Mobile Community

Cumberland Farms pockets the benefits of virtual wallets

Samantha Strong Murphey, Freelance writer

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Jumping into the mobile-app scene is the next innovative leap for Cumberland Farms' business longevity. While a number of convenience retailers have embraced apps for promotions at the fuel island and inside the store, Cumberland Farms, operator of 600 stores in 11 states, may be the largest player in the channel to introduce a mobile cash card, a phone-friendly version of the reloadable gift cards it already offers.

Hoping a mobile option would reach new customers and possibly drive sales throughout the year, Cumberland recently entered into a partnership with CardStar, a mobile application based in Hartford, Conn., that collates a user's loyalty and gift cards.

"It's the very beginning--a toe in the water of the electronic wallet," Gwen Forman, Cumberland's vice president of marketing, told CSP. "A lot of our customers are young, and we have a lot of mobile workers. Although they aren't necessarily affluent, they embrace mobile technology. This engages us in the electronic wallet at a decent cost to us."

The mobile cash card is still in its infancy, but Forman said Cumberland Farms' innovators are already looking ahead. They're developing their own mobile-enabled website and plan to link their CardStar application to that. They plan to explore couponing and other loyalty-type functionality with the mobile card.

"For example," Forman said, "we could load values onto the card and position it as a free cup of coffee."

After a small-scale internal test and distribution of simple training materials to store employees, Cumberland Farms launched its cash card using CardStar's platform in mid-July. The operator is also exploring CardStar's other features, such as banner ads, advertising and links on the CardStar application itself, targeting customers and sending offers. With CardStar's "loyalty map," these efforts can be instant, customized and hyperlocal.

To read the full story, click here or see the October 2011 issue of CSP magazine.