The Connected Car: Bringing
the store to the customer
Closer than ever, the connected car is
hurtling toward reality. Commerce done by
the dashboard’s light, as underscored by a
looming P97 partnership with a fuel retailer,
can benefit retailers and consumers alike.
In an interview with PYMENTS P97 CEO
Donald Frieden explains that the concept
is firing on all cylinders, thanks to artificial
intelligence, the cloud, and mobile devices,
making the car an extension of the consumer’s
Picture this. It’s Boston. It’s snowing. It’s
February. A driver has to pull over and get
fuel. The fingers and mind tremble at the
thought of getting out of the car to pay, to
get the coffee on the trudge to and from
the convenience store. It’s the kind of commerce
that engenders no joy.
Another scenario: A driver has their kids
in the car. The little angels are wailing and
gnashing their teeth in the back. Does that
parent want to stop to get water, toilet paper
and milk — and unbuckle the kids from their
restraints? Nah. Didn’t think so.
Fortunately, the connected car is a savior
to frictionless commerce.
In the latest Topic TBD, CEO Donald
Frieden of mobile commerce firm P97 explained
that the marriage of journeys — the
literal ones across daily commutes and errands,
and the journeys of payments and
transactions moving from digital wallets to
merchants’ tills — are blending seamlessly.
So much so that P97 will go live this week
with one of the largest fuel retailers in the
United States, across 10,000 U.S. gas locations
in tandem with one of the country’s
largest auto manufacturers. The firms are
eyeing a confluence of mobile commerce,
digital marketing and ease of payments.
Simply put, said Frieden, the car now “becomes
an extension of the consumer’s
home” across retail, fuel and cstores.
The Available Data
The data is out there, said the executive,
with unprecedented access to drive patterns,
the number of fill-ups that a consumer
conducts in a given period of time and
other buying behaviors. Even these can be
broken down, granularly, to the vehicle type,
customer demographic and grades of fuel
consumed. Add the cloud into the mix and
the data between the dashboard, wallet,
pump and rewards programs flows seamlessly
and in real time — giving merchants
insight into what consumers/commuters
need, including the where and when.
“We call these companion apps,” he said
of the mobile conduits, which are gaining
traction and being deployed by Frieden’s
firm. “So, these will be the apps on the
phone. These have particular use cases
already. For instance: finding my car in the
parking lot or I want to start my car, or I want
to unlock my car.”
In a commerce continuum, the mobile
app allows the consumer to, in essence,
“extend their car” as one exits their auto.
These consumers want the same rich experience
powered through tech if they are, for
instance, going into a convenience store or
The biggest driver for the connected car,
said Frieden, is recognizing the importance
of the millennial market and the technologically
enabled ways that millennials buy what
they need. “Millenials have $400 billion in
buying power today. And these merchants
and retailers are recognizing that, over the
course of the next two to three years, that
$400 billion is going to inflate to something
like $1.2 trillion,” he explained.
For P97, efforts have evolved beyond
initial fueling activities, with a goal of true
“It’s about the journey and all the things
that get done during the day,” he said.
The company is taking a cue from Netflix,
he stated. “By taking traditional content rails,
and then injecting them with new tailor-made
content, we see ourselves fast becoming,
sort of, the Netflix of value-added services
for … fuels, lubes and maintenance convenience,
and just general retail.”
By way of illustration: Consider that the
car, sensing it is getting low on fuel, will do
far more than just flash a yellow light. It will
notify the driver of the nearby preferred station.
When the driver arrives at that station,
P97 will — using geolocation services and
geofencing — recognize that vehicle and
initiate the fuel purchase.
Consumers can redeem offers from the
car or have orders delivered right to their
trunk. Frieden said, “This is how brick-andmortar
is going to compete against two-hour
delivery from Amazon.”
Establishing The Binding Connection
“We try to minimize the number of decisions
made during the driving process
— ideally, we’d like to minimize that to the
number three,” explained Frieden. In this
instance, they would “bind” consumers to
three different fuel brands, keeping individuals
informed of discounts and promotions,
which, in turn, can be accessed with voice
commands or dashboard controls, underpinned
by artificial intelligence (AI).
With AI, he surmised, “not only can we
know when they wash their car, but that they
went online and bought their movie tickets.
So, it’s going to be a date night. And
wouldn’t it be nice if my car says, ‘Hey, it’s
date night. Here’s a car wash close to you’?”
Integrating the data with service providers
(such as garages) means that cars can
be directed to optimal locations, based on
shorter lines — Frieden likened it to using
crowdsourced data. As for security, the executive
noted that P97 has been working
with the card networks to create a transaction
cloaked in tokenization, a vital line of defense
— which, along with multi-factor and
geolocation services, can blunt skimming.
The benefits of connected commerce
can accrue up and down the retail chain.
Frieden noted that quick-serve restaurants
(QSRs) and the ubiquitous drive-through experience
can be streamlined, too.
Frieden said QSRs have been constrained
by drive-up windows or POS lines within the
store. However, when we now start moving
to connected cars and in mobile commerce,
we really just opened up a third channel,
which is this curbside delivery, with almost
no incremental cost to a QSR merchant. It
can increase and leverage capacity by as
much as 30 or 40 percent more.
In the end, he said, the connected commerce
experience, as wrought by P97, “is
really about powering prompts during your
daily activities or daily driving, and using
crowdsourced notifications in these connected
cars and mobile apps.
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