October 22, 2021

Apps get customers’ attention in a snap

Twenty years go, if someone forgot their wallet at a store they would be out of luck buying whatever they chose.

That’s not necessarily the case today, as long as they don’t forget their smart phone.

A growing number of stores are developing and promoting apps on smart phones where their customers can see the latest offers and use digital coupons. Creston has retailers with apps.

“The mobile app is the center of the experience,” said Mike Templeton, director of digital marketing and guest loyalty for Casey’s General Stores. “That’s the way we stay in touch with them.” Creston has three Casey’ locations.

Having had a relationship years prior with Hy-Vee on fuel discounts, Casey’s launched its own customer loyalty program in January 2020. Casey’s Rewards makes customers able to accumulate points on certain purchases. When a point level has been reached, customers can convert them to fuel discounts, help pay for store items or donate to schools.

“We had talked to guests and asked what they are interested in,” Templeton said about developing the program that started in 2018. “The pizza box tops have been there forever and people considered it a form of currency.”

After 10 large pizza purchases, the next pizza was free. That incentive was converted into the program keeping track of customers’ pizza purchases through the app. Templeton said more than half of Casey’s pizza are ordered online.

Having an amount and ability to spend is what gets people’s attention.

“Casey’s cash is what people are most engaged in,” Templeton said. Having a form of money to be spent is the attraction. “Casey’s cash is what people are most engaged in. ‘I forgot my wallet,’ but nobody leaves home without their phone.”

Templeton said what helps individual stores are the employees who also utilize Casey’s Rewards.

“We have surveyed our stores and a majority of them are also members. We have our own team members who are engaged. ‘Show me your phone and I”ll show you how to get started,’” Templeton said.”

Earlier this year, fast-food giant McDonald’s added a rewards feature to its app. Customers earn points with purchases that can be used for free food. Prior, McDonald’s app showed daily deals on certain items. Creston has a McDonald’s.

“It’s mostly used for curbside orders, because of COVID,” said Gary Board, a shift manager at Creston. With an account, customers can order in advance and pay online and have the items delivered to them in a designated parking space.

But he said people are still paying attention to what else is offered.

“After COVID lifted a little, we started the rewards program and we are still getting customers used to it. It’s still a positive feedback since it’s free stuff,” he said.

Board said the most popular offer used on the app is for free French fries.

“You get free stuff, you can get something else too. It’s that simple,” he said. “If it’s not free, you can buy something additional for just a quarter.”

A business does not have to be part of a large corporation to get customers’ attention through the company app. Stacey Ray owner of Union 25 coffee in Creston uses the Joe app. Joe is a network of small, independently owned coffee shops across the country. She learned of the app during a coffee convention in Texas.

“It was a perfect fit for my plan,” she said about her business. “My focus was convenience with the pace of society the way it is. You just have a few minutes.”

Like with other food-related apps, Ray said the Joe app makes it able for customers order in advance at a participating location. She has learned of customers driving through Creston who found her location through the Joe app.

Ray said half of her customers use the Joe app.

Other features on the Joe app include the ease of repeating a past order. Customers can eventually earn a free cup. The app can also be used as a gift card as one Joe user can transfer funds to another Joe user.

Templeton said the diversity of the Casey’s app is a strength, as with other stores.

“People can use it as they see fit,” he said.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.