Author Archives: meridithussery

Hyper-Localization: Serving Community Businesses

saleWith the Christmas season upon us, consumers are more and more cognizant of the retail experience, and their expectations continue to change with trends and technology. Of late, big box stores have skinnied down to convenience store sizes, online shopping takes on new meaning as grocery stores give delivery their best shot, and a barrage of payment options seems to overwhelm headlines.

Convenience Store News calls 2014 the Year of Retail Fragmentation to describe the multiple shopping formats that face consumers. One way that Convenience Store News suggests that convenience stores stay competitive is through a hyper-localized approach. This means that the convenience stores will focus on the local community and its local products. Intevacon has long seen the benefit of focusing on the community and serving its fleet users.

A surprising number of petroleum marketers offer credit to fleet customers for the purchase of fuel at their stores. Customer loyalty is the reason that most petroleum marketers choose to host these “house accounts.” The Intevacon system makes hosting house accounts easier by automating the process and offering a more streamlined experience for both the petroleum marketer and the fleet business owner.

Hosting house accounts can be a successful gesture to attract local business, but the benefits of automating this process are huge. Fleet card customers on the Intevacon system are able to use their fleet card at the pump or in the store. Additionally, product restrictions, credit limits, and driver assignments are easily set up through our system. User access allows the business owners to log into their own accounts to view card details, transactions, invoices, and reports.

Intevacon values relationships, and we truly believe that this model is successful because the petroleum marketer maintains a direct relationship with his/her customers. With the Intevacon fleet card, local businesses become loyal businesses.

Want to find out more about Intevacon? Give us a call at 678-739-4450 or email moreinfo@intevacon.com.

Going Natural with Intevacon

truckIntevacon is in the fleet card business, so we have the opportunity to see our customers meet fleet needs first-hand as industry demands change. Over the last few months, our retinue of customers providing Natural Gas has increased as more fleet vehicles are transitioned to the cost-saving fuel alternative of compressed natural gas—CNG. This is a perfect fit for our business, as we specialize in providing a fleet card system that offers flexibility and transparency in assigning drivers, vehicles, special pricing, and product restrictions.

CNG stations have been popping up all over the nation—according to Natural Gas Vehicles for America, there are now 1,436 CNG and 101 LNG natural gas stations operating in the U.S.  NGV for America projects that an additional 250 to 300 new stations will be built in 2014. The increase in natural gas stations is motivated by several factors, but cost savings seem to be the largest impetus for conversion. Vehicles equipped to use natural gas are shown to derive great savings on fuel over time, and government incentives make this conversion even more palatable to fleet managers looking to save on costs. A 2014 Department of Energy study on heavy-duty refuse trucks fueled by CNG showed that fleets can save as much as $0.90 per mile by using this alternative fuel. This equates to about a 50% savings on fuel. Other benefits included low criteria pollutant emissions, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and quieter operation.

According to the Department of Energy, natural gas fuels about 112,000 vehicles in the United States. Several notable companies have converted or are in the process of converting their fleet vehicles to natural gas, a few of which include Waste Management, CAT, UPS, and AT&T. Many municipal entities have also discovered the benefits of converting to CNG vehicles, as documented in a Department of Energy business case targeting municipal governments with fleets such as buses and refuse trucks traveling in routes conducive to refueling at the same station. The advantages touted by the study are many: long-term cost-effectiveness, more-consistent operational costs, increased energy security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced local air pollution, and reduced noise pollution.

The Intevacon system can help you grow your natural gas fleet business by offering an all-inclusive system for fleet cards. By working within the Proprietary Network, you will have the controls to manage your customer relationships and foster loyalty at your sites across all POS and cardlock platforms. Intevacon system features include:

  • Contract pricing
  • Cost plus pricing
  • Cents per gallon discounts
  • Finance charges
  • Tax tracking and exemptions
  • Real time credit limits
  • Product restrictions, site restrictions, usage restrictions
  • Specific prompting to capture driver, vehicle, and odometer information
  • Invoicing and statement generation
  • Payment posting
  • Reporting capabilities
  • Online user access for fleet card customers

We love what we do, and our mission is to help you succeed.  For more information on how Intevacon can help you grow your business, call 678-739-4450 or email moreinfo@intevacon.com.

The Loyalty of Fleet

carrotThere is no doubt that customer loyalty is at a premium right now. Everywhere you look, there are schemes created to engage with consumers and lock in their loyalty. The petroleum industry is no different—football promos, sweepstakes, gas giveaways, reward cards, special discounts, free showers at truck stops—the list goes on.

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, the average U.S. household has 22 loyalty-program memberships and actively uses 10. As more and more companies establish and/or refine their loyalty programs, it will only become more challenging to capture the attention and loyalty of consumers.

One of the most valuable attributes derived from loyalty programs is the opportunity to form a relationship with the customer. As discussed in a former blog post, Building Relationships and Profiting from Repeat Business, a joint study by Manta and BIA/Kelsey found that 61% of small business owners report that half of their annual revenue comes from repeat customers. The study also notes that repeat customers spend 67% more than a new customer.

The Intevacon fleet card system is designed so that the petroleum marketer maintains a direct relationship with the cardholder. This is contrary to most card programs. In the case of Visa or Mastercard, the issuer is often a bank and there is little incentive for the cardholder to feel any vested interest in the merchant. In most traditional card transactions, the merchant has no connection to the cardholder other than dispensing fuel and providing a clean restroom.

Intevacon offers the opportunity for the petroleum marketer to own the relationship with his/her cardholders, and our hope is that this helps grow business and increase revenue. Fleet business affords a more consistent and higher volume transaction than most transient consumers. The average fleet card transaction processed through our system is about $104. This is about three times higher than the average consumer spends in fuel per week. Capturing the fleet business and fostering relationships with cardholders is a coveted position for petroleum marketers, and Intevacon was created to help facilitate this relationship.

Find out more about the Intevacon Fleet Card System by reaching out at 678-739-4450 or emailing moreinfo@intevacon.com.

Organizational Growth–delight, connect, and exceed expectations

The Intevacon team just returned from iStock_000024846557Largea great week in Las Vegas at the NACS show. It is always rewarding to chat with our customers and hear how they love using our system. There is nothing like hearing compliments and referrals from our customers to keep us motivated and excited to continue growing and serving our customers and prospects. We have a very talented development team who works very hard to make the Intevacon system run smoothly and meet all of our customers’ needs. 

Intevacon was founded in 2010, and in the last 4+ years, we have partnered with petroleum marketers across the country who have grown their fleet business with us and helped make us the best fleet card processor in the industry. A blog came out last week by Seth Godin describing the four stages of organizational growth: struggle, Servant, bully, and utility. Seth says that a business “can move to servant mode, delighting and connecting customers, exceeding expectations and performing what seems like miracles. Or it can take profits as soon as it can. The former leads to scale, the short-term approach usually results in more struggle.”

The Servant stage of business is exactly where Intevacon intends to stay as we grow with our marketers. We have big plans for 2015—plans to network our marketers across the nation, plans to help bring more volume to their sites, and plans to maintain strong relationships between the petroleum marketer and his cardholders.

Our business modIMG_2397el is not necessarily the most conventional to turn a big profit, but we are satisfied with investing in the long-term growth of our business relationships. An article posted by PYMTS.com recently highlighted the fleet card industry stating that players in this field “charge vehicle fleet operators a subscription as well as transaction fees and they also get a piece of the transaction revenue from the gas station partners whenever anyone uses one of their cards to pay for fuel.” Intevacon just doesn’t operate that way, and we never will. We want to achieve our success by ensuring the success of our customers first.

To wrap up this blog post, here is a final quote by Seth Godin on organizational growth, “I’d like to believe that the goal is to figure out how to live a life in the servant stage, to create an organization that doesn’t become a bureaucratic haven or an avarice-focused engine of profit.” Amen.

Customer Number One

blogIntevacon is in business to equip petroleum marketers with the best proprietary fleet card in the industry. We define our success by our customers’ success, and this means that we stay focused on the Petroleum Marketer. Merchants are  critical to transaction volume, which one would also think makes them a big influencer in the payments cycle. Interestingly, merchants don’t always receive the priority that they merit.

Apple recently announced its much-anticipated iPhone6, complete with the Apple Pay capabilities of near field communication. Already, there is a waiting list for consumers wanting to get their hands on an iPhone 6; however, there are concerns that there may not be adequate merchants to satisfy this new purchasing tool. A NACS article titled “Apple Built It—Will Merchants Come?” notes the potential added expense for merchants to adopt a new payment system. In a Wall Street Journal article published last week, the CEO of Crone Consulting is quoted saying, “Apple has rallied the issuing bank side, but not the merchant side.”

Another article recently posted in PYMNTS.com also cites similar disregard for the role that the merchant plays when it comes to networks. In a discussion about bank-owned networks, the article says, “[…] the networks actually forgot that they had more than one customer group to serve and that was the merchant.” The world of payments is changing, and merchants seem to be doing a lot of the leg work without reaping the benefits or having any influence.

While other entities may neglect the influence and respect due to merchants, Intevacon continues to build its success on the success of our customers. There are several key elements to Intevacon’s business model which point to our commitment to serve Petroleum Marketers. Our system was designed with our marketers in mind, so we provide a system that empowers marketers to create and manage their fleet accounts according to their own business rules. We maintain that Petroleum Marketers are best fit to manage their own fleet card accounts and manage those relationships. After all, it is those relationships that cultivate loyalty and repeat business at merchant sites. We appreciate all of our Petroleum Marketers, and we commit to continue creating opportunities to help them grow in success.

Partnering with Businesses Increases Stability

The Intevacon Fleet Card offers a business solution to comp$ensate for consumer ups and downs. Consumer optimism is a fickle thing these days, with an August 2014 survey reporting that fewer than 39% of consumers are optimistic about the economy.  In July, just a month prior to this report, consumer optimism was at its highest for the year at 46%. Often, gas prices are cited as a barometer for consumer optimism, but that didn’t seem to be the case over the last few months. August saw gas prices on average lower by 15 cents over the past month.

When consumer optimism fluctuates, it tends to also affect the frequency that consumers drive their cars, which in turn affects fuel volume for petroleum marketers. Partnering with businesses that fuel their fleet cars is a strategic way to navigate inconsistent consumer optimism and create a new avenue of revenue that brings repeat business. The Intevacon system provides online user access and powerful reporting tools to better equip fuel managers and create a mutually beneficial relationship between buyer and seller.

Petroleum marketers provide a service to the businesses in which they partner by offering the Intevacon fleet card with all of its controls. Businesses save money when they utilize a fleet card to enforce product restrictions and credit limits. If consumer optimism is flagging, businesses will be grateful to control costs and manage their driver and vehicles expenses. The Intevacon fleet card offers real time authorization and credit limits, as well as special pricing options. Product restrictions can be as specific as a bag of ice or a fountain drink, and specific fuel grades can be restricted at both card locks and retail sites. Other card restrictions can be enforced, such as dollars per transaction, transactions per day,  gallons per day (card lock), dollars per day (retail site), and location restrictions. Drivers can also be prompted for PIN, odometer, vehicle number, etc. This helps keep the card secure, and it better allows the business owner to manage his/her fleet.

A 2010 fleet management article describes a few ways that fuel managers can save money: restrict to particular grades of fuel, limit the number of transactions per day, and restrict from specific non-fuel items that are not required for vehicle maintenance. An article published in 2012 by Convenience Store Decisions reports, “With fuel costs again on the rise, a fleet card network can attract new business while offering fleet managers the safety, security and reporting tools they need to be successful.” Later in the article, it is quoted that fleet cards are a very stable business. This stability is important when consumer optimism shifts with each month. The Intevacon Fleet Card offers a business strategy to capture loyal, repeat business each month.

 

Building the future of relationships with technology

shutterstock_2128837“Something—or rather, someone—has got to give.” This was the message in a recent CSPnet.com article that was published last week referring to the projected decline in gas consumption, which may decrease by 24% from 2014 to 2040. Businesses that grow have always known that “something has to give” in order to be successful. In the case of the convenience store industry, petroleum marketers must re-evaluate their business models to adjust to the prospect of significantly less gas demand. The petroleum industry has seen shifts like this in the past—economic downturns, environmental regulations, and war—as have other industries. One thing that we know is that our petroleum marketers are a tenacious and sharp bunch.  The key is to be flexible and innovative while finding the right solution.

According to CSP, the c-store industry continues to grow in number of sites, increasing 21% over the last decade. With declining gas consumption in mind, the new thinking is that marketers will need to find other ways to improve profitability. Our favorite response to this impending dilemma was stated by Tom Robinson, CEO and president of Rotten Robbie in California: “As volumes decline, the question is: Can they decline less at your stores than competitors’ stores? You can do that by spending money on stores, trying to upgrade programs, trying to upgrade your offering, trying to use technology as a way to build connections or relationships with consumers.”

Intevacon can help with the technology and relationship piece of this debacle. Our technology provides a payment solution that builds connections and relationships with customers, while also protecting margins by reducing swipe fees. In a future where loyalty is a premium, capturing fleet business is a valuable strength.  We’ll continue to develop valuable tools for our petroleum marketers to help them grow and increase profits. This is the rewarding part of our operation—we succeed when our marketers succeed.

To find out more about the Intevacon fleet card or prepaid card, call 678-739-4450 or email moreinfo@intevacon.com. We are excited about the future of the c-store industry, and we look forward to seeing how our marketers succeed.

Making the Case for Fleet and Prepaid Cards

A few weeks ago we compiled five case studies describing the success of our customers and illustrating how the Intevacon system has benefited their businesses in different ways: increasing repeat business, reducing swipe fees, capturing more diverse customers, and gaining back control of customer accounts for future growth.

Below is a featured case study highlighting an issuer using both fleet and prepaid cards.  To view the complete case study series, click here.  We’ve changed the names of the petroleum marketers and left out any identifiable details in each of the case studies.

CASE STUDY: GROWING PREPAID BUSINESS TO MATCH 35% OF FLEET DOLLARS

The Intevacon Prepaid card was made available in the fall of 2013, and adoption of this alternative form of payment has been growing each month. Intevacon has one customer in the southeast who has been using the Intevacon system with a consistent number of fleet users since October of 2011. Clairmont Petro Brothers offered their fleet users the benefits of online account access to the system, but they decided not to offer any special pricing. Profile2

Towards the middle of 2013, Clairmont Petro Brothers started noticing that while they were able to maintain their fleet business, a lot of cash users were going across the street to use a competitor’s prepaid card. The timing was perfect for Clairmont Petro Brothers to start using the Intevacon Prepaid card in concert with the Intevacon fleet card. Both fleet and prepaid card transactions can be accessed and managed through the same Intevacon web portal. With pricing for the Intevacon prepaid card starting at $20 per month, this was an easy decision.

Since October 2013, Clairmont Petro Brothers have focused on growing their prepaid business to the unbanked customers in their community. The convenience of offering a card that can be loaded with cash and then used at the pump or at the register is a big selling point to their customers. The prepaid card is sold for $0.50 and then it can be reloaded as many times as the customer wishes.

In the last month of transactions for Clairmont Petro Brothers, they loaded $52,000 onto prepaid cards and sold $99,048 in fleet transactions. This means that 35% of the transactions processed in the last month through Intevacon were cash payments made by loyal customers.

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There are a number of reasons that fleet programs vary in robustness, but the two most common attributes of our most successful fuel marketers are:

  1. They actively recruit fleet business.
  2. They manage their cash flow with their invoicing so that they can self-fund larger dollar volumes.

Our goal is to help our marketers grow their business and enhance their relationships with their customers.  We’d love to point you to a list of our references if you want to have a conversation with someone whose story is similar to what you read in one of our case studies.

 

Probability Distribution—Going after the long tail

Being the most popular choice with the average customer is a coveted spot. Popular is the low hanging fruit of a sales activity. A recent article was published by Convenience Store and Fuel News which reported that consumers prefer to fill their tanks at grocery stores and wholesalers instead of at traditional convenience stores. This can be formidable news to the average c-store operation, but it doesn’t have to be. Strategic petroleum marketers know that there are opportunities to capture repeat, loyal fleet customers.

There is a statistics term called probability distribution in which a larger share of the population rests within the tail of the power curve. See the plot below for an example. The music industry is a great example where the long tail applies. There are the top ten billboard music artists who comprise the head of the power curve, and then there are the niche artists who comprise the long tail. The niche artists create the same amount of revenue collectively as the one hit wonder billboard artists, though they may have to generate buzz one fan at a time.dpc

So how does this probability distribution translate to the convenience store industry? Think of the head of the curve as the customers who are looking for the best deal and the most convenience. It would be great to capture that customer base of business. But there is equal opportunity in the long tail. Pursue the fleet card customers who want to manage their business fueling activities through the Intevacon system. Every cardholder that you sign up with a fleet account becomes a repeat customer, often with multiple vehicles to fuel. Government accounts, commercial accounts, consumer accounts—these are all opportunities in the long tail with fleet. When high value retailers are winning on price, leverage your local relationships with a comprehensive fleet system.

The fuel landscape is shifting in the convenience store industry, but with the right business model, this shift can be viewed as an opportunity. By cutting swipe fees and introducing a proprietary fleet and prepaid card, you can grow your business and gain a valuable partner in Intevacon.

Respond instead of being Re:swiped

registerSwipe fees recently made another public appearance in the news. Retailers have petitioned the high court to reconsider its March 2014 decision, which upheld debit card swipe fees at 21 cents per transaction as reasonable. This has been a hot topic for all retailers, with NACS being a large player representing the convenience store sector in this battle. Petroleum marketers want the limit lower than 21 cents for obvious reasons. Swipe fees—credit card and debit card—are reported as the second largest operating cost for petroleum marketers, just behind the cost of labor.1

The legal battle with swipe fees has been centered on the Dodd-Frank law passed in 2010 regarding debit card fees. The overall battle with swipe fees, however, encompasses more than just debit card swipe fees. Credit card fees were about 7 cents per gallon in 2011, averaging about 2% per transaction.1 PayPal has an even higher rate starting at 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.2

Margins on petroleum in this industry are already small, so any percentage “swiped” by credit card processors has a big impact to petroleum marketer operations. Mastercard and Visa have been named in the current swipe fee lawsuit, but they are by no means the only card processors in the gouging game. Nearly three quarters of all transactions made at the pump are made with plastic—think about how that equates in total swipe fees.3

Intevacon is a proprietary card processor but we offer more services to the petroleum marketer than the standard credit card company. More important to your bottom line, our pricing lets the petroleum marketer keep his/her margins. Convert one of your current Mastercard or Visa customers to a local house account and automate the process through Intevacon.  We offer an online system that empowers the petroleum marketer with all of the controls needed to manage and grow his/her fleet accounts. We also provide the petroleum marketer an advantage to capture loyal fleet accounts by offering the option of online access to the cardholder. Intevacon succeeds when our customers succeed.

Converting cardholders who currently pay with a standard credit card or debit card to the Intevacon fleet card or prepaid card reaps huge savings every month. If a petroleum marketer converted $1.5 million of his current monthly business to the Intevacon fleet card, the savings from a standard credit card transaction fee of 2% would be approximately $340,200 a year or $1.36 million over four years. The higher the dollar volume on the Intevacon fleet card, the greater the savings from swipe fees. Supplement the fleet card with the prepaid card to get even higher returns and increase cash flow.table

Swipe fees may be a necessary evil for a certain percentage of fueling customers, but there is a large cohort of cardholders who would benefit from the advantages of carrying a fleet card. Get to know your customer base and grow your business with Intevacon.

 

  1. “Credit and Debit Card Fees.” NACS. Web. April 2014. http://www.nacsonline.com/Research/FactSheets/IndustryIssues/Pages/CreditCardFeesaGrowingChallengeforConvenienceStores.aspx
  2. Paypal. Web. June 2014.  https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/paypal-fees
  3. “2013 Retail Fuels Report.” NACS. 2013. Web. May 2014. http://www.nacsonline.com/YourBusiness/FuelsReports/GasPrices_2013/Documents/CFR2013_FullReport.pdf