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Cumberland Farms simplifies gas purchases via PayPal payments app

Convenience store chain Cumberland Farms has introduced a mobile payments application to make it easier to fill up on gas and, for a limited time, is offering users five cents off per gallon.

The Cumberland Farms smartpay app, which is funded by a user’s PayPal account, automatically locates the gas station where users are located, enabling them to turn on the pump and pay from the driver’s seat. The pilot program launched on March 30 at 50 Cumberland Farms stores across Massachusetts.

“Our mission is to make the process [of pumping gas] as efficient as possible,” said Kate Ngo, senior manager of brand strategy at Cumberland Farms, Framingham, MA. This is just one of the ways that we are trying to streamline the process and make it less taxing and time-consuming for customers.

“It is a slick app that lets users start the gas pump from their car,” she said. “There is no need to pull out a credit card or wallet – it is a very easy payments system.”

Promotional platform
With the app, Cumberland Farms wants to address several different areas that have been a focus since new management took over the chain two years ago. These include offering a discount program, creating a simple loyalty platform, minimizing the interchange fees that merchants such as Cumberland Farms pay to credit card companies and giving the brand a more a cutting-edge image.

If the pilot program is successful, the merchant hopes to roll out the app, which was developed with PayPal, to all of its stores within six months.

Cumberland Farms also plans to send customers special offers via the app that are intended to drive them into a store after completing their gas purchase.

“One of the key goals is demand generation, to tap into this dramatically growing base of smartphone users to drive them to the stores, either brand new customers or existing ones,” said Dave Banks, chief information officer at Cumberland Farms.

“Since you have the customer captive for two to three minutes while they are pumping gas, this gives you the opportunity to stream ads for promotions,” he said. “This is addressing an age-old issue of how to get customers from the pump and get them inside to make a purchase.

Initially, the advertising will be pretty basic, with Cumberland Farms delivering offers around purchasing coffee inside the stores. This will give customers a chance to get familiar with using the app.

Going forward, the merchant will focus on incorporating coupons and advertising from its vendors.

Immediate gratification
The app is being promoted via signs at gas pumps.

Cumberland Farms is also partnering with eBay-owned company Where to push out geotargeted ads on mobile phones to its network. The goal is to target mobile users within a five-mile radius of a Cumberland Farms store.

The app is available on iPhone and Android smartphones as well as via mobile Web browsers at

Cumberland Farms decided to make the app available via mobile browsers in addition to the native apps as a way to reach a wider group of mobile users and to make it easy for first-time users. As a result, customers who pull into the pump and see a sign for the app can simply type in the address of the mobile site and start paying for their gas right away.

“We know that the customer is probably not going to download the app at the pump,” Ms. Ngo said. “It is not feasible to expect them to pause while they wait for the app to download.

“We wanted there to be immediate gratification and to allow anyone with a mobile Web browser to get the app,” she said.