Cumberland Farms recently announced a new initiative to bring the convenience of its mobile cash card to Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Nokia smart phone devices.
Using a free, downloadable mobile phone application, called CardStar, Cumberland Farms customers can make in-store purchases without their wallets. Like the cash card, customers load the CardStar app with funds up to $250. CardStar cannot be used to make gas and lottery ticket purchases.
CardStar started in 2008, as a means for digitally storing loyalty and membership cards. The company is based out of Boston and has a Connecticut office in Avon.
Started as a hobby
“It started as a hobby,” said Andy Miller, CardStar CEO and Connecticut resident. “We all had this problem and just built the app for ourselves.”
The application took off.
Though CardStar engineers had embedded the application with over 1,000 commercial chains, gyms, and big-box merchants, it was the users who defined the app experience by adding membership information to local grocers, pharmacies, and even health care providers and credit cards.
“They [were] bumping their entire wallets into this,” said Miller. “Think of it as a digital locker.”
Localizing the application
By storing information in CardStar’s digital locker, users were localizing the application.
“[At] a lot of places you go to, if you don’t have your loyalty card, you enter a phone number,” said Miller. “But your local dry cleaner might not have the infrastructure or a sophisticated enough system to [process] phone numbers. So, [Users] enter that information on the app.”
Cumberland Farms launched its cash card program in 2002 and had been looking for a pay-at-register mobile option for customers. The company approached Miller, who had been looking for a way to expand CardStar’s new, user-defined, and localized wallet experience beyond loyalty cards.
“We had been looking for a partner to do that with,” said Miller. “It was fortuitous timing that we had bumped into each other, if you will, and we were both looking to do this new process.”
The Cumberland Farms mobile cash card campaign rolled out in July. The card is available on recyclable cardstock at most locations. Customers can load their mobile cash cards at the register or online.
“We’ve had really great reception so far,” said Kate Ngo, marketing strategy at Cumberland Farms, “especially with our customers being so mobile. It’s a great way for people to be able to pay a transaction without pulling out cash or a credit card.”
Cumby's one of the first
Cumberland Farms is one of the first companies to offer a pay-at-register mobile app to its customers.
“I never would have pegged the convenience store sector to be the forward-thinking sector,” said Miller, “but apparently they are. They’re clearly a progressive company.”
“We are a convenience store and therefore all of our offerings are intended to make the experience more convenient,” said Ngo. “Our goal is to really make things simpler and our tagline is ‘Make everyday easier.’ So this is just another example of how we can build upon that mission, that business, and grow with the customer.”
Having to adapt to stay current
“In order to stay current with that customer we’ve got to adapt,” said Ngo. “If anything convenience stores should be the first industry to take this on.”
“I work part-time at a supermarket and actually discovered this app when a customer handed me their cell phone instead of their club card,” said Nicholas LaRosa, a 20-year-old CardStar user from Philadelphia. “I was kind of intrigued.”
“The one thing I have noticed is that not all stores’ scanners will pick up the barcode through the screen of your phone,” said LaRosa, who uses the app on his iPhone. “CardStar is a very simple app to use. The instructions on how to add cards are straightforward and the app itself is very easy to navigate. I have never had any problems with [it].”
Download or scan a barcode
App users should back up all loyalty cards inside CardStar before any operating system upgrades.
CardStar has since grown into a regional, national, and international phenomenon. It is available on all five OS (operating system) platforms in 173 countries around the world.
“It’s all been organic, natural growth,” said Miller. “We’ve done no marketing which is amazing to me.”
Making waves internationally
Outside of the U.S., the application has made waves in Canada, Korea, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
“There [are] a lot of cross-border stores,” said Miller, on merchants in the United States and Canada, “but when you start talking about the U.K., Korea, New Zealand, and Australia, we didn’t have anyone to start with, but now we do.”
In fact, there are two websites in Korea that explain how to use the English-only application for CardStar customers overseas.
Aggregating into one seamless experience resonates
“The utility of being able to put not only cards that are in our system in but any other card in your wallet and aggregate them together in one seamless experience in one application really resonates,” said Miller.
CardStar is continuing its work to build a better experience for users who wish to use the application for its wallet functionality, while also implementing pay options pioneered by Cumberland Farms.
“Now the interesting thing here is how things can tie together,” said Miller. “Even though an insurance card is not necessarily a loyalty card, you have a relationship with Blue Cross or Blue Shield, but there’s a payment mechanism involved. You go to the doctor you have to have a co-pay. So why not, if you have another card that’s in CardStar that’s a payment card, have you use that card to pay for your co-pay.”
These guys really get it
“That’s why Cumberland Farms is really important to us,” said Miller. “I think these guys really get it. In the success of their physical program and seeing them believe that it’s going to be even more successful when it goes into the digital environment.”
As for Cumberland Farms, the next step is to develop another custom application with more opportunities for the customer.
“In time, we may be able to develop our own app similar to what Starbucks does;” said Ngo, “with a built in store-finder, built in mobile coupons, and anything really that’s location based.”
“There really is no reason not to download CardStar,” said LaRosa. “I wouldn't recommend leaving your club cards at home just yet, but this app is at the very least a great way to backup all of your cards right onto your phone.”