Mobile 2 Go: Live from THE Tech EVENT

The mobile-couponing opportunity

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Blog Post: 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 10, 2013

DALLAS -- Mobile couponing is of growing interest for retailers as Brad Van Otterloo, vice president of sales and general manager for Koupon Media, Dallas-Ft. Worth, noted to the mobile-at-retail working session attendees at PCATS. His company is assisting Dallas-based 7-Eleven with its app for mobile coupons.

He said the current paper system of collecting coupons, mailing them to clearing houses and waiting for reimbursements doesn’t work in the c-store space, but that CPG companies are extremely interested in how digital coupons can help them access the channel.

Discussion from the group centered around current PCATS standards that address loyalty and how many of those specifications could work when discussing mobile couponing.

Blog Post: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2013

DALLAS -- Mobile payment is an international conversation, as Alan Thiemann, general counsel for NACS and PCATS, noted to PCATS members this week at a mobile-focused working session. He has been working on a global level to discuss mobile payment standards for retail, offering up PCATS as an important voice in the area of payment at the pump.

Discussion internationally has involved countries such as Japan, where quick response (QR) codes are part of the mobile-payment process. Understanding what the international group determines as far as standards is an important step for PCATS in its development of mobile standards for the c-store industry.

On that point, a participant asked if any of the major, emerging mobile-wallet players are at the table. Thiemann said no. Despite efforts to reach out to these providers, none has agreed to participate in standards discussions thus far.

Blog Post: 3:15 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2013

DALLAS -- PCATS working session attendees sitting in on the mobile committee saw a presentation yesterday of a field implementation presently going on with Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods Inc. The test, at one store with chain employees testing the set-up, offers loyalty-card holders the ability to pay for fuel using their mobile phones.

Danilo Portal, COO and CIO of National Payment Card, Coconut Creek, Fla., showed the mobile working committee how the process worked using video and diagrams, starting with a soft-key option at the pump to pay with the chain’s loyalty card. Customers, who’ve already downloaded the chain’s app, further the transaction on their mobile phones, which provide a “tokenized” series of numbers to enter onto the pump keyboard to authorize the sale.

For the most part, the transaction goes through the normal, ACH (automated clearing house) pathway, creating a relatively simple solution for Flash Foods.

Discussion began about the “closed loop” model, but workshop attendees knew that the presentation was offering up one of what could certainly be numerous ways to handle mobile payments.

Blog Post: 9 a.m. Thursday, May 9, 2013

DALLAS -- With the news that Pacific Fuels signed on with MCX, the PCATS standards groups continue work today. It's often frustrating work because even on an international level, the major mobile wallets emerging are not at the standards table.

The big concern is any proprietary set of rules become the standard. And the goal of the standards group is to allow for innovative solutions that may emerge in the future. The standards they craft must allow for that creativity.

More on happenings from the mobile committee to come. 

Blog Post: 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DALLAS -- NACS Tech EVENT attendees staying for the first day of official PCATS working sessions filed into separate breakout rooms to discuss standards on everything from point-of-sale to data security.

One of the newer committees surrounded mobile payments and coupons. More will appear on this blog in the coming entries, but highlights included presentations about a pilot test for mobile payment at Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods. Presenters showed video of the process at a single location and mapped out the steps to initiate a transaction on through fueling approval.

Other topics for the afternoon included developing standards occurring outside PCATS around mobile as well as an initial discussion on mobile couponing. Group discussion centered on the scope of potential standards and standards that may already exist in these areas.

The PCATS meetings continue through Friday.

Blog Post: 9:40 a.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DALLAS -- Gray Taylor of PCATS says the industry needs to take a leadership role in technology for others outside the channel. He says c-stores already have done so.

Our loyalty standard allows for any supplier to connect with a POS device.

Our device integration standard allows price signs to connect. 

Our data security team is regarded as experts. 

More to come.

Blog Post: 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DALLAS -- With a 7-Eleven app rolling out into various markets, Brad Van Otterloo, vice president of client development, Koupon Media, said he and his team are glad to be a part of it.

Exhibiting among the supplier booths at the NACS Tech EVENT, he said they’re a cloud-based platform for mobile coupons that provides a standard, allowing customers to receive and redeem coupons via their smartphones. It provides fraud-reduction features such as making sure the offer disappears after a certain time period. His founders were developers of a company called Mango Mobile that was eventually sold. They then turned to developing Koupon Media, based in Frisco, Texas.

They were at last year’s NACStech meeting--their first ever as a company--but only walking the floor. He said 7-Eleven had a really soft release of its app, starting out with SMS texting in April.

Click here to read more about 7-Eleven’s app.

Great talks with other suppliers on mobile and other topics here and on to come. Plus PCATS sessions and breakout meetings begin today.

Blog Post: 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DALLAS -- Speaking of talking cars, Scott Hartman of Rutter's Farm Stores, York, Pa., took the stage at the NACS Tech EVENT and spoke of coming innovations and what he called the c-store's billboard in the car--where the "connected" automobile is how motorists will communicate with the store in the not-so-distant future. What's funny is that he played a video clip of himself saying it almost 20 years ago when people had rudimentary cellphones and the kind of connectivity necessary wasn't even considered.

He showed another video of a 20-something reporter demonstrating mobile payment at Starbucks, noting that she was the demographic that retailers coveted. And while many obstacles still need to settle out on that front, mobile payments for retailers will be less about payment and more about attracting tomorrow's customer base.

More from my supplier visits to come and from PCATS meetings that start tomorrow.

Blog Post: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DALLAS -- Phillipe Le Hegaret, internet domain leader, world wide web consortium, spoke to issues of mobile platforms. He described issues of multiple platforms--IOS, Android, Windows and upcoming options from Intel or Firefox--to different size screens. Retailers struggle further in picking formats such as native, Web or some hybrid. Into this mix, Hegaret tossed in developing the new HTML 5 format.

The standard is due in 2014.

The result will be more animation, the ability to cross devices and better communication functions. Privacy may be a concern, but he said it's a process.

Blog Post: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DALLAS -- Evan Schuman, editor of, provided Tech EVENT attendees with quite a few lessons from retailers in other channels experimenting with mobile outreaches to consumers. Here are a few:

  • PayPal training in a New Jersey mall was nonexistent, with managers not knowing about what was coming in and the set-up not being friendly to customers wanting to use the option.
  • KFC launched a mobile campaign and found out that chicken is a great mobile lure. People typically order chicken on the way home from work, whereas, for say, pizza, they order when they’re already at home on their desktops.
  • Duane Read stores in New York launched a mobile wallet by starting it out as a scanning game, starting small by just getting customers used to pulling out their phones in the stores.
  • Macy’s had a policy of allowing people without their cards on hand to use their Social Security numbers. Sneaky data thieves would listen in and then go on their own shopping sprees at other Macy’s locations.
  • An Apple initiative involving purchases in the store via mobile devices led to a much publicized snafu, where a customer who merely failed to complete a transaction was harshly dealt with by employees.

More to come from the NACS Tech EVENT.

Blog Post: 1:30 p.m. May 6, 2013

DALLAS -- In light of the announced data breach at MAPCO’s convenience store chain, attendees at the NACS Tech EVENT are certain to wonder what it may mean for consumers and their increasing use of mobile to access bank accounts, especially regarding payments and the use of personal information.

Oddly enough, a 2013 study by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Jumio & Harris Interactive found that people want to do more financial tasks using their mobile devices, despite the threat of identity theft. Though 83% of people in the study said they worry about I.D. theft, 48% continue to check their account balances, 32% pay bills online, and 60% intend to do more with their mobile phones in the future.

However, a large number, 74%, do want to see better security beyond logging on with a user name and password.

Founder and CEO of Jumio, Daniel Mattes, said as the cases of data theft rise, so will concern about data security using mobile devices.

Shekar Swamy, president of data security assessment firm Omega ATC, Ellisville, Mo., believes c-stores are not yet equipped to handle data security for mobile devices.

Blog Post: 5 p.m. May 5, 2013

[Editor’s Note: This is the first of an ongoing series of mobile communications-themed blog entries CSP magazine senior editor Angel Abcede will be making from the NACS’ Tech EVENT, which starts today and runs through Friday, May 10 in Dallas.]

DALLAS -- Like the key at the end of Benjamin Franklin’s kite string, the idea of mobile opportunities at c-stores galvanizes retailer interest, and in turn, ties back to just about every technological development from store level to corporate. As the NACS technology conference, called “THE Tech EVENT,” starts tomorrow in Dallas, many questions will surface on topics ranging from loyalty to payments, marketing to social media, each having some tie to mobile communications.

In preparation for this year’s NACS technology conference, I took it upon myself to start an ongoing blog to appear on and periodically in CSP Daily News, addressing c-store technology developments from the lens of mobile communications. The reason may be obvious: Mobile’s a hot topic. Just about every retailer at THE Tech EVENT is either investigating or implementing some form of mobile initiative in his or her business.

Why am I confident about that? For my latest tech story in CSP magazine’s May 2013 issue, I reached out to retailers and suppliers to ask the simple question, “What’s trending?” By far, mobile--in its many incarnations from payments to smartphone apps--topped just about everyone’s list.

As my newly upgraded smartphone chirps and chimes with noises I never personally programmed into it, I know people are both intimidated and intrigued by the potential of mobile communications. It’s a puzzle, but no one wants to get left behind. And who knows, if enough people are in the same place with the same intent, there may come that flash of brilliance.

Will it come this week? Stay tuned!

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
View More Articles By Angel Abcede