CITGO Focuses 2018 Initiatives on Marketers' Needs
HOUSTON — For three decades now, CITGO Petroleum Corp. has kicked off every new year by spending face-to-face time with CITGO marketers in various cities throughout the company's U.S. footprint, outlining plans for brand growth, sharing operating best practices, and making them aware of the latest industry trends.
During this year's 30th annual CITGO Marketer Roundtable Meetings, which took place Jan. 11 through Feb. 1 throughout the company's Central, Northeast and Southern marketing regions, brand executives discussed six major initiatives and more for 2018.
A major focus for CITGO this year is looking even farther ahead to October 2020, the deadline for installing EMV chip-card readers at gas pumps in the United States. While there's more than two years before the liability shift occurs, industry estimates indicate that approximately half of fuel dispensers in the nation still need to be upgraded to meet the Visa/MasterCard deadline, according to CITGO.
"We're working on telling our customers that this is coming: we've got to get the dispensers upgraded by 2020," CITGO Assistant Vice President of Supply and Marketing Alan Flagg told Convenience Store News, noting that marketers are encouraged to act early in order to be ready.
A new CITGO dispenser program for 2018 includes incentives of up to $3,000 for each dispenser upgraded for EMV this year; an incentive of $1,000 to retrofit to EMV-NFC capable card readers for locations with newer equipment; and specially negotiated pricing for the latest state-of-the-art fuel dispensing equipment.
Another major focus is important changes being made to CITGO's Grow Bucks program. While the company still wants to see growth in terms of total locations, it is also taking a close look at individual locations. Accordingly, locations that sell higher volumes of fuel will receive a higher cash payment as a bonus when they rebrand to CITGO — up to $75,000 in additional funding.
Although CITGO hasn't set minimum volume requirements, as some fuel brands have, it is extremely interested in branding higher-volume sites. "The industry is changing and evolving," Flagg said. "The higher-volume retail location is a driver in the business."
Along with financial incentives to rebrand, CITGO has introduced changes to its branding programs. This includes the use of lighting features such as an eyebrow lighting option for the fuel canopy, and improved materials and designs that limit the amount of maintenance required in order to keep a crisp image in the market.
Flagg cited CITGO's new partnership with a Nashville-based advertising agency as a factor in the company's fresh marketing plans. This partnership includes plans to introduce new fuel dispenser images and sign panels in April in support of CITGO's Triclean gasoline grades.
Quality fuel is one of the top five reasons consumers choose to fill up at a particular station, so it makes good business sense to highlight TriClean's Top Tier certified status and its "Good Gas. Guaranteed" promise, the company noted.
Other 2018 brand enhancements include:
- Updates to the Club CITGO mobile app, such as the introduction of mobile payment features and the incorporation of transactional data from locations that scan.
- Plans to build coalition partnerships to allow redemption of points from other loyalty programs at participating CITGO locations.
- Plans to build upon its two-year partnership with Synchrony and continue growing its Rewards Card program, offering various introductory offers for new cardholders, in addition to the every day 5-cent reward for existing members.
- Leveraging the successes it has experienced with local area marketing and introducing a greeter program offer.
While CITGO officials expect these initiatives to lead to positive results, the company will adjust future plans based on the effect these initiatives have on its marketers and the feedback received from them; rather than taking a fully top-down approach.
"We're a listening company," Flagg said. "We're there to learn what their needs are."
The key to 30 years of success for its annual CITGO Marketer Roundtable Meetings has been the emphasis on communication, according to Flagg. "It's a very open forum," he told CSNews. "Lots of questions are encouraged."
The agenda is planned months in advance based on CITGO marketer feedback, regular marketer council sessions, and upcoming CITGO brand initiatives. The meetings bring together corporate representatives from regional sales, brand programs and payment programs with local marketers. The goal is to make the meetings interactive for attendees, "not just a big data download," Flagg said.