Mobile 2 Go: A CSP Technology Blog 1.0

‘Pong’ and the evolution of couponing

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Blog Post: 2:55 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2013

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Something in my head went ping when talking Pong.

I had just heard Jason Toews of GasBuddy, Brooklyn Park, Minn., talk about the coming of mobile coupons at CSP’s FARE Conference. He said McDonald’s set up a huge, electronic billboard where people could play the old-school video game of Pong using their smartphones.

It got me thinking. Coupons in the future won’t be like they are today. In the McDonald’s example, people would receive prizes for playing Pong--essentially electronic coupons--that they’d redeem at McDonald’s restaurants. (Click here to read more.)

Now let’s just say that I don’t think of myself as the coupon type. I’m not the 60-year-old mom wading through Sunday newspapers and clipping along the dotted lines. I’m just not. But playing Pong on a huge billboard and going into a McDonald’s to receive my prize has huge appeal to me.

I have no doubt that marketing guys and gals are doing summersaults in their heads just thinking of new ways to give me an electronic enticement to visit their stores. Gaming is just one of countless avenues.

I chuckle at myself. Because that day in the future when I march blissfully into a McDonald’s to get my prize, I still won’t consider myself a coupon user. But I will have become one.

Blog Post: 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, 2013

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- As bloggers in and outside the c-store industry pick apart the apps that are starting to pop up from major corporations, the theme of engagement emerges. What is it? What does it offer? How does it "talk."

A recent blog posting from a loyalty organization talks about a Disney app, which informs users about the hotel they'll be staying in, offers interactive options and follows up with employee surveys.

While in the process of working on CSP's annual Mystery Shop story (Be patient; We'll be announcing the winners soon!), I know the top chains are in the hospitality business, focusing on customer service, clean sites and well-stocked shelves.

Visiting Wawa's new, 6,000-square-foot stores in Florida last year, I saw how it was all about the experience, both with the things you were offered and the people offering them. With the site so large by c-store standards, they even had a cartoon-illustrated brochure similar to a Disneyland map saying where to find the hoagies, the baked goods and coffee.

I'm certain that the apps the c-store industry has developed or is developing as we speak will have similar whimsy and science. They can be an automated extension of that hospitality if done right. But most important is the idea that comparing your chain to what other c-stores are doing is just one step in the process.

One of the sources in CSP's upcoming Service Intelligence Mystery Shop article talked of how in some areas of the country, the No. 1 most convenient shopping experience is Walmart. It's in that context that c-stores need to define themselves, reinvent their marketing strategies and use mobile as a way to extend their business formulas not just to stand out among the other c-store operators but against the entire retail landscape.

Blog Post: 3:05 p.m. Friday, June 14, 2013

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Some people love to bungee jump. I think it’s crazy. I’d rather spend my hard-earned cash sipping a margarita on some beach.

But when it comes to being cutting edge with technologies like mobile payment, the industry has its bungee jumpers and its wait-and-see types. The topic came up when chatting recently with Eric Barfield, director of product strategy for payments processor WorldPay U.S. Inc. out of Atlanta. He and I talked about device integration, mobile payment and what retailers may or may not do in this space, which I reported on in a two-part article. (To see Part II, click here.)

He said in general, “[Retailers] are not interested in adopting new technology, along with all of the costs it entails, just simply to do it. … So where hardware upgrades, particularly at the pump, are concerned, merchants frequently adopt a wait-and-see approach.”

Then, of course, you do have early adopters like Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms and Waycross, Ga.-based Flash Foods, both of which have found the economics to justify testing and rollout of mobile payment.

So what makes a bungee jumper vs. a margarita sipper?

Well, maybe it’s not the right metaphor. Cumberland Farms and Flash Foods are not thrill seekers. They’re calculated-risk takers. They’ve weighed the pros and cons against the costs and felt that the risks are offset by the potential competitive advantage they’ll have at being first to market.

I get it.

But then I’m reminded of another risk I personally took later in life--that of my MBA, which I got just a few years ago. While there was no professional pressure for me to get an MBA (and it was certainly a big financial decision), I had always thought of myself as having an advanced degree. It was who I pictured myself to eventually be. And while I could have sat on the fence even longer, the idea that it had to happen--at least in my perception of myself--made me act.

What made me jump back then was thinking that those two years were going to pass by anyway, whether I did anything or not. I may as well spend the time building something.

Blog Post: 9:05 a.m. Friday, June 14, 2013

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- This is going to sound crazy, but hear me out. If my beverage cooler had a personality, I’d want it to be Don Juan, a total Casanova.

And my line of thinking starts here: When speaking recently with Eric Barfield, director of product strategy for payments processor WorldPay U.S. out of Atlanta, he explained the “Internet of things.” (Click here to see the article.) It was a discussion that started with mobile payments and moved to the interconnectivity of devices beyond phones, tablets and PCs. He was talking about how “cars, air conditioners and even blenders will be connected and processing data in ways we don’t currently see.”

Now imagine if a person’s refrigerator started talking directly to the c-store when milk was running low. Maybe this “discussion” would start the building of a once-a-week pick-up.

Well, that’s where I’d want my store’s cooler to be a total chick magnet. I want that cooler to be talking to all the refrigerators in the neighborhood. And instead of just passively accepting the order for milk, I want my cooler to reply back, “And isn’t your stainless steel sparkling today?” Or “Just milk? I see you’re a little low on white wine. …”

I want my cooler to transmit data in a low, Barry White frequency.

I want my cooler to raise the temperature in that refrigerator without the door opening.

Alright, I’m sounding crazy right now. But as technology and the tech savvy of users grows, so will the tolerances, permissions and preferences of each device. Think about all those unspoken but in-depth conversations, pushes and pulls, advances and retreats that could be going on all without our knowledge.

Maybe today all this talk is hyperbole, and a stab at wit. But tomorrow, it might be a legitimate question of unspoken, transmitted conversations that ultimately maintain loyalty or increase sales.

CSP senior editor Angel Abcede has been a convenience-technology writer for more than 20 years. Click here to read more posts from his “Mobile 2 Go” blog on how mobile technology applies to convenience retail. You can reach him at [email protected].

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