Murphy USA Hits Jackpot With Play at the Pump
EL DORADO, Ark. — Convenience store operators have long fought the difficult battle of finding ways to draw customers from the fuel pumps to inside their stores. But thanks to a new program called Play at the Pump from manufacturer Linq3, they no longer have to when it comes to lottery sales.
Another source of revenue is now in play at Murphy USA Inc. locations that does not require customers to set foot inside the c-store.
The program, which sells lottery tickets at the dispenser, has given Murphy USA a new way earn potential additional revenue from 1 million customers who previously drove away following a fill-up, Steve Desautels, category manager of nonfoods for the c-store retailer, told CSNews Online.
“At Murphy USA, we serve about 1.65 million customers per day at our fueling islands,” he said. “As an industry standard, 65 [percent] to 72 percent of all these customers never come inside the store. So that’s 1 million customers who never come into our locations.”
El Dorado-based Murphy USA implemented Play at the Pump at its first site on Feb. 3. Since then, the c-store operator has expanded it to 134 Murphy USA and Murphy Express locations.
Play at the Pump is currently approved in North Carolina, California, Missouri and Minnesota. Murphy USA has Play at the Pump available in all of these states except California, where it does not operate.
A fifth state, Pennsylvania, will be coming onboard in mid-October, with a half-dozen more states expected to approve lottery at the pump in the next quarter or so, according to Daniel Cage, CEO of Linq3. And he expects many more states to approve lottery sales at the dispenser in the future.
Thus far, Murphy USA has hit the proverbial jackpot with the new offering. “Among the three states [in which we have Play at the Pump], the lift provided at the pumps is about 4.5 percent of our overall lotto sales,” Desautels said. “Think of how big that is. Normally, you’d have to do all sorts of promotions and initiatives to grow your sales by 5 percent. We grew lottery sales by 4.5 percent simply by adding a new technology.”
In addition to higher sales, the Murphy USA executive noted that lines to purchase lottery tickets in-store can be long especially when lottery jackpots reach large potential payouts in excess of $100 million.
“It really can tie up our cashiers, who have to keep printing out tickets one after another. Play at the Pump gives you an additional lottery terminal at every pump. Also, every transaction completed at the pump requires no employee interaction. So there’s no payroll needed to do it. That’s a huge plus,” Desautels added.
Conversely, he pointed out that lotto enthusiasts are still coming into the store to buy their tickets, with very few opting for Play at the Pump. Hence, Murphy USA’s in-store sales have not suffered as a result of people no longer buying beverages or snacks along with their lottery purchase.
“Big lottery fans also have a lot of habits and superstitions,” said Desautels. “The people who always came inside to play their numbers continue to do so. The people who use Play at the Pump are often ‘ATM customers’ — people in a hurry who are willing to pay ATM fees just to avoid going to the bank. That’s the customer we are targeting.”
Linq3 doesn’t sell tickets for all games at the pump, so customers still have reasons to purchase lottery tickets in-store, said Cage. Play at the Pump currently allows consumers to play Quick Picks for PowerBall and MegaMillions in all four states. North Carolina also allows consumers to play Carolina Cash 5.
“More than half of the lottery tickets sold in-store are instant-win tickets,” Cage said. “We are not selling those.”
EASY TO PLAY…AND WIN
Play at the Pump is easy to both offer and use, Cage stressed. For c-store operators, it is difficult for single-line dispensers to offer the technology, but otherwise it mainly requires only point-of-sale updates.
On the customer end, no pre-registration is required for the program, nor do they need to download a mobile app. When a customer selects lotto numbers at the pump, they are printed out on a receipt. Linq3 also asks for a consumer’s cell phone number and sends a link to the number via text message.
In most cases, if a customer wins up to $600 — what Linq3 refers to as a “low-tier win” — the funds are generally remitted to a linked account within 24 hours.
Desautels said this a great benefit to Murphy USA as cashiers don’t have to pay out prizes of up to $600 from the registers anymore.
“It’s usually tough for a cashier to pay out between $100 and $600 without wiping out their drawer,” he said. “Often, customers were forced to wait at the location while the cashier drops money in tubes from a safe every 10 minutes.”
Customers enjoying a “high-tier win” of more than $600 need to visit a local lottery office to collect their earnings.
“When we enter a state, we provide a winner verification terminal at all regional lottery offices,” explained Cage. “Customers go into the lottery office as they would today, present their debit card and an ID. The lottery has a system we provide them that allows consumers to swipe a debit card and put in their PIN number. We then verify to the state lottery that it was a transaction that occurred at the pump and away the customer goes with their money.”
In fact, one customer already hit it really big, winning $227,196 playing Carolina Cash 5, the biggest jackpot won via the Play at the Pump technology thus far.
Murphy USA first learned about Play at the Pump when the state of Minnesota asked the retailer if it would be interested in being a pilot company for the new lottery technology. Murphy USA had to work out some details with Linq3, mainly the need to create software specifically for the retailer so that the initiative could work on all makes and models of fuel dispensers it operates at Murphy USA and Murphy Express locations.
“We worked hand-in-hand with Linq3 for about a year and a half to two years to develop the technology,” said Desautels. “We wanted to ensure it was a consistent offering for all of our customers. Now, we can simply say one day we want our Minnesota stores to have [Play at the Pump]. The next day, all of our Minnesota stores would have it.”
Customer feedback has been excellent. “We get a lot of comments like ‘I don’t need to leave my car to play lotto anymore,’” concluded Desautels. “Or ‘I don’t need to fill out a slip.’ It’s amazing all the different compliments you get by moving to this offering.”
Murphy USA Inc. operates 1,282 convenience stores.