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CHICAGO — Chris Jones, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Casey’s General Stores says the retailer’s recent focus on driving its technology, such as mobile payment, forward as one reason it has weathered the pandemic.
“I actually don’t think that COVID has impacted our loyalty offer at all, but I do think our loyalty program has enabled us to better respond to the COVID environment,” he says. “A year ago, if we had a pandemic like this, we literally would have had no visibility to how guests’ behaviors were changing.
Casey’s customers can earn points on just about any in-store purchase. They then have options for how to use the points, including converting them to a cash donation to schools. Photograph Courtesy of Casey’s
Now we knew how guests were behaving pre-COVID, we knew how they changed mid-COVID and how they are now beginning to or not recovering to their original habits,” says Jones. “I’d like to tell you we saw this coming–we didn’t. But it’s good that we have a touch-free experience that’s possible with our mobile app and our virtual rewards cards.”
Similarly, Kwik Chek in Texas implemented mobile payment at the fuel pump before such touchless experiences became in-demand due to the pandemic. “You’ll see an increased use of mobile apps or payment tools that are contactless as we move forward. I don’t think there’s a question about that. I’ve told my team I think [the pandemic] has probably sped up contactless payment by three to five years,” says CEO Kevin Smartt. “I get a daily report of who uses our mobile app transactions at the dispenser. And I can tell you that those had gone up since COVID.”
Other retailers see an increased need for touchless payment, as well. Houston-based Phillips 66 has removed its four-digit passcode requirement for mobile pay at the pump to reduce interaction with the dispenser. Additionally, the company has made mobile pay transactions inside the store 100% touchless–the customer simply holds his or her mobile device up to the cashier, who scans the barcode.
Phillips 66 uses the KickBack Points Loyalty Program from KickBack Rewards Systems, based in Twin Falls, Idaho, for its loyalty offering. It also offers Phillips 66 Mobile Pay through its branded app.
The recent wave of touchless payment options has pushed the payment process and loyalty even closer, but these two subjects have been intertwined since well before the virus. “Payment and loyalty is something that we think goes together like peanut butter and jelly,” says Brandon Logsdon of PDI.
Logsdon says some brands that work with PDI are incentivizing Automatic Clearing House (ACH) payments through a loyalty program. ACH became a central part of PDI’s loyalty offer earlier this year when the company acquired ZipLine, a loyalty firm that combines payments and loyalty.
ACH still means retailers are paying a processing fee, but that fee can go toward engendering loyalty instead of simply paying the payment processor as with credit and debit processing fees, says Logsdon.
Integrating different forms of payments into loyalty programs also offers the customer another way to personalize their loyalty program experience, says Kelly McLean, director of marketing for Exchange Solutions, a loyalty firm based in Toronto.
“Digital wallets will change the way loyalty currency is valued and traded, potentially giving customers flexibility in where and how they redeem their points, such as paying with points or a gift card at the pump or via frictionless checkout in-store,” she says.
Exchange offers two core loyalty products, ES Loyalty and ES Loyalty Boost. The first is the company’s primary offer, while ES Loyalty Boost enhances customer engagement and personalization features of the core product. Exchange Solutions is behind ExxonMobil’s loyalty program in Canada, fueling the Esso Extra program and Esso Mobil branded gift cards. Esso’s loyalty program includes credit-card partnerships, point conversion programs, targeted offers at the pump, in the store and more.
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