Certified to Expand Loyalty

Certified Savings program to be tied to third parties by year's end

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The 100,000 members of Certified Oil's Certified Savings program will soon have more ways to rack up points. The company plans to expand its loyalty program to work with third parties, such as grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters. And last week, the company announced it was adding drugstores and pharmacies to that list. (Click here to view previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

Greg Ehrlich, chief operating officer, told CSP Daily News that the company got into loyalty because of the changing economy. "In my mind, the old value proposition that used to be acceptable to consumers is no longer acceptable. They expect more." The program is being rolled out to other partners because of the blurring lines between channels.Currently, 32 of the company's Columbus, Ohio area Certified stores (near the company's corporate offices) are participating in the program. Certified operates or supplies more than 150 locations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and the company plans to further expand the program.

The initial program was piloted at Certified stores toward the end of 2008, prior to the program rollout in early 2009. The company now hopes to pilot the partner programs in the second or third quarter of this year, with full-scale rollout by the end of the year. "Our program is an evolutionary program. In order to have a program where you tie in with partners, we needed to have our own program developed and implemented and executed properly first," Ehrlich said.

Although he said the company has been speaking to some larger "high-frequency" retailers, he did not reveal who the initial potential partners might be. "By putting together those frequent shopping type customers and sharing those customers, companies that participate in the program will all benefit because they'll get a bigger share of spend from the customers that are already in the Certified Savings program."

There are three levels to the program. The first is the standard program that rewards points for purchases: five points for every gallon of fuel and 10 points for every dollar of qualified spend items (excluding tobacco, alcohol and lottery). Points can then be redeemed for gasoline discounts or snacks and other merchandise. For example, 420 points for a 16-oz. coffee or 950 points for a 10-cents-per-gallon discount. The second level (tied to enrolling the card for an Automated Clearing House debit payment plan) offers an additional two cents off per gallon. Level three provides an additional three cents off per gallon for paying cash. Additional discounts are communicated via e-mail, social networking and other media.

"This program and some of the other things our company is working on over the past two to three years are primarily reimaging, rebranding the Certified name and repositioning the company to a higher value-added retailer in our space."

Certified Oil, Columbus, Ohio, operates or supplies more than 150 locations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Certified maintains its own proprietary Certified fuel brand and also distributes fuels for Sunoco, Marathon, Valero and Clark.