HOUSTON -- CITGO is introducing several new offers for its branded marketers in 2018, which it debuted during its 30th annual series of roundtables in San Antonio and Nashville in January.
One goal of the roundtables is to hear about marketers’ issues and plans for the coming year. Alan Flagg, assistant vice president of supply and marketing, told CSP Fuels that CITGO marketers are facing a few key challenges in 2018, including making expensive upgrades to their fuel dispensers to meet the looming standards deadline for chip credit-card payment security in October 2020. Labor issues are also top of mind, he said.
“Marketers that own and operate their own stores are reporting that wage inflation and increased turnover has impacted their overall profitability,” Flagg said.
That said, CITGO marketers also see an opportunity to grow in 2018—through acquisitions. “Many of our marketers have indicated they are currently looking at acquiring new business through that route vs. organic growth,” Flagg said.
Another growth avenue for CITGO fuel marketers, particularly in Midwestern states is introducing E15, the 15% ethanol blend, to the product mix, as a means to grow their fuel profits.
Flagg shared details on how CITGO plans to help its marketers prepare for fuel-pump upgrades and more. Here are six updates for 2018 ...
1. Fuel-pump upgrade assistance
About 50% of fuel dispensers nationwide have been upgraded to meet EMV chip-card compliance standards, according to industry estimates. For 2018, CITGO is offering an incentive program to its marketers to help upgrade their dispensers, including negotiated pricing on equipment and incentives of up to $3,000 for each dispenser upgraded at a CITGO-branded site in 2018.
“For locations with newer equipment, an incentive of $1,000 is available to retrofit to the EMV-NFC-capable card readers,” Flagg said, referring to contactless payment through a near-field communication (NFC) reader.
2. New Top Tier signage
CITGO is one of about 50 fuel brands to participate in the Top Tier detergent standard program for gasoline, which automakers introduced in 2004 to ensure fuel quality and vehicle performance, as well as compliance with tougher emissions requirements. All of CITGO’s TriClean gasoline grades are Top Tier certified and carry “Good Gas. Guaranteed” messaging.
In early April, CITGO will introduce new dispenser image and sign panels on its standard sign systems to highlight TriClean’s Top Tier certification, and it will launch a new advertising campaign to promote the fuel, Flagg said.
3. Grow Bucks program enhancements
CITGO is increasing payout amounts for higher-volume locations in its Grow Bucks rebranding program.
“The competitive landscape continues to change, and we want it to be clear to our marketers that though CITGO hasn’t set similar minimum-volume requirements as other brands, we are still very interested in branding higher-volume locations,” Flagg said. Under the changes, locations could qualify for up to $75,000 in additional funding to rebrand to CITGO.
5. New mobile payment features
The Club CITGO mobile app will continue to offer deals and rewards, sweepstakes, a location finder and promotional pages for CITGO’s Rewards card, TriClean gasoline and marketing initiatives such as the Fueling Good charitable programs. But changes are in store that will significantly upgrade its functionality.
“Our future development plans include introducing mobile-payment features into the app, incorporating transactional data from locations that scan, and building coalition partnerships to allow points redemptions from other loyalty programs at participating CITGO locations,” Flagg said.
6. Credit-card program updates
In 2016, CITGO and Synchrony Bank launched the CITGO Rewards private-label credit card, which offers 10 cents per gallon in fuel statement credits during the first three months of the account, and credits of 5 cents per gallon afterward. For 2018, Flagg said to stay tuned for new introductory offers for new card holders. CITGO also plans to build on its successes with local area marketing to further upgrade the credit-card program.
Houston-based CITGO is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. It is owned by CITGO Holding Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.