While convenience store operators like 7-Eleven, Kum & Go, Circle K and Parker’s have enhanced their mobile apps with new elements this year, other operators have spent 2023 taking their first steps into these platforms.
That was the case for Dash In, which launched its mobile app — and entire loyalty program — in August.
“We were really behind the curve,” Julian “Blackie” Wills, president and CEO of the Wills Group, parent of Dash In convenience stores, said in an interview. “I know it's table stakes in the industry, but we've just been kind of late to the game.”
Dash In, which operates 55 stores in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia, recently outlined plans to triple its store count by 2030, including expanding into the Carolinas. Its new loyalty program and mobile app, Wills said, will play a major role in those growth plans.
The company piloted its loyalty program and app at one location in Maryland in August, and plans to bring the platform to three additional locations in the coming months, Wills noted.
Within three weeks of debuting its loyalty program and mobile app, Dash In’s rewards platform surpassed 2,500 members, Wills said. Loyalty members seem to be enjoying the app, which has a 4.4 out of 5 rating on the Apple App store.
“It's just been kind of gangbusters out of the gate,” he said.
Although the early results have been positive, reaching this point hasn’t been easy, Wills said.
Dash In worked on its loyalty program and mobile app for three and half years prior to launch. That work first included hiring workers to focus solely on these technology programs and the company’s e-commerce capabilities.
“Not surprisingly, from an IT standpoint, it's been a big lift for that team,” Wills said.
Beyond the staffing, Dash In had to get its point-of-sale and loyalty software providers in place, obtain a mobile payment processor, find a partner that offers menu management and hire a mobile app developer. For the latter, Dash In uses Bounteous, which also works with Wawa, Wills said.
“You've got all these different technologies that have to kind of play nicely and that are tightly integrated,” he said.
To date, Dash In has invested about $3 million into its loyalty program and mobile app, Wills said. And the learning process is still just getting started as the retailer looks to launch both across its entire store network.
“We kind of know what the short-term roadmap looks like,” Wills said. “We're going to test and learn and try some different things, and then that'll inform how we kind of scale across the network in 2024.”
Inside the app
Most of Dash In’s loyalty enrollments are done through the app, Wills noted. The company uses a points-based rewards system where members earn points on their in-store, fuel and car wash purchases, and can then redeem said points for discounted products or in-store currency — also known as Dash Cash.
“We wanted to offer the ability with our rewards program that customers could really earn across all three business segments as well as redeem across all three,” Wills said.
Dash In’s mobile app also lets loyalty customers pay for gas on the app. Customers simply select which pump they’re at on their mobile device, which then connects to that pump through a geofencing feature and activates the fueling process, Wills said. Customers then receive an emailed copy of their receipt.
On the foodservice side — which is a major focus for Dash In — customers can place orders through the app, which integrates with GrubHub, Uber Eats and DoorDash for delivery. Dash In will “soon” offer curbside pickup capabilities through the app as well, Wills noted.
“We're really excited about curbside,” he said. “It would have been nice if we could have offered it during the pandemic, but we just didn't have the technology for it at that time.”
Customers can also purchase car wash trips through the app, and will soon be able to use Google and Apple Pay to pay for their gas as well, Wills said.
Another feature in the app is step-by-step walk-throughs of different elements of Dash In’s loyalty program. For instance, the app’s “rewards” page displays instructions on how customers can earn and redeem points, while the “fuel” tab breaks down how to properly pay during gas trips without using a physical credit card.
“We're pretty excited about what we think the mobile app and this loyalty program is going to bring,” Wills said