Casey’s Digital Push Pays Off

The c-store chain’s technology work before COVID-19 struck helped it build a robust digital presence.

November 23, 2020

ANKENY, Iowa—Successfully pivoting during the pandemic to not only maintain operations but grow them requires a focus on people and products plus a robust back-end technology strategy to support it all. Ahead of the pandemic, Casey’s General Stores Inc. already had a technology stack in place and a new digital strategy, allowing it to swiftly respond to consumer demands as an essential business.

In a June interview with NACS Daily, Chris Jones, chief marketing office for Casey’s, shared how the company’s new strategic plan, released in January, served as Casey’s compass for navigating the pandemic. Driving digital transformation is a key priority in Casey’s strategic plan, Jones told NACS Daily, “and in serving our guests through the COVID-19 crisis, we were well-positioned to accelerate our digital roadmap.”

Casey’s launched its new loyalty program, Casey’s Rewards, in January, featuring an updated app, which turned out to be a linchpin in Casey’s pivot to mobile ordering, delivery and curbside pickup, Art Sebastian, vice president, digital experience, outlined in a recent interview with Diginomica.

“We built what we proudly call our enterprise-grade technology stack... We shifted and took a much more modern approach with a microservices layer, leveraging APIs to move data across our systems,” Sebastian told Diginomica.

“At this point, we have a new CRM; we have a new website, new mobile apps, new in-store kitchen technology to support telephone orders, which is still a big business—and a brand new loyalty program. We are feeling like, ‘We’ve got this thing going; February was an amazing month for us from a business perspective.’”

When the pandemic struck and convenience stores won designation as essential businesses in March, Casey’s “stayed open, and [turned to] this technology stack that we put in place. The timing worked out well for us, because we built the stack to be flexible in nature. We continue to have a good roadmap of enhancements,” Sebastian said.

Casey’s in April partnered with DoorDash to offer expanded services, including grocery items, to 579 additional stores. About 1,000 Casey’s stores already had delivery pre-pandemic.

“We were in a good spot during a really bad time. We were able to keep the business going, and keep customers engaged,” Sebastian said.

In October, Casey’s unveiled a new look with a brand update; new loyalty program; enhanced online ordering, delivery services and curbside pickup. The ordering system is built on SAP Commerce Cloud, and has built-in flexibility to add new features quickly. That allowed Casey’s to quickly add SKUs to begin selling general merchandise and health and wellness products via the app, in addition to the chain’s beloved pizza. In September, Casey’s launched a curbside pickup service as a fully integrated option inside the c-store chain’s app at more than 2,000 Casey’s stores.

Earlier this month, Casey’s announced a $580 million cash deal to acquire Buchanan Energy and its chain of Bucky’s Convenience Stores. The acquisition expands Casey’s reach in key Midwest markets, mainly in Illinois and Nebraska, and boosts Casey’s store count to more than 2,300 in 16 states.

For more tech debt and how to manage it, read “Beware of Tech Debt” in the October issue of NACS Magazine and “Building for Tomorrow” in the August issue of NACS Magazine.