OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill, -- In a trend that one major retailer says “is not going away,” at least six convenience-store chains have announced new mobile apps in recent months, offering customers digital rewards, fuel discounts and mobile payment.
Recent announcements have come from Casey’s General Stores, Ankeny, Iowa; Exxon Mobil Corp., Irving, Texas; Imperial Oil, Calgary, Alberta: Kum & Go, West Des Moines, Iowa; RaceTrac, Atlanta; and F.L. Roberts & Co., Springfield, Mass.
Melanie Isbill, executive director of marketing for RaceTrac said meeting customers “where they are” is becoming a critical ingredient to successful retailing. “Today, so many consumers are turning to digital channels, especially their smartphones, to enhance their shopping experience,” she told CSP Daily News. “This isn’t a trend that’s going away.”
Here’s a roundup of recent announcements:
Casey’s General Stores: In partnership with Boston-based GasBuddy OpenStore, Casey’s launched its mobile app earlier this year. With the motto “Home is where the Casey’s is,” the new mobile app is available for free at iTunes and Google Play store. Using the Casey’s app, consumers can navigate to their nearest Casey’s location, check gas prices, find the latest deals and product offerings and order pizza directly from their smartphones. Also, users can play games and win exclusive prizes. “Our mission is to always provide our customers with the most convenience and ease, so we are thrilled to offer a mobile app that will provide so much additional value,” said Robert J. Myers, chairman and CEO for the 1,900-store chain. “We look forward to working closely with OpenStore and creating a more robust digital marketing strategy.”
Exxon Mobil Corp.: Earlier this year, the major oil company announced it now accepts mobile payment at the pump, including Apple Pay, throughout most of its U.S. retail network: 6,000 Exxon- and Mobil-branded convenience stores across the country. The app enables customers to authorize a pump for payment securely through the use of cloud-based technology. Customers have the option to select Apple Pay as a default form of payment from within the app. The Speedpass+ mobile payment app is available as a free download. It may be linked to checking accounts or other major credit and debit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and ExxonMobil cards, giving customers choice in how to pay. Customers who select Apple Pay will continue to receive all of the rewards and benefits offered by their credit and debit cards. In addition, customers can obtain receipts by email, at the pump or both. With either option, the app records the customer’s purchase history for easy reference, which is particularly helpful for tracking business expenses. “ExxonMobil wants to make filling up your vehicle even more convenient, and the Speedpass+ app has been designed to save you time at the pump,” said Matt Bergeron, vice president of fuels and lubricants marketing for ExxonMobil. “The Speedpass+ app represents the next generation of payment options at our branded stations.”
Imperial Oil: One of the first fuels retailer to introduce a mobile pay-at-the-pump solution in Canada, Imperial Oil earlier this year announced it is piloting its new Speedpass+ smartphone app at 15 Esso gas stations in the Halifax market. Imperial plans to roll out the Speedpass+ program nationally later in 2016. Integrated with Esso’s loyalty programs, the Speedpass+ app allows customers to link their loyalty card and earn Esso Extra points or Aeroplan Miles on qualifying purchases. “Imperial is committed to innovation and technology and recognizes that smartphones have become integral to our customers’ lives. The Speedpass+ app is designed to save customers time at the pump while providing valuable loyalty rewards,” said Andrew Mackay, retail fuels manager for Imperial Oil. “With more than 67% of Canadians owning a smartphone, the Speedpass+ app aims to transform the fuelling experience at Esso service stations by offering convenient payment options.”
Kum & Go: Using the ampersand symbol for its app, Kum & Go launched its free &Rewards program earlier this year, which lets customers earn points by purchasing items they buy every day, such as fuel, food, soft drinks, coffee and more. Customers earn two points per gallon on all fuel transactions and five points per dollar spent on most items in the store. After earning 250 points, a reward of the customer’s choice will be loaded to his or her account. Reward items include discounts on fuel, free beverages and free fresh-food items such as pizza and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a free fountain soda just for signing up. &Rewards also includes a pizza club through which customers can purchase six regular-priced pizzas and earn the seventh pizza free. The company also will “surprise & delight” &Rewards members with pop-up offers that include fuel discounts and discounted and free snack items. To sign up for &Rewards, customers can download the new Kum & Go mobile app and register. The app is a virtual &Rewards card; by scanning the app’s barcode at checkout, customers earn points on purchases and can check to see if they have any rewards to redeem. Family-owned Kum & Go has 430 convenience stores in 11 Midwest states.
RaceTrac: The 400-store convenience-store chain launched a new rewards app that offers digital coupons for free drinks to customers who download the RaceTrac Rewards app, the company said. Loyal customers can select their choice of a 16-ounce coffee or 32-ounce fountain or frozen beverage, along with other coupons and rewards to be earned throughout the year. By participating in RaceTrac’s loyalty program via the app, customers can move up a ranking scale with points they earn with nearly every purchase made in the store or at the pump. Each loyalty rank is associated with a different level of RaceTrac “royalty,” from Duke of Hot Dog to Prince of Pastry and King of Coffee to Sultan of Soda. And the app features a store locator. Using the customer’s GPS location, the app lists the closest stores by mile, shows each store’s gas prices and lists amenities offered, such as the availability of free Wi-Fi, RaceTrac’s Swirl World frozen treat bar or E85 gas. Customers can also load gift cards onto the app to take advantage of mobile-payment capabilities, put their rewards points toward a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or play the app’s interactive racing game. To download the app, customers can visit the Google Play or Apple app stores and search for RaceTrac.
F.L. Roberts & Co.: This independent petroleum marketer from western Massachusetts launched its new mobile app in partnership with GasBuddy OpenStore. The F.L. Roberts app gives users instant access to coupons, deal alerts, lottery results and gas prices while on the go. Members of the F.L. Roberts RewardsPLUS customer-rewards program can keep track of points, recent transactions and list of available redemptions and promotions. Customers also can easily find the nearest F.L. Roberts location with the amenities they need. GasBuddy OpenStore provides the tools to send targeted marketing messages and custom deals based on customer preferences, and this gives F.L. Roberts the unique ability to translate digital marketing efforts into store traffic and sales, in a measurable way. F.L. Roberts is a fourth-generation, family-owned business and is the largest independent petroleum marketer in western Massachusetts. Its network of companies includes 28 convenience stores, 21 car washes, nine Jiffy Lubes, two truck-refueling centers and the Whately Diner.
Retailers such as Isbill of RaceTrac have an optimistic viewpoint of apps within the channel. “This is becoming an integral part of today’s retail landscape and it benefits the convenience-store industry to take part in this as well,” she said. “It will help keep our industry fresh, relevant and reflective of today’s consumer.”