A New Business Buddy

By  Paul Reuter, Chairman emeritus and contributing editor

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One of the biggest game changers for CSP happened 10 years ago, when we pioneered Web communication in this industry by launching CSP Daily News. A few years before that, I was doing some consulting for Oklahoma Citybased viaLink, where I am sure I learned more about the Web than I contributed. The learning became the foundation for the launch of our Daily News.

When I arrived at viaLink to begin work, the CEO couldn’t believe I didn’t own a computer! He told me that eventually my briefcase would transform to “paperless.” My prediction (or maybe just stubbornness): no. My briefcase will get heavier with even more paper from the information generated, plus a computer.

Well, I was partially right, but we know how things have changed. Today things are not taking 10 years to take hold and produce change. It’s more like 10 months (and sometimes it feels like 10 minutes). Innovation is moving at warp speed, with the evolution of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Foursquare, Groupon and the incredible impact of social media.

Today, we at CSP are announcing another game-changing moment we believe will be as big as our launch of CSP Daily News a decade ago. We and the incredible loyalty program OpenStore, founded by GasBuddy, have signed a letter of intent to partner with each other. Why, and why now?

This morning I heard one of my favorite speakers, Drayton McLane, talk to a group, and his message clearly was, “You can’t stay the same and grow.” His other messages: “Operate out of your imagination, not your memory,” and “Dare to dream—it’s free!”

In 2009, two guys who instinctively seemed to have followed Drayton’s advice caught my attention. They founded GasBuddy. Then they hooked up with another dreamer, Rutter’s Farm Stores president Scott Hartman, to test a new product. Hence the launch of OpenStore. As Scott has said, “Rutter’s goal is to constantly reinvent and keep adapting to our ever-changing customer. We are convinced that mobile applications someday will be commonplace in our industry.”

OpenStore is a powerful solution that increases customer loyalty by providing much-needed two-way communication with customers using leading-edge Web technology and mobile applications. The OpenStore dashboard makes it easy to collect customer feedback, manage social media and deliver mobile coupons and text-message campaigns, all from a single location.

OpenStore makes a store’s brand stronger and more aligned with social media in a new-fashioned way: by gaining loyalty from customers in an old-fashioned way.

At CSP we have a history of embracing change. We continue to look for ways to help our customers grow their business, and in turn we grow ours.

The multitude of opportunities offered by mobile technologies astounds me. Wal-Mart Corp. recently said it believes 50% of its shoppers enter Walmart stores with a smartphone. And another survey of 1,700 consumers found that one-third follow a retailer via a social-media site and share with other patrons or friends.

As an industry highly dependent on cars and on-the-go consumers, the question for us all is how the rise of the smartphone is changing our business. What opportunities lie ahead when all cars are equipped with an “internet dashboard”?

In share group/advisory meetings I’ve attended recently, some research data caught my attention: how many gas-only customers go inside to pay but still don’t buy any merchandise. One insight: The customer is in “transaction mode” at the pump and just wants to complete it inside and move on. The opportunity? Get to that customer at the pump and move him into “buy” mode. How? Well, credible research is showing that signage and other pump ads can lift sales; the key is in the messaging, not just the medium.

The CSP-OpenStore alliance moves our industry into very exciting waters. For you, the retailer, this relationship will mean greater insights into your consumers and new ways to bring them into your stores. These are truly exciting times in business, and I am excited about this new joint venture. 

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