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Fuel Rewards ramps up mobile to boost coalition loyalty program

Coalition loyalty program Fuel Rewards is boosting its mobile strategy with a redesigned application, card-linked offers, integrations with Passbook and Google Wallet as well as push notification and text messaging capabilities as it looks to drive marketer and consumer adoption.

Coalition loyalty programs, which are popular in many regions around the world but have failed to catch on in a major way in the U.S., offers incentives to customers of multiple businesses packaged together in a single loyalty program. Fuel Rewards enables members to earn free fuel by making purchases at more than 1,400 retail locations, nearly 700 online merchants and more than 10,000 restaurants and redeem their rewards at participating fuel stations.

“Mobile helps with recruiting, engaging and getting consumers in the funnel,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO of Fuel Rewards. “Once they are in the funnel, the pervasiveness of the technology creates better engagement.

“You are now able, with the key merchants that are in the program, to drive consumers through those merchants and to immediately reinforce that buying behavior by communicating via text message or push notification,” he said. “And, then you are able to drive to redeem.

“The ability to drive the benefit to the merchant becomes clearer and to drive benefits for the consumer. The mobile experience aligns perfectly for that.”

More mobile
Fuel Rewards is a 15-year-old program run by Excentus Corp., Dallas, TX, that has helped more than 10 million consumers save hundreds of millions of dollars on fuel.

Rewards are redeemed as cents off per gallon when a member fuels up.

Fuel Rewards is working with a number of big brands.

For example, its Winter Shopping campaign enables members to earn rewards when they use a MasterCard linked to their Fuel Rewards account at Olive Garden, Toys ‘R’ Us and JCPenney. The campaign runs through March 1, 2015, with rewards redeemable at more than 11,000 Shell stations.

The goal of the new, bigger focus on mobile is for Fuel Rewards to be relevant on smartphones in any and everyway possible so that it becomes an app that members use over and over again.

To drive this relevancy, Fuel Rewards is working with Vibes to integrate with Passbook for iOS users and Google Wallet for Android users.

Vibes is also working with Fuel Rewards to enable it to communicate with members via SMS.

A more comprehensive app
On the app development side, Fuel Rewards worked with Bottle Rocket.

Fuel Rewards recently relaunched its iPhone app with more intuitive navigation and the ability to see nearby places to earn rewards.

Users can also access new Fuel Rewards travel offers, see limited-time offers at nearby locations, receive push notifications with updates on new and nearby offers.

For the first time, users can also link credit and debit cards to their account, enabling members to earn rewards from transactions with participating brands. From the app, users can sign up, earn, track and redeem rewards.

Coalition loyalty challenges
Coalition loyalty programs have failed to catch on in the U.S. because of brands’ focus on building standalone loyalty programs, per Excentus Corp. At the same time, marketers are concerned about return on investment as well as splintered consumer loyalty and costs.

However, as the number of standalone programs continues to grow, some brands are recognizing the benefit of a coalition program.

Another factor contributing to a better environment for coalition loyalty in the U.S. is the replacement of plastic payment cards and loyalty cards with smartphone-supported technologies and mobile apps that consumers now use to pay for products, as well as track and redeem loyalty-based rewards

Additionally, the availability of payment card offers allows consumers to earn rewards from a variety of participating retailers and merchants every time they use a credit or debit card.

The program first launched in the summer of 2012. An app was released but it did not provide the full set of features found on desktop.

However, with the user data showing that 60 percent of all program email is being opened on a smartphone and that more than 50 percent of program views are taking place on mobile, the company realized that it needed to have a stronger mobile focus.

“We saw first hand that the customer is clearly going mobile,” Mr. Logsdon said. “And maybe even faster than we as an industry have been able to catch up.

“When you think about general bricks-and-mortar retail and which ones have integrated loyalty, rewards, payments in the mobile space and done it very well with adoption, there really aren’t many you can think of other than Starbucks,” he said.

“To be successful going forward, we have to be mobile first.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York