Category managers who want to take full advantage of the latest opportunities in prepaid might want to start by getting to know their technology officer.
“This business is changing rapidly, and it’s changing because of technology,” says Frank Squilla, executive vice president of industry and trade relations for Atlanta-based InComm.
C-stores with the right technology—including scanners that can handle a variety of codes or scan mobile phones, and POS terminals that can accept different kinds of transactions—will be a draw for customers looking for a convenient place to pay for an array of prepaid services, says Ben Jackson, director of prepaid advisory service for the Mercator Advisory Group, Maynard, Mass.
In areas that offer prepaid utility services, for example, customers can pay cash for their power or heat at the register while making other purchases, Jackson says. Prepaid transit passes or toll transponders also add opportunities to drive c-store traffic.
“It may also come in the form of scannable bills and invoices that turn the c-store point-of-sale into a place where online transactions can be completed,” he says. “A wealth of opportunities exist for managers who can connect the dots between their customers’ needs, the opportunities in the surrounding market and the new tools offered by technology.”
General purpose reloadable (GPR) prepaid cards, once considered the domain of the unbanked but now readily embraced by millennials, are a rapidly growing segment.
A December report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed 60% of consumers ages 18 to 32 with household incomes of $100,000 or more reported having a prepaid card in 2014, up from 49% the previous year.
“Where we see some of the greatest success is with retailers that tie their loyalty program to the prepaid offering,” says Jerry Cutler, vice president of InComm’s national convenience team. Some retailers offer free items for a certain number of reloads, or they link reloads to a points-based system customers can use to redeem for additional prepaid products, he says.
Wireless phone SIM bundle kits are another prepaid product gaining ground in the c-store space. InComm’s “Bring Your Own Device” starter-kit program lets consumers purchase SIM cards with the first month of service for unlocked wireless phones no longer associated with a contract-based plan. They can then return for reloads at retailers that offer the SIM cards and associated airtime.