Wawa Goes Extra Mile to Protect Customer Data

WAWA, Pa. — With several data breaches making headlines recently, data security and protecting customer identities is perhaps the No. 1 technology concern for convenience store retailers today. One c-store chain in particular, Wawa Inc., has taken extra steps to ensure its customer information is safe by forging a relationship with UnboundID and Ping Identity for its mobile app.

Wawa decided to create a mobile app 18 months ago because the Pennsylvania-based retailer wanted to create new opportunities to interact with its customers more directly on a personal level, Eric Barnes, IT engineering manager for Wawa, told CSNews Online.

"The Wawa mobile app allows us to provide customers with good information they can use on a day-to-day basis," he said. "Our mobile app provides location information, gas price information and also allows customers to load a gift card and use it for payment in our stores."

To provide all of these features, Wawa needed to incorporate an identity management tool that it could scale. "To get involved with these applications, you are looking at hundreds of thousands, if not millions of users," noted Barnes. "In our discovery phase, we determined Ping and Unbound were good solutions for the problems we needed to solve for our applications."

UnboundID is a software platform that features an identity repository, which differentiates itself in a number of ways, such as the ability to build applications and digital experiences that rely on a profile database that can power high-scale applications. This means a retailer such as Wawa can manage identities for up to hundreds of millions of customers.

"It's all about real-time interactions at scale," said Emeka Obianwu, vice president of channels and alliances at Austin, Texas-based UnboundID.

Denver-based Ping Identity allows consumers to use a single log-in credential to get into the several different applications housed within a mobile app without having to reauthenticate. Hence, consumers can self-manage their passwords through a secured mechanism, and use single sign-on authentication for all of the applications incorporated into the mobile app, explained Christine Bevilacqua, the company's consumer identity solutions and marketing leader.


Since protecting customer identities is so important to Wawa, the c-store retailer felt it had to do everything possible to make sure its data would not be hacked. Of course, no technology can ever accurately claim it is 100-percent breach proof, but UnboundID and Ping Identity both pride themselves on security first and foremost, the companies relayed.

Wawa first implemented the UnboundID and Ping Identity solutions one year ago, and has been using both solutions actively with its customer base since January. Barnes said he is pleased with the results thus far.

"The relationship with Ping and Unbound has been great," he said. "Like us, they have stayed on top of the current trends and have helped us maintain a top level of security across our platform. From that respect, I feel very comfortable."

Still, Barnes acknowledged Wawa can never relax against the possibility of cyberattacks. "When it comes to data security, it's a 24/7 job and we are always on guard," he stressed. "The benefit we have is [that] we have [implemented] technology that moves at that same 24/7 pace."

Wawa operates nearly 700 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida.

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