Case study

AA Smartfuel mobile app continuous improvement

Driving offline interactions into digital channels can make CX richer and more engaging (not to mention more measurable).

Learn how we helped AA Smartfuel optimise their mobile app experience, encouraging more members to use it as their preferred channel.


AA Smartfuel


Financial Services

Type of work

  • Mobile apps

What we did

  • Strategy
  • Information architecture
  • User insight
  • Technology and development
  • Accessibility
  • Testing and assurance
  • Design


  • Native Android
  • Native iOS
Screenshots of the AA Smartfuel Mobile App.

The challenge

In the early 2020s, AA Smartfuel had one of the biggest and most engaged membership bases in NZ’s ultra-competitive coalition loyalty landscape, with around 850k active members per month.

The AA Smartfuel mobile app had been around for a few years and had become an increasingly important part of the member engagement strategy.

AA Smartfuel could see a strong correlation between mobile app usage and higher programme engagement and spending levels.

It was the channel where they could drive the best performance for their retail partners and fuel offers.

When they ran Direct Marketing campaigns, customers targeted with a push notification in the app converted at a 14% higher rate, when they coupled push notifications with email, members were 22% more likely to redeem an offer than those who only received an email.

The app was an effective driver of marketing performance.

It was also where AA Smartfuel could convey its aggregated value story most effectively and explore ways to broaden how members could earn and redeem their loyalty currency.

The problem was that most customer interactions were still via a physical card swipe at partner retail stores.

The app channel was clearly effective at driving better business results, but the app experience was not where it needed to be to drive mass adoption.

When Catch was appointed AA Smartfuel’s digital partner in 2021, the App Store rating for the mobile app was just 2.9.

So our challenge was clear: optimise the app experience to get as many members as possible using it as frequently as possible…

Screenshots of the AA Smartfuel Mobile App.

The solution

When a loyalty mobile app has to cater to the needs of a large and varied membership base, there’s rarely a silver bullet feature or journey that satisfies everyone.

The key to improving the UX and CX of an existing app is understanding what matters most to people and building a continuous improvement roadmap that prioritises the features that will most efficiently add the most value.

So, at the start of our relationship with AA Smartfuel, we conducted a heuristic evaluation (usability audit) to understand the key customer pain points in the mobile app user experience.

This involved observational and survey-based user testing with a cross-section of AA Smartfuel members, from the young to the young at heart, and from occasional users to fuel discount junkies.

We learned that some of the fundamentals were broken and needed immediate improvement.

This included the onboarding and password management process and the accessibility and usability of the digital barcode for use at the retail point of sale.

This wasn’t sexy stuff, but it was what real AA Smartfuel members told us they needed. So these were the improvements we designed and delivered first.

Within a few weeks, we deployed features that allowed members to create and reset their password in the app and pull up their digital swipe card with a single gesture for speed and convenience when they needed to record a purchase or redeem their discounts at a retail partner store.

Screenshots of the AA Smartfuel Mobile App.

The results

The results were immediate and dramatic.

App store ratings started to climb. And digital swipes increased significantly. We were away!

This gave the combined Catch and AA Smartfuel team confidence to design more complex features.

This included new redemption mechanisms that allowed members to redeem their Cents per Litre (CPL) discounts on UBER rides or ChargeNet EV chargers instead of on traditional fuel savings. These were complicated journeys with partner integrations and secure data exchanges, but by now, the team were in a groove.

We introduced a new way to earn CPL for the first time, partnering with PureProfile to reward members with loyalty currency for completing surveys and adding additional profile data.

We created a highly personalised, data-driven Year-in-Review experience within the app, integrating with AA Smartfuel’s Braze marketing platform to show members how they engaged with the programme over a year.

Each member could take a virtual road trip through 2022 and see their CPL earnings relative to the average, how much they saved compared to others in the base, how many times they swiped their card and where they earned the most discounts.

Kiwis took the opportunity in droves, with a 115% increase in new app users during the campaign period versus monthly active users up 15.4%.

By the end of all this continuous improvement, as the AA Smartfuel programme came to a close in January 2024, the app store rating was sitting at 4.6 stars, and we’d increased app membership since we first started working together.

We’re proud of our work with the AA Smartfuel team on their mobile app and website. It was a wonderful partnership, and it felt like we played a small role in helping hundreds of thousands of Kiwis save millions of dollars at the pump.

And that’s why we love digital…

Screenshots of the AA Smartfuel Mobile App.
Screenshots of the AA Smartfuel Mobile App.