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Flash Foods Inc. began researching the possibility of launching a mobile app years ago, but the pieces of the puzzle finally came together when National Payment Card Association (NPCA) and the chain?s point-of-sale (POS) vendor, The Pinnacle Corp., teamed up on the mobile payment portion of the app, designed and developed by Zingon.
?I went to NACS? Tech Event last year where I was introduced to Zingon, and they talked to us about doing a mobile app,? recalled Jenny Bullard, chief information officer at Flash Foods, which is headquartered in Waycross, Ga., and owned by The Jones Co. ?They came to our office two or three weeks later to meet with our team, and we started working on it in May.?
The chain, which operates 172 convenience stores in Georgia and north Florida, launched the app in October 2013. It offers a store locator, fuel pricing, mobile coupons and mobile payment for its GoBlue loyalty credit card holders ? both at the pump and in-store.
?The app is centered around our loyalty program, Rewards in a Flash, and our GoBlue ACH payment card,? explained Jeannie Amerson, loyalty and advertising manager for Flash Foods. ?App users can find current gas prices for each of our locations, while also accessing [each] store?s address and driving directions. We are able to offer our customers customized promotions that specifically reach our loyalty customer base and encourage customers to shop inside our stores.?
Prior to releasing it to the public, the chain beta-tested the app ? available on both iPhone and Android devices ? beginning in June 2013 with employees, friends and family to make sure it downloaded correctly and worked properly. Technology wise, it was a smooth transition, according to Bullard.
?We did have to update the network interface module in each store to accept the mobile payments, but from the tech side, it was an easy rollout,? she noted. ?We already had a 3D scanner to allow us to scan digital coupons.?
FORM & FUNCTIONALITY
NPCA is the ACH payment processor for the GoBlue card, and worked with Pinnacle to interface with Flash Foods? POS so that the app could accept payments in-store and at the pump. Zingon created the actual app from the ground up, tailoring it to the chain?s needs and integrating it with Google Analytics to allow for customized reports.
Now, Flash Foods can pull reports on demographic information to see who is in the app at any given time ? such as five people in Atlanta and three in Waycross ? and it?s all real-time, Amerson said. The retailer can also measure how many customers downloaded the app, the type of phone used, how often customers are opening the app, the number of page views, and how long they stay each time.
As of April, 33,000 people had downloaded the Flash Foods app, with iPhone being the dominant platform. The chain also has 65,000 existing GoBlue cardholders that now have the ability to use the app for payment.
?The GoBlue mobile payment is only one aspect of the app. Customers can still download the app for gas prices and scan in their existing Rewards in a Flash loyalty card to receive instant discounts, build points and check their account stats,? Amerson explained. ?They can also take advantage of in-app coupons.?
Currently, the most popular app feature used is fuel pricing and for its GoBlue customers, the chain offered 20 cents off per gallon through April as an incentive to use the new technology. After that, the promotion dropped to 5 cents per gallon, which is available to all GoBlue cardholders whether paying via the app or not.
To pay at the pump, customers go to the payment portion of the app and are recognized by their email address. They enter their PIN number and receive a seven-digit authorization code to enter into the pump, which activates it.
?Each time you go log into the GoBlue mobile pay section of the app, it gives you a seven-digit token authorization code that changes with each purchase. If you don?t use it, it goes away within five minutes so there is no danger of anyone else using it,? Amerson said.
Customers pump their gas and the final settlement routes through NPCA and back to the customer?s checking account, similar to writing an electronic check. The same process is used for in-store payments.
?There is more security for this type of payment because there is no credit card data being passed through the network, only the authorization code, so it is completely secure for the customer and outside of the PCI [payment card industry] scope for us as a company,? Bullard stated.
PROMOTIONS & NEW FEATURES
To promote the app, Flash Foods did something it has never done before ? a television commercial. The commercial began airing in Georgia and north Florida at the end of December, and the chain also posted a video on the company?s Facebook page, which rolls into the commercials.
Additionally, the retailer sent promotional materials to local colleges in an effort to reach the Millennial demographic, ran radio promotions, and had promotional materials available both in-store and at the pump.
?For the customer, it?s easy to use and faster to pay, especially at the pump. But it?s also bringing brand awareness to our company,? said Bullard.
At Flash Foods, the loyalty program is a huge focus and everything in the app ties back to it in some form. The app also allows the company to market the Flash Foods brand to customers outside of the store via in-app coupons launched earlier this year.
?Our vendors have been very eager to support these new ways to reach customers, including the option of customized banner ads within the app that can take customers directly to the vendor?s website,? Bullard said. ?We have some really exciting opportunities we will be introducing to our customers through the app throughout the remainder of the year.?
Other new features launched this year include the ability to refer a friend to a promotion via email or Facebook and the ability for customers to rate the app.
?We have been overwhelmed by the positive comments we have received from customers, and they can give feedback right through the app,? said Amerson.
In the future the chain will continue to offer promotions and coupons through the app, and the goal is to take them down to the level whereby specific customers can be targeted, as well as offering coupons specific to a single store.