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NATIONAL REPORT – In the October issue of Convenience Store News, a feature story on “The Future of Technology” provided a forward-looking view at the emerging technological innovations that could take the convenience store industry by storm – foremost among them being mobile payments and mobile wallets.
Industry insiders expect that mobile payments will gain significant traction in the convenience channel over the next year, but one of the challenges this technology must overcome is hesitancy on the part of consumers to make the payment switch. While retailers are well aware of the advantages they can gain from mobile payments, consumers must still be convinced that there are benefits for them to use their smartphone to make purchases before the technology can really take off.
One way to entice consumers to switch to mobile payment platforms is the fun factor, said Henry Helgeson, CEO of Boston-based Merchant Warehouse, a payment technology company that serves as a liaison between merchants and consumers. "Gamification" via smartphone is an excellent approach to get customers thinking about a convenience store retailer and ultimately using their phone to make a payment, he noted.
The term, which first became popular in 2010, often involves a form of video game-style competition or virtual scratch-off boxes where consumers work their way toward discounts and/or prizes. Advancement status is generally established via progress bars, virtual medals or virtual currency.
"Games on the phone and 'scratchers' that reveal a certain discount can be very effective," Helgeson said. "Even a progress bar that shows when a consumer can obtain their next [loyalty] reward can really work. There are a lot of great ideas out there that can drive consumer behavior beyond the simple 'here's $2 off [your next purchase].'"
York, Pa.-based Rutter's Farm Stores has already had tremendous success with gamification. The convenience store retailer — known for its dairy store roots — offers a game that allows consumers to virtually "tip cows" and win prizes for in-store merchandise.
"We have leader boards and customers really compete," Rutter's President and CEO Scott Hartman explained. "Some who lose even complain the game is rigged. But that’s OK because the customer interaction is there."
To read more about “The Future of Technology,” click here.