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Rhodes 101 Stops’ app points to smartphones’ growing influence on refueling decisions

Rhodes 101 Stops’ unveiling of an application that lets motorists buy gas by scanning a QR code on a pump and ties in to rewards programs reflects the convenience store and gas station chain’s effort to reach drivers who rely on their phones as a research tool.

The app announced by PAJCO Inc., the Cape Girardeau, MO-based parent of the 25-store chain, displays nearby store locations and allows holders of an Advantages Pay Plus account to pay for fuel with their phone and receive rollback fuel pricing. The launch highlights mobile’s growing role as a research resource in consumers’ gas-purchase decisions.

“This is a great example of not just focusing on the payment, but looking across the customer journey to add value,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director for Boston-based Yankee Group. “If it was just using your mobile phone for payments, the program would not see strong adoption.

“Roughly, 40 percent of our respondents state they prefer to use their mobile phone for loyalty programs. By tying it to their rewards program, adding in discount incentives along with emailed receipts consumers will be more likely to adopt and use the program.”

26 locations

Holders of a Rhodes 101 branded credit card or a new Advantages Pay Plus Card can use the Rhodes 101 To Go! iOS or Android app at 26 locations.

Besides permitting gas purchases with a mobile device, the platform also provides digital receipts, purchase tracking, special offers, a location finder and lower fuel prices.

Users select the mobile payment option on the main menu and tap the begin-fueling option. Then they scan the QR code on the fuel dispenser and enter their PIN. A pump selection screen lets customers choose how much gas they want to buy.

When they finish fueling, they can tap ‘see receipt’ to receive an emailed copy of their receipt.

Research tool

The launch underscores how mobile has become a motor-travel force that convenience stores and gas bars cannot ignore.

Almost all consumers who search for gas and convenience store information via their mobile devices end up converting to mobile, according to a recent study from xAd and Telmetrics (see story).

Gas and convenience users typically make decisions on the go, making smartphones their primary research tool.

For gas and convenience businesses, the indecision that often accompanies customers’ desire to stop for food and fuel offers plenty of time to influence a choice. Adding a coupon to these mobile ads is effective at driving in-store traffic. Smartphone and tablet owners have indicated they would be likely to click on a mobile ad tied to a coupon or promotion, particularly if the ad were locally relevant to them.

Price remains the dominant reason why consumers buy gas at a particular location, but how consumers shop for that price is shifting, according to the results of a recent consumer survey released by the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Two thirds of consumers say that price is the most important factor in determining where they buy gas. But while a majority of these price-conscious consumers still shop by looking at the price posted at stores, nearly one in five makes his decision based on a specific loyalty card/discount and another 10 percent review gas prices online. One in seven relies on a specific store’s overall reputation for offering the best prices.

Long history

PAJCO, which operates 25 Rhodes 101 Stops Convenience Stores and Mercato di Rodi markets and bistros, has a long relationship with the Southern retail gasoline marketplace. Starting in 1963 as Rhodes Oil Cos., affiliated with Gulf Oil Corp., it provided fuel to independent retail service stations and farmers throughout the area.

It made its name in the late 1960s by providing fuel and motor oil to the construction teams that built much the Interstate 55 highway in southeast Missouri. In the early 1970’s, when Gulf Oil exited southeast Missouri, Rhodes moved into the gasoline retail market. It acquired its first convenience store in 1989.

QR Code complication

The app’s forced QR Code scan is seen as a complication that will need to be eliminated in the months and years ahead.

“Our data shows that only 25 percent of users are actually scanning QR codes for rewards,” Ms. Kingstone said. “To have broad adoption, the experience needs to really be frictionless one-step process — an Uber-like experience.”

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York