Raising the Barcode

NACStech sessions reveal scannable text-based coupons, project-management advice

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- From coupons scanned right off of a customer's cell-phone display to working advice on project management, helpful bits and bytes of information surfaced over the course of the three-day NACStech conference in Grapevine, Texas. Retailers, suppliers and consultants also covered emerging trends such as experiential marketing.

"We used to warn our kids not to talk to strangers," said Erik Hauser, a consultant with Swivel Media, San Francisco. "Now with the proliferation of technology, we talk to thousands of strangers all the time."

Addressing the growing move to "[image-nocss] experiential marketing," Hauser told the audience of about 75 NACStech attendees that traditional marketing methods appeal to the rational side of a customer's mindset. Experiential marketing targets the customer's emotion, using language, technology and value propositions that appeal specifically to them.

Using the banking giant Wells Fargo as an example, Hauser talked about a campaign designed to give the financial stalwart more of an appeal to youth. The resulting program included virtual-reality games that focused on the "seriousness" of fun. An introductory game focused players on being able to pay for exciting vacations and shopping trips, while subsequent versions went more into depth about specific financial programs.

"We found a point of connection," he said of the program. "Fun costs money."

In another session, Chris Young, director of store systems for The Pantry, Sanford, N.C., outlined important steps regarding IT project management for approximately 125 attendees. He said the 1,650-store chain was a compilation of multiple acquisitions and was a "hodgepodge" of automation, with disparate systems for convenience stores, quick-service restaurants and truckstops. The chain is presently in the process of pushing through point-of-sale (POS) and wide-area network (WAN) programs.

Some of those project-management tips included the following:

Bring together your "A Team." Build a multidepartmental team of effective individuals. Once that's done, meet early and often. Develop a plan that plays out in phases and communicate those steps. Review financial and human resources, making sure to avert conflicts. Sometimes an unforeseen acquisition or issue will pull important people or funds from a project. Count on extensive training periods. Build contingency budgets since not all factors will be known, and be able to explain those potential variances to higher-ups.

In a session on loyalty marketing, two retailers revealed the latest developments in programs they have implemented. Jeannie Amerson, advertising coordinator for Flash Foods Inc., Waycross, Ga., and Pat Lewis, partner and CEO for Oasis Stop N Go, Twin Falls, Idaho, talked of advances they have made in their well-established loyalty systems.

Amerson spoke of moving their customers to a multipurpose card, one that not only allowed for entry into the rewards program, but included prepay functionality at the pump and an way to pay with plastic that bypasses credit-card fees. She said that even with a three-cents-per-gallon rebate to customers, the company achieved a savings of $177,000 in a single year.

Regarding new technology, Lewis spoke of using electronic coupons that customers have downloaded into their cell phones. With the barcode for the product on the cell-phone screen, scanners record the transaction right from the phone itself. "We have [suppliers] fighting to be the vendor-of-the-month in that program," he said.

Lewis spoke of developing gift-card and credit-card options in addition to the loyalty capabilities. His program involves other merchants via a "coalition" model, so if a customer makes a purchase at a local furniture store or dry cleaner (that is a program participant), then he or she earns reward points. Lewis said he uses the model to draw in new customers, offering someone who frequents a coalition-member's restaurant a five-cents-per-gallon "instant win" coupon. Noting a greater than 60% redemption rate on that offer, he said that once the customer comes in initially, he or she gets another coupon for three cents, and on a subsequent visit, a two-cents-off "winning" coupon. The process weans the customer from the discount mechanism and leads to a high rate of new-customer retention.

He said retailers can use loyalty points in many ways to trigger consumer behavior. "When you have the data, you know who's buying fuel, for instance, but not a car wash," Lewis said. "So say you want to do something like increase the number of fillups on slow says, you can offer double points on a Sunday."

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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