Answer 7 Questions to Discover a Winning App Strategy

The Android and Apple app stores now present more than 5 million apps1 to consumers and are dominated by two behemoth brands, Facebook and Google, which publish 8 of the top 10 apps.2 Developing a winning app strategy in this hyper-competitive app marketplace is a challenge for any size retailer. This article poses seven questions to guide your discovery of a winning app strategy for your organization.

Set aside some time to engage a diverse set of stakeholders. Schedule enough time so you can really think strategically. Start broad, record all of the ideas and then gradually narrow your focus.

Let’s get started.

  1. Why are you building a mobile app?

What business outcomes are you trying to achieve with a mobile app? How does the app fit into your digital strategy? How will you measure success? Do you need 3rd party tools? Frequency of measurement? What will be your key performance indicators?

  1. Who are you building the app for?

Who represents the best opportunity to achieve your desired business outcomes? Identify and specifically describe your primary target audience. What platforms are they on? What devices do they use? Where do they hang out? What do they value? If you don’t select and focus on a specific segment, your app will be an under-performer.

  1. What jobs are they trying to do?

What functional jobs are they trying to do? Save money? Go faster? Enjoy more convenience? Be more secure? Don’t overlook the social and emotional aspects of the job. What do they want to be seen doing? Who do they want to be seen doing it with?

  1. What is the app going to do?

How will each feature deliver value to your primary target users? How will it improve user acquisition? User retention? What is not going to do? What doesn’t fit in? What is your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? Enforce a rigorous prioritization approach. Only include what is necessary. Less is more with apps. What kind of app experience will delight your target users? What data will users need access to? When? Will you need technology partners to deliver any of the features? What areas do you need help with?

  1. What is the app’s value proposition?

How will you entice users to switch from their current solution? Why should they download and use your app? Will you eliminate their pains? Will you enhance their lives? How will you communicate your value proposition to target users? What do you need to protect to secure your value proposition? Payment data (PCI-DSS)? Personally Identifiable Information (PII)? How will you demonstrate that it is secure?

  1. How will you acquire users?

How will users find your app? Over 90 percent of apps are labeled “App Zombies.”3 These apps cannot be found organically in an app store listing, so users can only find the app by searching for it by name. How will users learn the name of your app? What will each user cost to acquire?

  1. How will you retain users?

How will you onboard users? A guided feature tour? Swipe through a slide show? Watch videos? How will you lead users to their ‘Aha’ moment, where your value proposition becomes real to them personally? How will you engage users? How will you message them? Email? In-App message inbox? Push messages? What upgrade frequency will you commit to? How will you share that your app is getting better because of user feedback? How will you understand user behaviors? How will you measure retention? Which analytics tool will use?

Your answers to these questions will capture your team’s beliefs and assumptions. Schedule additional sessions to research and validate them. Refining your seven answers by working through iterative sessions will develop the most capable strategy. The challenge is to arrive at seven answers that are consistent, reinforce each other and you actually want to execute.

If you would like to learn more or discuss your answers to these questions, including what happens after you answer these questions, you can reach out to Kevin Struthers at



2comScore Mobile Metrix, US, Age 18+, June 2017



The Expanding Back Office

The following article has been re-posted from Convenience Store Decisions. The original posting can be found here.

Cloud and mobile are among the technologies pushing the envelope of internal store systems.

By Ed Collupy

Recent store visits have often allowed me to spend time in the ‘back office’ and have reaffirmed for me that retail store managers have a lot going on.

There are people interactions, printed and posted operational & marketing directives, compliance forms to be completed, cash to be deposited, technology to interact with, and more. And then there have been interactions with back-office providers that have confirmed, just what I saw at stores; the back office isn’t in the back—it can be anywhere, even away from the store, which happens far more often than it used to.

As business models in the c-store/retail petroleum industry have changed, their needs with back-office systems “are dramatically different,” said Ken Piddington, chief information officer at MRE Consulting and formerly at Global Partners, told me during a recent conversation. He sees retailers and wholesale fuel distributors using several back-office solutions. Although traditional back-office solutions have been extended either through development efforts or by acquiring others “there isn’t one that does everything,” Piddington shared. He highlighted the need to be sure there’s a solid plan to integrate systems so each system can get to the other and share data.


In those back offices I visited, managers were not only downloading their price book and uploading sales data from the point-of-sale system to the back-office system, but they were using the data to evaluate their own store’s performance, benchmark themselves against their peers and set a plan for their day on the sales floor with customers.

Matthew Webb, operations manager at Webb’s Auto & Truck Services, operates a Circle K/76 store in Bell Gardens, Calif., and refers to his back-office systems as the “brains of the business.” A back-office capability he uses is a Transaction Analysis tool that lets him analyze trends like average fuel fills and customer transactions to see if his “customer base is growing or shrinking.”

Webb, when I spoke with him was in his ‘back office’ using another back-office system to prepare his payroll using a cloud-based solution. And he’s been ready to adopt other early on ‘back office’ solutions for his business. He has participated in beta tests with an automated promotions platform Circle K was bringing to their franchisees, that to Piddington’s point is integrated to his traditional back-office price book module, and is currently piloting a Virtual Inventory system.


Mark Jordan, President of South Carolina-based Refuel Inc., refers to his back-office system as “a platform” he uses beyond price book and standardized reporting. Being able to perform analysis on what happened last week, track down a transaction tying a receipt and video clip together, and customize reporting around sales and purchases helps in not only a new concept store with wine tasting, but in his other four locations.

Jordan also said his alternative payment and discount fuel program has ‘back-office’ capabilities; providing “insights into customers such as what they are buying and then customize offers to customers.”

At Tooley Oil based in Sacramento, Calif., David Tooley, vice president of marketing, worked with his solution provider to extend the ‘back office’ to what his customers were buying and now is conducting market basket analyses. He has been able to “place items and lay out the store, evaluate cross promotions, and know what items customers are more apt to buy with one another.”

The fuel side of the business also has back-office solutions for inventory monitoring, problem alerting and end-to-end pricing. Tooley Oil also has a wholesale fuel business and relies on a couple of back-office point solutions with features and functions specific to managing the wet stock part of their business and the retailers they supply.

Meanwhile, at West Des Moines-based Kum & Go, general managers begin “a circle” with competitive price input to a back-office fuel pricing system that is sent to centralized systems where pricing and other fuel data can be “mined, analyzed and modeled” before its sent back to the store for the “manager to act on it and then generate more data,” Matt Spackman, vice president fuels at Kum & Go told me. To help with communications and execution the Kum & Go team uses a homegrown system that helps their store employees manage tasks and notify other back-office users of them being complete.


With foodservice becoming so prevalent throughout the c-store industry the traditional back-office solution providers continue to improve their software by adding important elements to their software. One group of back-office users recently learned about a feature in their provider’s system where, to help with inventory control, you can print scanable shelf labels for items not sold individually, like a bin of cut vegetables or mashed potatoes. They also learned that in the latest software release nutrition facts and cooking unit of measures are features that will provide additional back-office capabilities.

“We didn’t understand foodservice food costs at all in the beginning,” Jordan said. He attributes using the foodservice module of his ‘back-office’ system, which allows him “to calculate item costs by drilling down into component costs,” to its success today.

Labor continues to drive c-store operators to find ways to control costs. Many cloud-based labor management systems rely on back-office data to make its own back-office solution. Fuel tank levels, from the underground storage tank, can move from the store’s Automatic Tank Gauge to a shared ‘back office’ where data can be accessed away from the store on a mobile device. In today’s world of retail technology, the cloud and mobile are now part of the back office, allowing it to be anywhere and anything.

So a good question you might ask is, “Where and what’s in my back office?”

Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at and be sure to visit for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational, and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses, and technology companies.

To PIN or Not to PIN?

A PIN— a Personal Identification Number. A customer’s PIN is the number that can verify a customer’s identity during a transaction. Most consumers and merchants believe that a PIN should be the de facto method for validating a cardholder’s identity. The question of whether or not a PIN will be the verification method most widely used in the future is not so clear. As the payments industry continues to evolve, this hot-button issue will continue to generate heated debates between consumers, merchants, and the credit networks over the safety and validity of PIN as a verification method. Should PIN be the primary form of verification for a customer?

The History of PIN in the US

For those of us that grew up in the United States, when we hear “PIN”, we automatically think of the 4-digit (in most cases) code that we use with our debit cards at an ATM or when prompted at a retail location to authorize a purchase. In the latter scenario, the consumer has typically had the option to press the cancel key or red “X” on the PIN Pad to avoid entering his or her PIN. The implementation of EMV chip technology has disrupted this option of consumer choice regarding the use of PIN. As the rest of the world implemented EMV beginning in the 90s, the “normal” implementation was Chip + PIN. The chip authenticated that the card was valid, and the PIN verified the customer’s identity— thus, the PIN was a key part of transaction completion.

The US charted a different path for its implementation of EMV, taking the approach of “Chip + Choice.” US financial institutions can issue new chip cards with a preferred Cardholder Verification Method (CVM) of either PIN or Signature.

Though many in the industry wondered why issuers would choose Signature over PIN, there are a number of possible reasons:

  • There is a stance that signature is just as strong as PIN to verify a customer
  • A signature can always be remembered; customers cannot necessarily remember different PINs for different cards in their wallet, especially with the ability to have a PIN associated with a credit card.
  • Verification of PIN in real time would require issuers to invest in significant infrastructure upgrades
  • Issuers do not want to incur the financial loss of interchange for transactions routing over PIN Debit rails instead of credit rails.

While half of these reasons contain some validity, another more legitimate argument is that the large majority of card present fraud committed is counterfeit, which chip technology is designed to protect against. If a fraudster has a physical stolen card, they are likely to attempt a transaction in a Card Not Present environment, as there is more opportunity and greater ease to make a fraudulent purchase without PIN or Signature verification. Additionally, we do know that Card Not Present fraud has increased as the US has implemented the acceptance of chip technology. Does this mean that the payments industry should refrain from promoting the use of PIN for card present purchases?

The Future of PIN

While the purpose of this article is not to argue whether or not the US should have mandated PIN acceptance with the implementation of EMV, I think it is important to understand industry trends to consider in speculating whether PIN will be the verification method of the future. There are new uses cases gaining attention around “PIN on Glass” transactions where a customer can enter a PIN on a touchscreen. While the security of this use case continues to spark debate, PIN in this instance provides one more potential method to verify a customer.

Another change in the payments industry was the announcement by Mastercard that, beginning in April 2018, it will be optional for merchants to obtain a signature as a CVM for any purchase. The logic behind this decision is that other technology controls are in place, and the removal of signature capture will speed up the checkout process. While this is true, the speed of checkout can be addressed by using No CVM (e.g. no PIN or Signature) for small-ticket transactions. The other payment brands have not made official announcements about whether they will follow suit and remove the requirement for merchants to obtain a signature, but the removal of this requirement by MasterCard adds merit to the argument that Signature is not doing much to curb fraudulent transactions, and that it is not a strong enough verification method.

New verification methods, such as biometrics (including fingerprints and facial recognition via devices such as iPhone X), provide other avenues to verify customers for purchases made with payment wallets in smartphones. While these contactless transactions still make up a small percentage of overall purchases, this percentage will inevitably continue to increase. (This is the year of Mobile, right?)

PIN has been a proven method to verify customers for years, and Signature appears to be on its way out. In the next few years, issuers will be issuing the 2nd wave of EMV chip cards. As the payments ecosystem improves with innovations such as faster payments and blockchain technology, it remains to be seen if PIN will emerge as the preferred method of verification. Guess we’ll all be waiting on PINs and needles to see!

For further discussion, contact Clint at