Under the hood of ExxonMobil's Speedpass expansion

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ExxonMobil's contactless and mobile payment system, Speedpass, is well known as a way to help drivers accelerate the payment process after they fill up on gas. The system's latest updates focus less on the payment process and more on flexibility and rewards.

Speedpass dates back to 1997, when it operated as a wireless keyfob that motorists used to pay for fuel. The latest version, called Speedpass+, is an app-based payment system that debuted in March of last year and now works at 90% of ExxonMobil's more than 11,000 stations nationwide.

ExxonMobil also participates in the multi-merchant Plenti loyalty program, but bringing Plenti rewards to its full network of gas stations was a complicated process.

“Exxon and Mobil stations are supplied by authorized independent branded wholesalers who either operate the stations directly or have a contractual relationship with an independent owner,” said Aaron Stryk, a spokesperson for the company. When the company wants to make a change, it has to negotiate that change with every wholesaler.

Despite this complexity, Plenti is integrated into over 90% of ExxonMobil's U.S. network, according to Stryk. On May 15, the company launched a promotion that offers 2,000 Plenti points—worth $20—for three purchases of at least 10 gallons of gas.

Plenti, which is managed by American Express, includes many members such as AT&T, Macy’s and Rite Aid; it added its first grocer, Southeastern Grocers LLC, in March. Plenti does not allow two direct competitors to participate in its program, so ExxonMobil will be the only gas station brand in its footprint.

Technology has helped bring ExxonMobil's gas station operators on board with both Speedpass+ and Plenti, said Bryant Russell, ExxonMobil’s U.S. program manager for mobile payment and loyalty.

The Speedpass+ application, which is integrated with Plenti, interacts with gas station equipment via geolocation technology that recognizes Speedpass+ users. “There’s no change from a hardware point of view,” Russell said.

Speedpass+ also allows customers to apply for and begin using an ExxonMobil credit card in the application before the physical card arrives in the mail.

ExxonMobil also supports other high-tech payment options such as the Apple Watch or a Ford vehicle with SYNC 3 technology. "It’s incumbent on us to innovate and stay in touch," Russell said.

The Speedpass+ application is designed to minimize any changes in behavior on the part of the customer while still improving the overall payment process, notes Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group.

“It’s removing friction,” Peterson says. “It’s much easier than using your credit card.”

ExxonMobil is far from the only gas station brand experimenting in rewards and payments. In May 2015, BP launched its Driver Rewards loyalty program, which it updated last month to enable customers to link any major credit card to a BP loyalty account.

“From a product perspective it’s a really good idea,” Peterson says. “It habituates the customer and keeps them coming back”

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