The concern about the cost of gas per gallon is off the charts. Customers are hungry, for sure, to get back a sense of control.
So kudos to ExxonMobil for offering a much needed relief valve in the form of a 15-cent discount on fuel, tied to the use of ExxonMobil’s proprietary, convenient device Speedpass. (A gadget the size of a AA battery that attaches to a keychain, Speedpass,has been around since 1997; customers register a major credit card or an ExxonMobil card and tap the device at any of thousands of gas pumps for a quick fill-up. See our 2003 story “Magic Wand: It’s a Speedpass world—we just live in it” for some history.)
It’s also heartening to see the company offer benefits to Speedpass customers with not just the ExxonMobil card but all credit and debit cards, too.
I wonder, though, how this discount will stack up — and if it will set ExxonMobil apart.
Is this discount promotion a good thing? Well, Speedpass had a lot of marketplace buzz at one time. So, sure. Adding some punch in the form of this promotion to remind customers of the convenience hanging off of their key chains has merit.
Perhaps the bigger question is: Is this 60-day promotion differentiating? Not by much. Here’s why I say that:
It’s dollar-denominated. The 15-cent discount is for up to 100 gallons or 60 days, whichever comes first, with the discount given as a one-time rebate on the registered credit card. Other programs are equally compelling: Shell’s fuelperks! program, for instance, has partnered with Winn-Dixie’s Customer Reward Card for stackable savings — a 5-cents-per-gallon reward for every $50 of purchases, with some bonus items worth an extra 20- to 50-cents-per-gallon reward all by themselves. (Details here.)
It’s for a limited time. Speedpass’s promotion is to encourage registration before May 31. That’s great for a boost in awareness, but many other programs are on-going. Price Chopper’s Fuel AdvantEdge frequent-fueler discount, for instance, lets members earn 10 cents off every gallon of gas at participating Sunoco stations every time they reach a $50 spend, with no limits on the discounts. The program has been in place since 2008, with discounts accruing and expiring on a rolling schedule like clockwork. (Details here and here.) Similarly, Kroger’s fuel program with Shell takes off 10 cents or 20 cents per gallon up to 35 gallons per fill-up – and even $1 off per gallon per fill-up at Kroger. Granted, these discounts are tied to customer spend. But watchful consumers pay attention to these calculations and potential pay offs. And there are a lot of discounts for customers to choose from every day: at last count, COLLOQUY found that over 60% of grocery chains had some form of fuel dollar-denominated rollback program in place (see “A Dash to Cash?” chart in “The Squeezed Middle Class”).
It’s only moderately competitive. Speedpass’s promotion has a maximum earn of $15. How does that $15 bucks stand apart in a sea of discounts? Chevron and Texaco are offering a spring bonus through June 30 of 20 cents a gallon in fuel credits for new customers of their Visa and personal credit cards, with an ongoing 10 cents a gallon in credits after the spring deal. Maximum credits? There’s only an annual limit — and it’s for $300.
Let’s face it. All of these programs and discounts give the driving public a much-needed psychological boost in a situation that seems completely out of their control as they watch the price of gas climb and hear the hype about it going even higher this summer. But with a discount at every corner, and without an ongoing value proposition to reward customers for using it, I’m not sure this Speedpass promotion will really get customers to turn into ExxonMobil instead of another option for the long-term.