Years ago, I knew DVDs were the future when Blockbuster started devoting more shelf space to discs than VHS tapes. Later, I knew Facebook was about to dominate social media when my parents signed up for accounts. Now I know that the machines are taking over the Internet because even my gas pump is online! It doesn’t have a blog, blast out urbane tweets or send me videos of cats but it is connected, nonetheless.
How do I know this? Because I have the app!
There are a lot of apps out there that do some pretty cool stuff. Every morning, I dash-mount my phone and listen to iHeartRadio while monitoring my drive to the office with Waze. My favorite app, however, has a simple interface and is fairly light on features. Not to mention, it actually costs me about $30 or $40 every time I use it.
Smartpay, the loyalty program for the gas station chain Cumberland Farms, amazes me every time I use it at the pump. The app is linked to my bank account and creates an ACH transaction each time I fill up, saving the gas station the credit card fees they would otherwise owe and, consequently, allowing them to track my usage. The payoff for the consumer comes in the form of $0.10 off per gallon and some occasional rewards (like a free cup of coffee!) A lot of places give a 10-cent cash discount but that’s not quite what this is. Cumbies’ already low normal prices are the same for cash and credit, this is a true savings. (I find that a lot of gas stations with a “cash discount” cost far more in the first place so paying with cash is no cheaper than just going to a station that doesn’t discount.)
Saving money isn’t the part that fascinates me. Sure, I’ve saved nearly $450 in the years since my wife and I started using it, but the coolest part is activating the pump from my smartphone. The app uses my phone’s GPS to determine the store location and, after I enter my pin number, it simply asks which pump number I am at. A confirmation screen ensures that I’m at the correct terminal at the correct store and then the pump turns on and rolls the price back 10 cents. How amazing is that?! It's all part of the Internet of things and it is the real future of the Internet.
The Internet is quickly exceeding its forward facing shell of HTML pages viewed via a web of hyperlinked sites. The Internet is becoming a system where common and ordinary everyday items are interconnected. Your home security system, your television, even your bathroom scale and coffeemaker are all connected and accessible from via apps on your phone!
As for the SmartPay app, if anyone at Cumbies or National Payment Card Association is reading this, first, great job! Second, here are some improvements I’d like to see:
Imagine what other traditionally offline processes could be app-ified or converted to a self-service action. What if your most tedious analog processes could be digitized online or your customers could have self-service access to information that usually requires a phone call or manual leg work? Drop me a line and we can chat about how I can help move some of your organization's functionality to the web. No idea is too crazy!