Why Safeway’s Gas Rewards with Chevron Drives Users Mad – Mobile App Strategy Required

August 9, 2013

in apps, Location & Context, Mobility, Strategy Formulation

Safeway Chevron Rewards Program

Why Safeway and Chevron together suck at the pump! It seems like a nice idea. Pull into a Chevron station and get a “bonus reward” as a Safeway shopper with a discount on your gasoline. What’s not to like? It certainly works for both businesses. Chevron’s typically higher prices may seem much more competitive the next time you fill up. It make me feel better about both Chevron and Safeway. No doubt it adds to their data pool on me too.

So what’s not to like. Simple. It’s a balls-up in usability at the pump. You arrive at the gas station jump out of your car, swipe your card. Instant pain. Please key in your zip code. That used to be it – then start pumping. Not anymore. Key in zip code. Answer the Rewards question Yes or No. Then swipe your Safeway reward card (does anyone actually carry one?) or key in your number. Because this requires communication with Safeway or some system it is much slower than keying in your zip code. Buzz, buzzzzzz, buzzzzz. The whole thing communicates I’m slowing you down. Then, even worse, your rewards may only be 10cent a gallon this time or nothing and you suffer disappointment.

I’m sure someone timed the additional process steps before implementing. They probably assumed you get the right number right each time. My guess is keying your phone number in takes approximately 10 to 15 seconds. It could be longer or shorter. Still try to go faster and you will be starting over. By the time acceptance arrives you have added 30 seconds to 1 minute to your overall fill-up time. I’ve not yet done the maths on how long it adds to a typically 15 gallon fill up. The percentages in terms of total time may well suggest that it is less than 10% to the total stop time. I presume also that the studies are done and it isn’t locking up space on the forecourt so cars are lining up for their turn – which is the biggest turnoff as it signifies a real wait.

What I want: I want a Chevron App that actually lets me pump gas without so much as pulling my phone out of the car or my wallet and card out of my pocket. Yes there are some issues I understand that. Really it’s obvious – integrate the experience with my smartphone. Kept the legacy system but let me get on with life. My big priority is saving time at the pump not adding to it. With an app you could probably really add to the forecourt experience. I could be ordering the coffee to go, having the snacks waiting etc. That’s only a small tip of the iceberg. I still want my Safeway rewards although if I’m certain the gas is cheaper elsewhere that’s probably where I’ll go. Note Chevron has an iOS app that acts as a station finder and promotions vehicle. It’s not the sort of thing you are going to open when you get to a Chevron store. If it doesn’t sent you relevant notifications you aren’t going to remember it.

Oh Safeway. I could write a book on your app. I’ve tried opening it and even using it in-store. Your deals, your coupons, which open to closed folders by category which I’m then supposed to open. You’d be better to just dump it and post all your specials to Flipboard. You know all my shopping purchases and yet I can’t load them. Now you even know my Gas purchases and I can’t even use your app to keep track or help me with my food budget. While I like eating well I have a good sense of how much I spend each week. It would really help to have that detail handy and by product. Then you also know my usual use-up rates or re-buy rates. So you could do my shopping list as a reminders every week. I’m sure you also know how many products I choose with good dates on them and when the lettuce use by date is nearing. Can’t you help me eat fresher food and reduce waste? What about the recipes that you could provide based on special or different ingredients I bought in the last week? Which bottle of wine should I serve with my dinner? What feedback could you collect from me? Do you know how many products you don’t stock that I’d like. There are marmalades, cereals, foreign foods etc. Currently I know you don’t even want my input. Then I could be doing checkout as I load my cart. As apps can be geo-fenced it would be so easy to send a notification each time I’m near a Safeway and make the app actually an important part of my shopping life. For some that may also include pre-ordering from the deli, or a hot meal ready to go.

Both Chevron and Safeway are failing to look at the tool in my pocket. I may actually pay a premium for saving time at the pump. I may even tip an attendant that brings a steaming coffee to my car. Safeway doesn’t get that “online” shopping is a better experience on a Tablet  and with the right approach I could do it on a smartphone. We don’t go to our home office to buy the groceries. We go to the kitchen. It’s time the online shopping experience was re-launched for the the mobile touchscreen world. Both Chevron and Safeway are places many of us go to weekly. That’s a high frequency exchange. That’s where personalizing service can make a difference. You have the future of our relationship together firmly in my pocket. If you think you are just after my wallet then you are mistaken.

So the good news. Despite the sucking on apps I still shop Chevron most frequently 75% of the time. The forecourts are generally cleaner and I suspect the gas is better. Safeway gets about 60% of my grocery business and that’s because they are generally better value. However, I shop Trader Joe’s often, and will head off to Berkeley Bowl and other places. So, Safeway is a two or three weeks out of the month type of place when shopping weekly.

While I know I’m not your normal or typical consumer I could create a number of different personas to make my case and identify how to make food and gas shopping better.


Previous post:

Next post: