Shell Debuts Biometrics

With Pay By Touch, oil company puts its finger on the pulse of its customers' lifestyles

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

HOUSTON -- Shell said it has become the first gasoline retailer to adopt Pay By Touch biometric payment technology at its pumps and inside its convenience stores. It debuted the technology at 10 Chicago-area stations yesterday.

When we talk to customers, they say they'll increase their loyalty to a gas station if we come up with new ways to improve the shopping experience, Chris Suess, manager of global refueling innovations for Shell, told CSP Daily News. They want us to make it quicker, easier and faster.

The Pay By Touch biometric [image-nocss] technology Shell has installed verifies personal identity using biometrics, the measurement of unique physical and behavioral characteristics. In this case, a finger scan is used to pay for a fuel purchase from an existing financial account of the driver's choice: eCheck (a direct debit from a checking account), Shell Card or Shell MasterCard. San Francisco-based Pay By Touch provides biometric authentication, personalized marketing and payment solutions.

Because the driver must be physically present to conduct the transaction, we will be able to reduce the risk of fraud and make transactions safer for our customers, added Suess. An added plus for retailers is how customers can opt to bypass the major credit cards and the fees that come with them, he said.

Drivers sign up at or on site the first time they visit a Pay By Touch-outfitted station. Drivers can begin transacting immediately.

Shell is also piloting retail information and entertainment (infotainment) technologies to help enhance customer experiences and to educate them about the importance of fuel quality. To reach customers accustomed to multitasking with cell phones, computers, PDAs, iPods and other communication and entertainment formats, Shell has installed FuelCast digital pump-screens at nearly 300 U.S. Shell-branded locations.

These broadcasts offer a mix of programming, in-store promotions and advertising, allowing customers to get the latest score or breaking news as they fill up. To check it out, customers can go to any Pay By Touch-outfitted location, as FuelCast is available at all the same sites.

We know our customers, on average, are only with us for less than five minutes, but it is important to Shell that its customers get the most from their money and their time, said Suess. Features such as FuelCast, or REEP, make the experience more enjoyable and memorable.

REEP (Real-Time Rewards at Shell) delivers instant rewards to customers, including fuel-price rollbacks or discounts, car wash discounts or receipt-based coupons for c-store items. These offers are communicated to customers at the pump through an electronic display on the pump screen during the fillup process. REEP also delivers messaging about the benefits of Shell quality fuels and the rebates that can be earned by using the Shell MasterCard.

Shell is also exploring handheld technologies for attendants in Central America, India and Indonesia. Similar to customer service models seen in restaurants in Europe or at U.S. car rental agencies, the attendant uses a wireless card scanner to process payment at the car window, allowing customers to stay in the vehicle and to keep their credit or debit card in sight at all times.

Shell is conducting these various payment and infotainment tests to determine what resonates most with our customers so that we can make the right decisions about what to adopt across our various markets around the world, said Suess. We want Shell to be the first choice for motorists, and we aim to achieve that with operational excellence. That involves having the right people in place, first and foremost; but it also requires keeping stride, if not staying ahead of the curve, where technology is concerned.

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