Earlier this year, the quarterly NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Retailer Sentiment Survey revealed that a whopping 74% of convenience stores (c-stores) experienced an increase in in-store sales in 2019. It’s not surprising since c-stores fill a unique niche by providing one-stop shopping for staples such as groceries (fresh food and packaged), alcohol and tobacco, and gasoline. As more Americans visit c-stores for their needs, it makes sense that c-store owner-operators—particularly smaller independents—will turn to technology to streamline operations, increase profits and improve the customer experience. Here are three technology trends anticipated to play a significant role in the c-store industry in 2020:
1. Streamline the checkout process
Despite rising sales, the convenience store industry is built on slim margins. While this creates challenges for operators, it creates opportunities for technology solution providers. The most significant trend currently centers around streamlining the checkout process. Depending on the c-store’s desires and budgets, this is being accomplished in a few different ways.
At its most basic, streamlining checkout can be as simple as making the payment process as user-friendly and streamlined as possible. Contactless mobile/NFC payments can play a significant role here. On the opposite end of complexity and budget is the scan-and-go self-checkout model. Made famous by Amazon Go and a 7-Eleven pilot
, technology that turns this science fiction into reality is coming to market at more attainable price points.
2. Offer loyalty marketing solutions
Every retail and restaurant business is seeking to engage with customers in ways that add value and create positive experiences for the customer. One way to engage with customers while providing value is with a loyalty program.
While a loyalty program is itself valuable for a c-store to offer, don’t overlook the additional benefit of collecting email addresses of loyalty members and being able to send targeted marketing to that list. Many loyalty systems (whether standalone or built into existing POS software) include the ability to use sales data to segment customers based on past shopping behaviors, frequency of visits and more. Armed with customer sales data, c-stores can send highly targeted messages to customers. Customers appreciate the opportunity to save some money and c-stores welcome the boost to sales.
3. Provide mobile payments at the gas pump
More and more, consumers are finding that contactless payments (whether with your smartphone or a contactless card) are faster and more convenient than traditional credit cards and cash. With this and persistent concerns about spreading sickness in public spaces, contactless payments are on the rise in the U.S. Since gas pumps have a reputation for being particularly germ-ridden, it makes sense that contactless payment terminals will find their way to the pumps. Some c-stores have taken this concept a step further by launching a smartphone app
that allows customers to quickly pay for fuel and earn loyalty points without a swipe or tap.
Keep an eye on these trends
You might think that your merchants aren’t ready for self-checkout, loyalty programs and mobile payments at the pump, but can they afford to delay in this competitive climate? For more information on next-generation payment terminals, loyalty software and c-store customer engagement solutions, contact Angie Lawrence
, Ingram Micro’s DCPOS expert.
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