Alon Tackles Lubbock

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Alon Tackles Lubbock

LUBBOCK, Texas -- On the campus of Texas Tech University, folks at Dallas-based marketer/convenience store operator Alon USA were firing up the frenzied crowd for this past Saturday's football matchup against cross-state rivals Texas A&M. In a seesaw battle, the Texas Tech Red Raiders stunned the Aggies 48-47. Alon CEO Jeff Morris also scored.

During Thursday's pep rally, he and officials at Alon, the nation's largest licensee of 7-Eleven stores, distributed a special promotion touting the chain's pilot electronic mobile payment option that allows patrons to use their cell phones to buy gas and products in the stores.

Students were handed coupons for a free 12-gallon fill-up at a local 7-Eleven. On the coupon's reverse side was an enrollment form inviting students to be the first in the country to sign up for the cell-phone-as-wallet device, Cellerate.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, hundreds of students, curious onlookers and area residents lined up their cars, snaking a half-mile path, waiting their turn to fuel up. Morris, Alon Marketing vice president Kyle Mc-Keen and others demonstrated the mobile credit card, tapping digits on their cell phones and watching cans of carbonated beverages drop out of a vending machine inside the 7-Eleven unit.

"When they hear about this, you get one kind of reaction. But when they step up there with a cellular phone in hand and do a transaction, they're really impressed," said Morris.

By day's end, some 300 students enrolled, marking the dawn of permission-based marketing. "The big deal isn't just that you can pay with the cell phone," said McKeen, "but that this can be used as a loyalty device without having to carry all those loyalty cards in your wallet."

Alon, he added, expects to enlist at least of handful of local merchants to participate to build a broad-based cellular loyalty community.

ABOVE: Jeff Morris, president and CEO of Alon USA, is joined by Mike Beltz, vice president of marketing for Alliance Data Systems (right) and Shaul Shalev, president and chief executive officer of Cellenium.