have designed a unique experience in the convenience sector, with food pairings and wine tastings for customers! These events are designed to introduce food samples as sophisticated as sea food and also create awareness of Rutter’s as the perfect destination for quality wine or beer on the go, the perfect channel for home or party needs, and undoubtedly a whole new profitable business for Rutter’s.

On reflection, my favourite insight from Rutter’s is it’s inherent understanding on how profitable businesses are built. As Chief Customer officer, Derek’s first priority is to his team, making it easy for them to delight customers.

June 12th 2018 Update: Derek Gaskins has just announced a career move to Yesway and we wish him every success in his new role!


About Us:

Liquid Barcodes is a leading global loyalty technology company specialized for 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 Independent Loyalty Consultant.

With over twenty-five years marketing experience, I specialise in loyalty marketing consulting, managing consumer loyalty propositions, strategy and operations. In addition to working with Liquid Barcodes, my clients have included Telefonica O2, Three Mobile, Electric Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and The Entertainer, as well as Avios – the global points currency for some of the world’s top airlines. I am also a judge for the Loyalty Magazine Awards. 



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