#456: Casey's Digital Transformation (and Pizza's) Driving Customer Loyalty and Retail Success

This episode is also available in video format on www.Loyalty TV.

Today’s episode features a loyal listener and friend of the show, Mike Templeton, Head of Digital at Casey’s.

Casey’s is an award-winning convenience retail chain in the US, which has grown from its small-town origins in Iowa, to now operate the third largest convenience retail business and the 5th largest pizza chain in the country, with over 2,500 stores nationwide.

Mike shares the role of digital for Casey’s and some of the key principles for its success, as well as the latest important changes to the overall loyalty proposition for the seven million members of Casey’s Rewards.

He also shares how he thinks about evolving the program, given the endless opportunities and possibilities that exist to continually develop it in ways that can add complexity when most consumers really crave simplicity.

Listen to enjoy our conversation with Mike Templeton from Casey’s.

Show Notes:

1) Mike Templeton⁠

2) Casey’s⁠

3) Casey’s Rewards⁠

4) Casey’s Investor Deck

5) www.Loyalty TV⁠

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

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Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. If you’re just listening today on our podcast channel, I’d really like to encourage you to check out our video of this interview, which you can easily find on www. loyalty.tv. 

Our guest today is Mike Templeton, Head of Digital at Casey’s, an award winning convenience retail chain in the United States, which has grown from its small town origins in Iowa to now operate the third largest convenience retail business and the fifth largest pizza chain in the country with over 2,500 stores nationwide.

Mike will share the role of digital for Casey’s and some of the key principles for its success. As well as the latest important changes to the overall loyalty proposition for the 7 million members of Casey’s Rewards. He’ll also share how he thinks about evolving the program, given the endless opportunities and possibilities that exist to continually develop it in ways that can add complexity when most consumers really crave simplicity.

So, with all that said, please enjoy my conversation with Mike Templeton from Casey’s.

So, Mike Templeton, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV. 

Mike: Hey Paula, it’s great to be here. 

Paula: Great. It feels like chatting with an old friend, Mike. I know you’ve been listening to the show for a long time, sending me some wonderful comments and feedback along the way. So it feels long overdue. So I’m delighted to have you with us.

Mike: Yes, me too. 

Paula: Great. Great. So listen, Mike, as you know, we’re here to talk all about the Casey’s journey in terms of loyalty which I know you’re incredibly proud of. So that’s going to be wonderful story. I actually hadn’t even appreciated how significant Casey’s was as a brand until I started preparing for today. So we have lots of wonderful updates to share with our global audience, many of whom may not be familiar with the Casey’s brand. 

But of course, we have to start with our favorite familiar question, Mike, as a loyalty industry professional, I know you’re pretty obsessed actually, but tell us what would you say is your current favorite loyalty program other than your own?

Mike: Oh, this was a hard one. And especially being a brand like Casey’s is that in so many different types of businesses we’re a coffee shop. We’re a fuel retailer. We’re a convenience chain. We’re a pizza restaurant. I really struggled to find something that didn’t feel like it would conflict with our own business. But for me I have to go with Target Circle. I’ve been a long time Target fan. They’ve evolved what that program looks like more recently in recent years.

The independent app that they launched with Target cartwheel, which was all just about delivering those offers more recently, folding that into the core Target app. And I think what I love about that is that seamless integration of the offers personalized value for things that work for me and the things that I buy. And then the frictionless experience that they’ve created at the point of sale, I think rivals anything any other brand is doing. I have the Target Red Card, which gives me 5 percent off of my purchase, but I can go in with the Target app, scan the barcode right at the point of sale. I’m identified. I earn any of my value and rewards.

And then right before I leave the door, I get a real time message that tells me how much I save on that trip of target. So to me has really sort of become the definition of not just loyalty in terms of program, but I find myself probably more loyal to that brand than just about anywhere else.

Paula: My goodness. Wow. Well, high praise indeed. And as I always take the opportunity, if somebody mentions a program that we haven’t had on the show, if there is anyone from Target listening, I would encourage them to reach out and let’s come and have some insights from them directly on the show. But really powerful stuff. I mean, I think the savings piece is something I often hear is particularly important to American consumers. And of course, that’s your own market of operation. So incredibly powerful. The real time piece of course is something I think a lot of retailers really do struggle with and they’re really a wonderful example. So thank you for sharing that.

So let’s get into, I suppose, you know, how did you end up, I suppose, like I did, Mike, falling in love with the loyalty industry? Because I get the sense that you are truly passionate about it. So take us back to the beginning, both those Casey’s as a brand and of Casey’s rewards. 

Mike: Sure. So I got my start in the convenience industry about 13 years ago. I’ve done experience spanning across two different brands here in what we call the heartland of America. I got started in social media my first job sort of coming out of school was right as the first iphone was released I remember, you know, going and picking that up from AT& T and just being blown away by the power of this device, you know, and what it could do inside of your hands.

That quickly sort of moved me out of social media into digital product, digital marketing looking at how we could leverage that device. The transformational, you know, piece of technology that consumers now walk around with them. I launched a coupon based mobile app at my first convenience retailer, which eventually led towards building out a full fledged loyalty program, integrated at the point of sale and at the fuel pump.

And that’s really where I got my first exposure as well to consumer packaged goods companies. All forms of beverages, snacks, candy. Even age restricted categories and kind of what that really feels like to be a retailer with a brand who is also selling other brands. And what that collaboration looks like, because loyalty to some degree sits with the retailer themselves, but also you’ve got plenty of loyalists across those different brands that you carry inside of your footprint. So that becomes very interesting to see that play out. 

Paula: I don’t know if you know, Mike, you probably do, or you’ve probably heard me at least hinting about it, but I was writing articles about convenience retail and loyalty and convenience retail for about three years up until I’m going to say about actually another three years ago.

And what really struck me is, you know, it was one of the last, dare I say it, industries to really, I suppose, recognize and revolutionize. And I suppose really digitalize your businesses because I think maybe 10 years ago, as you’ve alluded to before the iPhone and all of our smartphones existed, all any of us wanted was to get into the convenience store and get out.

So this idea that I would, you know, even bother to, to think about points for what was often a very small purchase was something that I just think people just struggled with. But I think from my perspective, the technology caught up, the mindset changed, and I guess that’s what you’re seeing coming through as well, given your focus on digital now.

Mike: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right there, Paula. And I think Casey’s actually has a really interesting perspective, even inside of the convenience industry. We don’t necessarily like to let the industry define what we are or who we are as a brand. Casey’s got to start all the way now 55 years ago in 1968. Like a lot of these convenience chains did it was a small general store in Boone, Iowa just about 30 minutes north of where our headquarters is here today.

The two founders, Don Lamberti and Kurven C. Fish and his initials KC is where the name Casey’s came from. Their first door went well. Then they opened a second and they opened a third. And that went on for quite a while until 1983 when the company went public. That following year, we actually introduced our famous pizza with made from scratch dough in 1984. And that’s really become kind of the, that was the beginning of the journey for Casey’s as guests know us now today.

You see behind me in my visuals you know, what looks like probably a typical convenience store and a fuel canopy inside of that building, is where our 40, 000 team members are getting the giant mixer ready to go with flour and water and everything else and making that famous Casey’s made from scratch dough which has propelled us not only to be the third largest convenience retailer in the United States, but also the fifth largest pizza chain. And a lot of people are surprised to hear that when they hear about our business and our brand, but once they try our pizza, they become a fan really fast.

Paula: Honestly, I mean, I just can’t wait to get to the US. It’s been quite a few years now since I’ve had the opportunity, Mike. But absolutely, you know, good pizza is absolutely hard to beat. And, you know, when I think about the principles of loyalty, I think getting the basics right, of course, is something that we know as professionals is absolutely essential.

So to have a product that has managed to achieve fifth biggest pizza company in the United States. That’s absolutely incredible. And again, as you said, third largest retailer. So clearly the whole thing is working. 

Talk us through the history of loyalty, because I think you did share very generously the the investor deck. As you said, you are a public company now, and I got great joy in seeing the Casey’s rewards. It was featured prominently throughout that deck. And to me, you know, having come from a sector that was, you know, always struggling to justify our investment in our loyalty initiatives. It seems like it’s at the core of what you’re doing in Casey’s. So maybe just talk us through the history of where the loyalty proposition came from. And I guess some of the evolution, because I know it has evolved quite dramatically for you. 

Mike: Yeah, so I’ll take us back to 2018 in the fall is when I joined Casey’s. I’m just coming up. I’ve just celebrated my fifth year anniversary here. Casey’s was at the beginning of a digital transformation. They had a great business for a great many years. But they knew by the way the world was changing around them that we needed to evolve our business model. As I came in and we started doing research, part of what I was brought here to do was stand up a digital marketing function inside of the business.

At the time, we had an email list of about 300,000 people, and we would email those people once per month. And inside of the email would be a printed home coupon that they could print off, cut out and bring into the store. And that was about all that we had. 

Quickly we remedied that. We built a custom mobile app. And then ultimately my, my, my passion project here at Casey’s has been launching the loyalty program. We did a lot of research with our guests scanning the market. We have this benefit as a late adopter in loyalty that we could really survey the landscape and understand what was going to be necessary.

While we had a, you know, certainly a legacy business in all of these years, we didn’t have any legacy systems or tools that we had to worry about evolving as it relates to loyalty. So we really built it from the ground up the way that was, it was necessary. And I think one thing that was pretty exciting, I think helped propel our success early on was, I say we launched our first ever loyalty program in January of 2020 with the launch of Casey’s Rewards.

But actually there was a predecessor to Casey’s Rewards that actually had success at Casey’s for a number of years. And it started with our pizza boxes. So, when you open up that, that mouth watering, you know, box to see that, that pizza inside, right on the top of that tab, there would be a little printed message that said, you know, collect 10 and your 11th pizza is free.

And so for years and years guests would collect those box tops, stuff them in a junk drawer. And when they were ready to get that pizza to feed their family on Friday night, they’d bring that fistful of cardboard into the store and plunk it down on the counter. And they’d get their free pizza. And we heard amazing stories about this from our guests. I think one of the anecdotes that I loved the most was someone talked about being in college and, you know, bartering with someone else for a couch that was for sale, and he paid in fistfuls of, you know, Casey’s cardboard Pizza Box Tops. It was its own currency amongst our guests.

And so, as we leaned into preparing to launch the loyalty program, we knew a program centered on pizza was going to be core. And when we launched that with a very simple points per spend program that you could… Turn into Casey’s cash or fuel discounts or school donations. We also took that opportunity to digitize that cardboard Pizza Box Topss program. So every time someone ordered a pizza in the app or they called the store they would earn a pizza box stamp inside of the Casey’s app. And then once they hit their pizza purchase, we issue them that free pizza.

So it was a great transition from what something that Casey’s was known for a long time and had a lot of passion and I’d say pent up demand for an opportunity in a program like this. And when we announced in January of 2020 and had our first investor day that same we were up to a million people registered within that first week of the program. So we knew we had something on our hands. 

Paula: Wow. My goodness. Congratulations. I mean, that’s an incredible milestone. A million people in a week. And dare I say it, the fact that you had been maybe educating your customers with, you know, ripping off those pizza boxes, creating that aspiration and idea of saving in order to get benefits.

I mean, it’s a very good story and I suppose a lesson in simplicity, dare I say it, because it’s a principle I hold close to my heart. I think it’s something you hold close to your heart. So, so congratulations on all of that digitizing also, I say, just in time, you know, January, 2020, I think many of us fondly remember us before the world fell apart.

And would it be fair to say that digital transformation was probably absolutely key then as you went through, I know the convenience industry in many ways became perhaps the only retail option available for a lot of people through a certain number of months, certainly in 2020. So how did the digital adoption go given the remarkable circumstances the world was going through?

Mike: You’re right. You’re right, Paula. I think we launched that program, you know, in January and then March things fell apart. But if you were on, if you were on our side looking at the numbers behind this program, you wouldn’t have known anything else was happening in the world. The uptick in terms of enrollment, the participation range, you know, increasing inside of the store, the number of mobile app downloads, the transition into more digital ordering.

I think before we launched this program, we were seeing about 20 percent of our orders were coming through digital channels. The other 80 percent were people picking up a phone and calling their neighborhood Casey’s to order a pizza. Fast forward to today, we’re doing just over 70 percent of our orders are coming through digital channels. And the mobile app is the leading channel. 

So something else about Casey’s, we haven’t necessarily discussed is we are a very rural retailer. They may not look at in the photo behind me. But over half of our stores are in towns of 5,000 people or less. And so that was one of those key things that we thought about our brand and how we served guests and whether or not digital was going to make sense.

I remember that there were some hard conversations about you know, can we launch a program that’s built around mobile app? What about plastic cards? Do people, you know, in these rural places use technology? Here’s what I would say. If you’ve been inside of a John Deere tractor recently, You know that people in these markets are deep in technology. There were no concerns. And when we got this program launched and we saw the adoption and the uptick, we knew that we made the right choice  there. 

Paula: Amazing. Well, I have to confess, I’ve never been inside a John Deere tractor. And I may never be, but on an amusing side note, we do have, I think Europe’s largest tractor festival in Ireland. So certainly plenty of people back home would be certainly deep into that technology. So wonderful to hear that the adoption and the interest is there. 

And you mentioned, of course, earlier briefly in passing, Mike. So consumer clearly has been absolutely, you know, wowed by what you built. Tell us about the industry side, because I have a personal, I suppose, fascination with how convenience particularly, and I guess the whole grocery sector has that opportunity to partner with those brands that you alluded to. So the whole CPG sector, which I think is really, at this point I would almost use the word desperate to connect with consumers. And that’s my sense, again, coming from the outside looking in. So what are you seeing in terms of the role of CPG and the digital strategy in Casey’s? 

Mike: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think we see, you know, CPG partners as central to our program and to our business. Like I said earlier we’re a brand in ourselves, but essentially we’re a house full of brands inside of those. Once you walk through those Casey stores beverages is a key focus for us. I think I’d say inconvenience beverage is really part of that destination. 

I think also as we think about Casey’s role inside of the industry, we are a little bit of an outlier in, in that sense, because for us, 70 percent of our transactions are non fuel transactions. So I know inside of convenience and inside of the fuel and industry, there’s a lot of concern about, we’ve got them there for fuel. How do we get them inside of the store? How do we create that compelling offer? And I’d say, certainly our pizza business is a major driver of that impetus to go inside of the store and visit us.

But those CPG partners and those powerhouse brands that do business with us, those are another core part of that. So as people are coming inside to pick up a drink, to go along with their slice of pizza for the road or a bag of chips or impulse candy item. We see those as critically important and we work with all of those partners. We talk about what works inside of our program. We talk about how to use the loyalty outcomes, whether that’s driving trial, recovering lapsed users, accelerating frequency across different bands of purchase growing the basket and pairing those things with our food proprietary food service. Or even, you know, towards the end, looking at how do we surprise and delight best guests that we have.

We see some pretty interesting numbers as it relates to our program. We just recently passed 7 million people enrolled. But probably what we’re most proud about is that we see nearly 50 percent of the enrolled members in our program that are active inside of a month with loyalty. So that’s almost three and a half million people that we’re seeing every single month, whether that’s inside the store, fuel pump, or ordering with the mobile app. And oftentimes, those core CPG brands are a key part of that experience that they have with Casey’s.

Paula: Amazing. So it sounds like they totally get it and almost like they’re equally, if not more excited than you are in terms of their opportunity to drive their business, given your digital connection to your consumers.

Mike: Yep. Absolutely. Okay. And I know one of the things we want to talk about is sort of, trends inside of the loyalty space. And this is maybe actually even a good bridge like you said as the pandemic unfolded, you know, across the world, people were shut up in their homes. They weren’t visiting retail as much. That was a key disconnection point for a lot of those CTG brands, right? They lost their connectivity to their consumer. I think you see a number of brands out there that are trying to organize their own proprietary programs specific on a CPG brand level.

And I think it’s interesting to look at those sorts of things because I could see a world in these partnerships that we’re seeing taking place in the industry where maybe there’s an opportunity for carbonated soft drink, you know, brand or candy brand or a snack brand that has their own proprietary program to offer the opportunity to link up with something like a Casey’s rewards where transactions might be able to be shared or some sort of insight there. And then those brands who are clamoring for that information and that data and that relationship, we can actually offer them an accelerated means to better understand who their guests are.

So partnerships between brands, I think we’re seeing a lot of it on the retail front. Companies like Target and Ulta, Kohl’s and Sephora, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Nike, Starbucks and Delta. Sort of the list just goes on and on. That’s something that we’re really thinking about here at Casey’s is to say, what are those important brands that also serve the consumers that we do, you know, across the Midwest and the heartlands? How can we create a mutual value for those consumers, given the opportunity to connect what they’re doing? And then participate kind of across those brands.

Paula: Yeah, I totally agree. Mike. I think it’s probably one of the most exciting sectors. I think I alluded earlier to the fact that, you know, relative to other verticals, convenience retail was probably a late adopter, but dare I say it, CPG to me feels like the latest and the ones that haven’t actually nailed it as yet.

And you know, given what you’ve talked about, that idea of exclusivity, which I guess we do see in QSR, for example, with certain drinks partnering with certain restaurants, it does to me make perfect sense exactly what you’ve just suggested, that if I was sitting in a CPG at the moment, listening to your conversation or our conversation, it would make an awful lot of sense to go, well, actually, what can Casey’s and I do together?

Because actually you’ve got that direct access, whereas even though COVID did disconnect them, they never really had that close connection. So anything I’ve seen really done in the CPG space so far has been, dare I say it, a little underwhelming, and I think they would probably say that themselves. So hopefully as we continue working and talking with the likes of you, we might see more of those partnerships come to light because I do think there is an incredible benefit for both sides if you can nail something that gives them that marketing power.

Mike: Absolutely. 

Paula: Yeah. Super. So, with all of that said, I know you’re also a fan of evolution, Mike. You referred to it earlier, going from the cardboard pizza boxes to the digital pizza boxes. But I know you also told me before this call that you’ve taken it to the next level.

So tell us about, first of all, the consumer insight, because again, looking at your investor deck, it was fabulous to see your whole approach to marketing, I think has been, you know, really professionalized. I haven’t seen anything before, but what I see in that deck is incredible in terms of really starting with exactly what consumers need and taking that into absolutely everything that Casey’s is doing. So tell us about the evolution of your proposition. 

Mike: Yeah, absolutely. So I think even in a young program like ours, we’re just nearly three years into the program, we are constantly thinking about how do we need to change and evolve over time. Because one of the things that we have to make sure that we are is relevant to the marketplace. If we become irrelevant, the business model will start to fade from there. 

So I’d say about a year ago now, we started digging in for additional feedback and research with our guests, really trying to understand, hey, we see the performance taking place. We see the adoption. We see the usage, but what are people actually? Think about this program. How do they feel about it? What do they like? What do they not like? Because in the beginning we looked at a lot of different options We sort of took our you know Our best guess based on all the data surrounding us and then ultimately we said we have to release this and let our guests tell us more.

So one of the things that we found was that the model that we had landed on was really resonating. And I think this idea of choice and flexibility inside of our program, which I mentioned at the beginning guests earn points for things they buy inside of the store, they earn points on the gallons they put in their car, and then ultimately they have those three options to choose from Casey’s cash, field discounts for a donation.

So we partner with over 36, 000 local schools across our 16 state footprints. And if they so choose, guests can take their points and turn them into local school donations. But even in that initial model of Casey’s Cash, essentially what that allows people to do is spend it on mainly anything inside of the store. Or even to help cover the cost of pizza on that Friday night meal. And that’s what guests came back and told us was they said. We love that flexibility. We love that choice that you give us inside of the program. So as we sought to understand that more and really said, we’ve got something that people like, we don’t need to join it and draft it.

We really kind of sought out those opportunities to say, how do we further simplify the way that we go to market around this, how do we make it easier for people to understand the number of points they’ve earned and how they can go use those. And we implemented a couple of key things a few months ago at the beginning of summer. Where now there’s a very easy button to hit right on the front screen of the mobile app where people can choose their rewards and see how much their points are worth. They can slide the dial to see, you know, how big or how large, depending on the number of points they redeem. 

And then another element that we added was what we call the savings tracker. And so now similar to my, maybe inspired by my quick favorite program at the top of the program here. How did the savings tracker where people can see the total number of points earned since joining the program as well as their total thing? And part of that came out of this insight of one of the anecdotes that we heard from guests was they loved seeing that points total rise. They loved even just the idea of collecting the points. And there would be a little bit of badge value In comparing or how many do you have? Paula, how many points do you have? 

And part of the challenge in that is that it was preventing people from turning their points into real value and coming back into the store to use that. And so we heard sort of this, I don’t want to, I don’t want to lose, you know, I don’t want to lose the points I’ve got here. So this addition of that savings tracker and that lifetime points. Now we give people the ability to see what that looks like and they can still play that sort of collecting journey, but they can also quickly turn those points into real cash value inside of the store and help them save. Which in the midst of where we are in this economic climate, I think every dollar we can help put back into our best practice certainly is appreciated.

Paula: I think that is an incredible insight, Mike. You know, and one that I often actually get frustrated about because, you know, I’m in so many different programs, you know, over the years, and particularly when I think about airlines, you know, when I’m lucky enough to redeem, then of course, the points disappear from my account and I don’t have that cumulative view in terms of how loyal have I been in my entire life cycle with this airline.

So I think there is a lot of value of perception that perhaps is being missed out on. So you’ve clearly tapped into that, in terms of making sure that they realize. It might be 10 pizza today, for example, that they’re, you know, redeeming for, but they might’ve earned, I don’t know, a thousand dollars over their lifetime with you. So there’s real power in that for you. 

Mike: That’s right. That’s right. And it leads me to the latest evolution that we brought to market. By the time this goes live it’ll be live outside in the market. But one of the things that we took a look at was that Pizza Box Tops program. So we talked about how we had it in the cardboard boxes. We digitized it inside of the mobile app. 

As we continue to grow and expand, Casey’s is now over 2, 500 locations across the US. I was going to get into some of these more emerging markets for us, where our brand is not as well known. That legacy of the collectible Pizza Box Tops. Just that idea wasn’t as prevalent in some of these places where people are beginning to know who we are. And so we really sat down face to face with some guests and talked about how valuable is that to your Casey’s experience? And how would you consider some of these different alternatives? 

And one of the concepts that we landed on and are excited to be rolling out is that we’re actually going to be retiring the Pizza Box Tops for good now inside of our program, but instead what we’ve replaced it with, is that guests will earn double points on every pizza that they buy.

So there’s a couple of mechanics here where Pizza Box Tops only existed on large pizzas. We also sell mediums, we also sell smalls. We’ve also introduced new crust types. We had an innovation recently around thin crust, which opens up new opportunities for people to purchase. But what we found was that most guests based on their purchase frequency for pizza, it would take them quite a while to build their way up to that free pizza. Maybe nine, ten months on average, if people were ordering about once a month from Casey. And so rather than wait all that time, and actually Casey’s potentially sort of missing out on the credit for the excitement of that free pizza finally arriving, what guests told us was we just want the points. 

I’d rather have it now and get that immediate gratification, than to wait and wait. You know, we’ll wait for things like holidays and Christmas and birthday presents, but this was something that guests were loud and clear on. They said hey, we love the points model. I love the flexibility of Casey’s cash. Use it on whatever I need. And they told us they would really appreciate that. So, we roll into celebrating national pizza month in the month of October. That’s actually that was a kickoff for our double points on pizza.

And again what that says about Casey’s and pizza as a differentiator for us in our marketplace, it’s that we’ve really leaned into rewarding the behaviors that we’re looking for, you know, from our guests. So, it just further underscores sort of the flexibility and our program. But also, it truly rewards those folks who have gravitated towards Casey’s and our amazing pizza.

Paula: Amazing. And actually, you know, you’ve picked up on a couple of things that would be very personally relevant for me, Mike, you know, if I was, over there, you know, with access to a Casey store. One is the thin crust you just briefly mentioned in passing. And I will make sure that we link to your latest ad about that because again, I saw it mentioned in the investor presentation. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. When I watched it on YouTube. So congrats on the thin crust.

But also as somebody who’s trying to maintain, you know, a healthy weight, you know, personally, as well as enjoy pizza, you know, to be able to get rewarded for the small and medium purchase and not have to buy a large one, cause then I’m conflicted. So I think that’s important, you know, let people buy what they want and still be rewarded. 

Mike: Yes. And that, again, that’s been key as we look at these different opportunities inside of our program, we look to the guest and what they’re looking for and we find ways to make that easier because we know if we can give the guests more of what they want, they’ll continue to reward us with their business.

Paula: Amazing. Amazing. So listen, as we come to the end of the conversation, Mike I think we alluded to it earlier that you are somebody who is very passionate and very loyal to loyalty. So tell us a bit about where you find inspiration and, you know, for people either listening or watching this show today, what do you recommend in terms of keeping up that professional journey, given that there’s so few people, I suppose, go to university to study loyalty. Some of us had to come, you know, from different angles. So would you share some of your tips on that side? 

Mike: Yeah. You know, I think there are a lot of great resources out there. I didn’t have any formal training in loyalty either. I made my way into it really just as a student of marketing. And I’d say, hey my team would resonate with this with this concept. I have over 500 apps on my iPhone right now, close to 39, 000 screenshots. All those screenshots come from me interacting, experiencing, playing with these other apps from other retailers, other brands, USRs, other industries. I think we can learn so much as loyalty professionals just by going out and experiencing what’s happening out in the market.

I think Let’s Talk Loyalty has been key for me. You’ve got a great collection of, you know, a backlog episodes for people to dig into any industry really that they like. And I’ve loved learning from other professionals in that sense. 

And then another huge boost for me in my own personal career going deeper into this, I’d say was getting my certified loyalty marketing professional certification through Loyalty Academy. So I know you’ve got a program going right now as you’re celebrating the anniversary of the show in order to award other folks the opportunity to do the same. And I couldn’t recommend that program enough because I think it is completely tailored to this space, what you need to know on a broad base and into the specifics, lots of opportunities to dive deeper into the topics that are more interesting to you. But that’s something that’s really going to consider.

Paula: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Well said, Mike. Absolutely. I know when I did my CLMP, I’ve often said, I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. Because again, you know, I consider myself, you know, a curious, intelligent, you know, socially aware, dare I say it’s somebody who’s paying attention to what I see going out, you know, in the world, but then I’d never built a loyalty PNL. I’d never written an RFP. So there are so many things that you just kind of go, actually, there’s other expertise that I need access to. And of course, thank you for both mentioning and more importantly, listening to our show, Mike, because at the end of the day, there would be no point if it wasn’t proving valuable to people. So really do appreciate you, you sharing your time and attention with us. 

So, listen my final question then is just in general in terms of any challenges that you’ve gone through, any learnings that you can share with people who might be listening in different parts of the world and may have some, you know, either, you know, issues in terms of engagement. I know you mentioned how proud you are in terms of how effective Casey’s Rewards is proving for your business. And I guess that’s part of the overall digital transformation of, you know, how the US and how the world, I suppose, is evolving. So any final thoughts in terms of, I suppose, challenges or recommendations for people?

Mike: Yeah, I think Paula, I will leave you listeners with this. Beware to shiny objects. Even as we think about our space, you know, we can’t go a week without a brand, you know, making an announcement that some new innovation or feature or benefits that they’re rolling out. 

I think the key is to engage with your guests, listen to what they have to say. Think about what your model is, you know, inside of your business. Find a way to take inspiration from those ideas and adapt, but adapt them when they make sense, when there’s going to be some resonance, you know, with the people that your program is serving. And if you stick with that, you’ll be far better off.

Paula: Amazing. Yeah. And actually one thing I really learned from the convenience retail industry, Mike and has stuck with me to this day was a concept around what was being called copy with pride. And it was just this idea that actually, you know, a rising tide floats all boats and actually at the end of the day, yes there’s local competition, of course, and everybody wants to do the best, but actually, you know, there’s beautiful ideas out there. So let’s compliment each other by learning as you’ve just alluded to by what they’ve done and going one better with our own brands. So wonderful parting advice. 

I don’t have any other questions for you today, Mike. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap up? 

Mike: I think, you know, in the spirit of continuing education and building each other up as loyalty professionals. I know there’s a new edition of Loyalty Programs, The Complete Guide by Philip Shelper. I’d encourage everybody, if you haven’t seen the first edition go out there and get the latest version. I love this book. I’ve got it sitting on my desk here at work for everybody to see. And I commend it to anybody else in this space who’s looking to learn more and dive deeper.

Paula: Okay, well, that’s wonderful advice, and again, we’ll make sure to link to that in the show notes so that everybody has access to that book specifically. 

So listen, it’s been a fascinating and long overdue conversation, Mike. As I said, it’s incredible to see what you’ve achieved with Casey’s. So, Mike Templeton, Director of Digital Experience at Casey’s, thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty and Loyalty TV.

Mike: Thank you, Paula. Appreciate it. 

Paula: This show is sponsored by The Wise Marketer. The world’s most popular source of loyalty marketing news, insights, and research. The Wise Marketer also offers loyalty marketing training through its Loyalty Academy, which has already certified over 500 executives in 38 countries as certified loyalty marketing professionals.

For more information, check out thewisemarketer.com

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