According to Deloitte in its report Mobile Consumer Survey 2016 The Australian Cut, 84% of Australians owned a smart phone in 2016.
Mobile consumers are digitally disrupted to the point where Australian mobile users interact with their smart phone 480 million times a day. Consumers are spending more and more time on their phone connected to the rest of the world; it is a rare moment when one does not have access to the digital realm.
The Deloitte report said: “The ‘app’ has to be considered one of the most disruptive innovations of the last decade – fuelling smart phone penetration rates and becoming a key part of the ‘mobile economy.”
“Mobile consumers have shown they are increasingly hyper connected and require devices, applications and networks to keep up with our ever expanding expectations.”
How to app-roach this technology
In Australia, we welcome and encourage any technology that will make our lives simpler and allow us the least amount of human contact possible (think: emails, phone calls, delivery services etc).
Apps are another way that we do this, if we have the option to purchase petrol from within the app and avoid going in store? We’ll probably do it- but herein lies the problem.
Q: If we are paying for petrol without stepping into the store using an app, then what reason do we have to go inside and spend more money?
A: An engaging app that offers deals, loyalty rewards and specials that are only available through the app- that what!
Kalido General Manger Az Yousaf said typically Australian retailers think about taking their bricks and mortar store online, but customers won’t engage with this medium on an ongoing basis if they are only offering pitiful amounts of information.
“Consequently the business won’t see the channel as being useful, and won’t invest in it further,” he said.
“Biometrics and mobile payments are quickly gaining traction with mobile consumers and being seamlessly incorporated into many authentication and payment processes,” the report stated.
7-Eleven have two apps to their name, the Fuel app and the Slurpee app.
The Fuel app enables customers to find their best local fuel price and lock it into the app. Customers can use the app to find one of 600 7-Eleven stores in Australia, it also provides directions, open times and available services.
7-Eleven digital marketing manager Paul Wallace said any app launched in that space is about delivering value, innovation and convenience to the channel.
“The fuel app is a really good example of where we know that customers are really driven by locations and price to fill up at a fuel retailer,” he said.
“So the whole idea behind that product is how can we make almost price and location not irrelevant but how can we make it easier on both of those fronts for our customers so the fuel app enables people to lock in a great price when they see it even if they don’t need to fill up at that time, and then also that price is available at any of our stores Australia wide.”
Mr Wallace said the app allows for a much more convenient experience from a location perspective as there is no need to worry about your price when you fill up with petrol, you just need to go to any 7-Eleven and you can get that price.
“The fuel market is quite competitive…and we’re challenged in that space, we’re probably more of a convenience brand rather than a fuel brand. The Fuel app actually gave us a way to clearly to talk about fuel in a different way to our competitors,” he said.
The Fuel app is also a place for 7-Eleven to give exclusive offers and discounts to its loyal customers.
Mr Wallace said getting customers to the store in the first place is only half the battle and the app is not likely to be the biggest place to grow sustainable profits.
“If they are filling up, how are we also trying to get them to buy a product while they’re in store as well?” he said.
“So a big part of that is how we layer in our merchandise offer and again, we still see it as providing value to the customer in that we have multiple offers in store at any one time so how are we trying to show them the most relevant in-store promotions but also drive some app specific offers?”
“The customer feels like they’re getting that exclusive or extra value by using the app.
“But also a really good example is that a lot of offers that are doing really well in the fuel app are coffee co-buy offer we know that customers are probably buying a coffee when they’re filling up o some of the best performing offers at the moment are muffins or brownies.”
Caltex Australia has three applications to cater to its customer needs; The Foodary, Caltex My Star Cards Mobile and My Truck Mate.
Caltex Australia’s executive general manager commercial Bruce Rosengarten said The Foodary app is cutting edge and is the next best thing to offering a drive-through.
“We’re excited to hear what busy drivers think about refuelling on-the-go,” he said.
“The Australian convenience industry is rapidly evolving and our goal is to meet the changing needs of consumers, wherever they are. We will continue to trial and test new products and services to ensure what we’re offering is what customers want.”
The Foodary is Caltex’s newest app offering and has five unique features including an option to pay for fuel using a mobile phone at selected locations. The process is as simple as filling up the car with petrol, entering the pump number into the app on the phone and confirming the amount through the payment section. This also incorporates the secure identity authentication feature; a customer registers their details and can make purchases through the app quickly and in a secure transaction.
Another defining feature is the ability to pre-order coffee so that it is ready to pick up in store when the customer arrives. The site locator allows customers to find The Foodary sites close by, get directions and see where the Fuel Pay and Pre-Order options are available.
The app also has promotional offers available through the app that are exclusive to app users.
Caltex head of digital Has Fakira said it’s only been in the last 12 months that Caltex has picked up its strategy to focus on c-store retailing despite having been around for a long time.
“What we had before was a store locator that could help you find apps and that has been around for quite some time,” he said.
“What we’re doing now is, we’re working in market as part of our new convenience retail strategy on an app, that we’re calling The Foodary.”
The Foodary app is customer focused and its part of Caltex’s mission to create an app that consumers want to use and connect easily with.
Mr Fakira said the team achieves this by spending time at The Foodary sites, talking to customers about their experiences and working out what a good experience on site looks like.
“Really busy people sometimes just want a quick way to get their fuel and get out as quickly as possible because its jut not the right time to spend too much time on site,” he said.
“Some of those insights from our observations went into a new app where we’re trailing some features to help busy customers and that feature from The Foodary is called FuelPay.
“Basically it allows you to stop your car, get out and fill up as normal, there’s nothing to fiddle around with you can fill up your car and put the pump back down and take out the app and your push the pump number that you are at and it takes care of the payment automatically….you can just drive off and know that you’ve paid inside.”
Another feature of The Foodary app is to order freshly made coffee and food so that it is ready to be picked up with the customer arrives on site.
“Part of the app is to order coffee and food before you arrive so you don’t need to queue up. It just means that you can pre-order and once you get there its ready to go,” Mr Fakira said.
“The main priority is to focus on the user experience and work out how people are using the apps so we can find things to make it simpler. It’s more important for us to solve the need at the moment but clearly data can be use for lots of things, but then mail focus is to streamline the process and make it simpler.”
A bit app-rehensive
While the end result of a specially designed c-store app may be a seamless transactional process for customers it can take some time to get it to that point.
Buddy’s Convenience Store founder Buddy Chebib noted the difficulties in creating an app.
“We have had a few teething issues with developing an app,” he said.
“Particularly with how many steps are required, images, speed, checkout and also the cost involved.
“Apps are quite an expensive option and you need to consider development platforms for both iOS and Android devices.”
Mr Chebib still sees value in app despite the initial issues he’s faced.
“Having an app makes it easier for your customers to visit and get the latest updates from your business. It’s like having real estate on your customer’s phone or mobile device,” he said.
His advice for other c-stores looking to invest in app is: “Before developing an App considering a mobile friendly website would be a better starting point and further development to apps depending on how large your database is.”
For Caltex, it may have easier for them to build the initial technology, the features and functions of the app were not as simple.
Mr Fakira said Caltex used an agile process that was part of their digital strategy to do things as quickly as possible and to learn from customers.
“We build a feature, we see how it works and we go back and change it and try it again but the process is going to help us,” he said.
How to app-ly this knowledge
Wordplay US’s Chris Francis said in a Convenience Store News article that there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to implement an app into the business.
“If your store already has an app, reassess it to make sure it has a clean design that fosters speed and usability. The last thing customers want is a complicated app when they’re at a convenience store,” he said.
He notes that customer feedback is one of the most valuable forms of feedback as it can lead to higher satisfaction rates and increased sales.
“On the other hand, if your convenience store doesn’t already have a mobile app, consider your audience before working with an app developer to create and launch an app. You might even want to survey customers to find out which types of mobile wallets and mobile devices they’re using, as well as which features they value most so you can better determine how to make mobile payments a reality at your convenience store,” he said.