Data Drivers

Changing Consumer Habits — One Fill-Up At A Time

What do $58 million, $2.61 and 66 days have in common? Three important data points that show the power of consumer adoption of alternative payments at gas and C-stores. ZipLine CEO Stephen Goodrich and VP of Consumer Engagement Kristen Bailey join Karen Webster to discuss how payments really can change consumer behavior.


Can mobile pay at the pump lead to higher sales in the store? Can it drive so much data that retail gets turbocharged?

We’ll stop with the auto analogies for the moment, but in the latest installment of the PYMNTS Data Drivers series, Karen Webster spoke with payment solutions provider ZipLine's CEO, Stephen Goodrich, and Kristen Bailey, Vice President of Consumer Engagement, to get the skinny on how their platform is turning customers who fill up at the pump into loyal super adopters who shop the store.

The three data points that the trio dove into?

$58 million.

That’s the dollar value in savings that Cumberland Farms' SmartPay members saved when buying gas using the app that ZipLine powers. The discount shakes out to about $0.10 a gallon and roughly $1 billion of fuel purchased over the three years since it launched, Goodrich said. The economics across Cumberland Farms, ZipLine and the consumer, said the CEO, are significant. The interchange savings on that $1 billion in purchases means that Cumberland Farms can reinvest into cash back at the pump. “On one hand,” said Goodrich, “this is an investment in loyalty by Cumberland, but it is also funded, in part, by savings that they achieve by using an alternative to traditional payments types.”

And how do consumers know the $0.10 bounty awaits? Cumberland Farms shows them. Bailey said: “The number one way that Cumberland has communicated the savings via SmartPay is to show a regular price and a member price at the pump. Any consumer can quickly see that ‘Hey, that’s how I can save $0.10 a gallon’ and they go to their phone or their home computer and enroll.”

Goodrich also said that the influence of usage overall at Cumberland — i.e., purchases beyond just at the pump — show that 28 percent of the consumers who sign up for SmartPay become “super adopters.” Super adopters tend to shop at stores connected to the Cumberland Farms gas station 135 percent more than a “baseline” customer who pays the old-fashioned way — network-branded card or cash. They also buy more gas. The frequency of visits and time spent during those visits also increase, Goodrich said, because affinity has been created. Moreover, of the consumers who enroll in the discounted fuel/app product, 84 percent stick with it — a rate of stickiness, said Goodrich, that is rather enviable.

$2.16 is data point number two.

That’s the average price of a gallon of gas these days, and it raises a question as to whether lower gas prices have any different impact on customer interest in signing up for SmartPay. “Interestingly, we’ve seen [gas prices] have no impact” on consumer consideration of the Cumberland loyalty program, Goodrich said. “This was something that we were wondering about back when gas was $4 or $5 a gallon and then started to roll back down to the $2 range,” he added. When it comes to the economics of the program, Goodrich said that consumers may perceive a greater benefit when gas prices are higher, but the actual savings to consumers is, obviously, even higher on a lower base (i.e., when gas is $2 a gallon).

The third data point: 66 days.

This is the number of days that some researchers (at University of College London) conclude it takes for a consumer to completely unlearn a habit and adopt new behaviors. Goodrich said that it is probably indeed around the 60-day mark that consumers “hit their stride” and tip their behavior to favor an alternative payment method like those that ZipLine powers. One data point that he cited that was particularly compelling: Most station operators report high overall usage of ZipLine-powered payments alternatives. SmartPay, in particular, is the payment method used most often at Cumberland Farms — even beating out Visa-branded cards.

Bailey went on to say that, of the 84 percent of enrolled who ultimately used and continue to use the program, getting there is “more of a ramp-up” that builds over time, and that ramp depends, in part, on the frequency in fill-ups and/or number of trips to the Cumberland stores. That virtuous circle is often influenced by targeted promotions and offers to “invite consumers to cross categories,” Bailey said. For instance, buy gas, get a free coffee. Buy six coffees, get the seventh one free, etc.

After that ramp, said Bailey, “we see very little drop-off.”




The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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