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Wawa challenges Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks with in-app mobile payments and loyalty

Convenience chain Wawa is attempting to compete with brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks by launching a new mobile application featuring a payment function and rewards program.

The new Wawa app, which is available for Android and iOS devices, enables consumers to earn rewards points for purchases made at any of its 680 bricks-and-mortar stores, as well as pay for orders within the app. Users can also check nutritional information of various items, look up store hours and directions, and view up-to-date fuel prices.

“It seems like the minimum brand requirement is having an app if you are in food and beverage,” said Mike Cochrane, sales director at Atimi, Vancouver, Canada. “Trying to compete with global chains might be rather ambitious for Wawa. But all companies realize they need to be in front of the face of their consumer, and to do so, they need to be on mobile.

“Rolling out an app and reward program will help Wawa stay top of mind for their market and help their consumers interact with them in the mobile ways they are getting used to.”

Loyalty angle
Major food and beverage establishments such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have large fan bases due, in part, to the strong loyalty programs they offer users of their mobile apps. As Wawa continues to gain more consumers, leveraging a rewards program is an optimal way to ensure repeat visits, lure customers away from visiting a competitor and drive mcommerce.

Shoppers can also check in on social media via the app.

When users make an in-app purchase at a Wawa, they will be eligible to receive rewards for every $50 spent. At the cash register, they will have three rewards options available to select from, based on previous items purchased, in addition to recommendations for new products.

However, rewards cannot be garnered with fuel purchases, as well as dairy products, gift cards, tobacco and alcohol.

If consumers prefer not to use the Wawa app, they can still participate in the rewards program by buying a Wawa card and signing up on Up to five gift cards can be registered on one user account.

Mobile payments
Wawa is also marking its stake in the mcommerce field by enabling in-app purchases. Users can transform their Wawa gift card into a debit card by purchasing one in store or using an existing gift card.

They can then upload the card to the app and add funds for future purchases. The app also contains an automatic reload function that can be linked with a credit card.

The chain is reportedly considering mobile food ordering capabilities, but is still in the exploratory stage.

Wawa claims that the app is primarily designed to reward loyal customers and strengthen relationships, although it is likely that the rewards will also entice new consumers to shop at the convenience stores.

Bolstering customer engagement is another optimal strategy that can be leveraged via social media. Starbucks recently nabbed the top spot on Hootsuite Analytics’ monthly Love List for the buzz it created on social media during the holiday season (see story).

It ramped up interest in its winter specialty beverages as consumers uploaded personal photos with the celebratory red holiday cups onto Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s not enough to just get the download of the app; brands need to find ways to continually engage consumers to ensure retention – consumer retention and app retention,” Mr. Cochrane said. “Brands need to ensure they allocate enough budget and resources against their consumer retention strategy with the lion’s share allocated towards mobile.

“Loyalty programs help consumers keep the app and continue to come back to it for more rewards or incentives, which of course keeps them interacting with the brand.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York