Mobile Anarchy

How smartphones may blow up the way customers shop, pay and fall in love with your c-store brand

By
Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator

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Dave Banks thought his company’s mobile-payment push would reach its first milestone of 100,000 users in six, maybe nine months.

It took one.

In just 30 days, the 600-store Cumberland Farms chain hit its initial user goal, and in subsequent months turned mobile into 10% of its total payment mix (200,000 users). Now the company is pushing digital coupons to reward loyal gasoline customers and motivate them to come in from the gas islands. It’s also planning to launch a new program designed specifically for businesses in the very near future.

“You can take control of your destiny,” says Banks, CIO for Cumberland Gulf Group, Framingham, Mass., “[because] so many people have smartphones.”

For retailers in the brick-and-mortar game, success with mobile payment may spark an unprecedented chain reaction, one that could completely remap the supply chain, level iconic brands and usher in yet-unheard-of ways of shopping that will thrill and energize even the most passive consumer.

Just how and when the traditional shopping experience will undergo this seismic shift is unclear. Successes such as Cumberland Farms’ occur in fits and starts, with more high-profile mobile wallets from the likes of PayPal, Google and Isis seemingly stalled.

But make no mistake: Major players including credit-card companies, phone carriers and the nation’s most influential retailers are leveraging all they have for their piece of this murky pie.

What is certain, as Banks has seen, is that the consumer appetite is there. It’s obvious that the average Joe or Jane wishes to use a cellphone to pay for goods, organize loyalty rewards and even initiate a more secure credit transaction. For the retailer, the Holy Grail of shopper insight and customer “stickiness” alone presents the most compelling of motives.

But so much stands in the way.

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