Weather or Not

Standardization of e-coupons part of c-store tech discussion

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

CHICAGO -- Taking coupons for discounted items at the convenience store may not be as typical as in the grocery or drug-store channels, but Gray Taylor believes that with the advent of the mobile wallet--something that can evolve into a mobile “briefcase”--that day may soon be coming. And that includes tailoring coupons to the weather.

At a meeting of about 60 attendees of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS) in Chicago, retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and members of NACS met to discuss the possibilities, as well as continue its overall efforts at standards development.

“[The industry] has to figure out how to handle validity, security and redemption,” said Taylor, who heads PCATS and the technology efforts of the larger NACS association. “We can pilot this thing to death, but we don’t want to be the … last [to implement programs].”

C-store purchases have always been impulse buys, he said. But with much of the activity in a mobile coupon scenario happening in “the cloud” or at a more centralized computer off site, a coupon can be in a customer’s cellphone at “the moment of truth,” when he or she is making that purchase decision.

Areas of opportunity include tobacco, packaged beverages and beer, said Dae Kim, a NACS researcher who outlined for the group the industry’s strengths. While threats from other channels are growing, c-stores have an opportunity to work with consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to develop branded discounts to offer mobile phone users.

One such instance is tying coupon deliver to weather, Kim said. Hot and cold weather have different effects on consumer habits regarding packaged beverages and beer, so overlaying weather reports with such habits could combine to create greater sales.

Taylor said that much of what the c-store channel can do in this area is “blue ocean” or territory yet to be tread, as the grocery and drug channels have dominated in the past.

PCATS has already done some work in this area, according to Pat Lewis of Kickback Rewards, Twin Falls, Idaho. As part of the loyalty standards committee, he says those guidelines have existed for about five years and much of what is in place there can transfer to a new standard on digital couponing. He said that in essence, a loyalty reward is a discount or coupon in terms of being an electronic message.

Lewis said that PCATS needs help to examine other standards and to fill in holes that exist in current PCATS guidelines. He called upon stakeholders in the CPG arena as well as retailers to participate in the process, not only to create a better standard but to encourage implementation.

Multiple discussion points came up that may have relevance going forward, according to Taylor, including:

  • How data security and risk mitigation for mobile payment appears to be falling to retailers.
  • Legislation against texting and driving in some states may evolve to include retailer efforts with mobile marketing and the pushing of messages to motorists via GPS tracking.

PCATS is a standards-making body focused on the needs of the convenience-retail channel and recently merged with Alexandria, Va.-based NACS, taking on the trade association’s technology agenda.

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