Five Questions With: Kate Ngo

The senior manager of brand strategy at Cumberland Farms talks to Providence Business News about the company’s new SmartPay system. More

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Five Questions With: Kate Ngo

“Connectivity and mobility are changing our daily lives faster than ever – how we communicate, how we gather information, and how we shop.”
Posted 2/6/13

Kate Ngo is the senior manager of brand strategy at Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms, a leading convenience store chain and gasoline retailer.

At the end of January, Cumberland Farms announced the launch of its free SmartPay Check-Link payment program, which automatically saves users 10 cents on every gallon of gas they buy at Cumberland Farms after enrolling.

Ngo talked to Providence Business News about the new SmartPay system, how it works and why the gas chain thought the market was ripe for such a product.

PBN: Can you explain a little bit about SmartPay?

NGO: SmartPay is a unique payment program that saves you money and makes it fast and easy to pay. SmartPay delivers technology that enables you to automatically pay with your phone or with our SmartPay card.

PBN: How can Cumberland Farms afford to give SmartPay users that 10 cents per gallon discount and what are the benefits for Cumberland Farms?

NGO: What many consumers don’t know is that when they pay with checking, it saves us money on interchange fees, allowing us to pass those savings to our customers through a discount. At the same, SmartPay improves the experience of fueling your car, particularly when it comes to the mobile app. For us, a better customer experience is a long-term competitive advantage.

PBN: Can you walk me through what happens what a SmartPay drives up at the pump and pulls out their smartphone?

NGO: From a user perspective, it’s really as simple as three steps: login, enter the pump number, and begin fueling. If you are like me, you get a kick out of watching the gallon price literally drop 10 cents at the pump. At the end of the transaction, the app will calculate your savings for both the single transaction and total savings over time for all SmartPay transactions.

At the same time, there are a number of things happening on the back end to ensure the transaction is secure, accurate, and valid. The secure login ensures that only authorized users can access the payment account. Once the user is verified, the GPS functionality kicks in, and the SmartPay app identifies store location. In most cases, the app will automatically populate the store number, depending on the strength of the wireless network. The user is then prompted to enter the gas pump number (displayed prominently through SmartPay signage). Once the app identifies store location and pump number, it sends a signal to authorize the pump, activate the pump, and discount the gallon price.

PBN: Can customers only use SmartPay to pay for gas or can they use it inside Cumberland Farms stores as well? If they can't use it in the stores, do you have any plans to expand its uses in the future?

NGO: Yes, customers can absolutely use SmartPay Check-Link inside. That was definitely a big part of making the experience more streamlined and more efficient for customers. When users select this feature, a bar code appears on the phone screen, which is scanned at the register.

PBN: Why did Cumberland Farms decide the market was ripe for a product like this?

NGO: Connectivity and mobility are changing our daily lives faster than ever – how we communicate, how we gather information, and how we shop. Our brand promise is to make every day easier for our customers, and in order to deliver on that promise, we must adapt as fast as they do.

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