C-Stores And The Big Technology Challenge
It is the era of highly sophisticated technology. RFID, smartphones, GPS, social media channels, NFC, and many more make up the impressive array of technologies that is progressively becoming the real workhorse behind retail operations. Given this backdrop, convenience stores that turn their noses up at flourishing technologies will be doing so at their own peril. It is not a question of choice; they have to accept the hard fact. Pleasingly, a good number of them have put their technology armor on, but there are folks who still struggle to crack open the cocoon of detachment.
The high-voltage game is on, will get more intense in the coming days
Certain technologies are already taking root in the convenience store ecosystem. They are pushing the infrastructure of the stores hundred notches above the older format to provide shoppers a more reliable, fast, and personalized shopping experience. In the not-so-distant future also, these will continue to play a huge catalytic role. Network security has pivotal importance in this respect. In consonance with the rigorous norms of PCI, convenience stores have to ensure the existence of solid multiple networks to separate three sets of data- cardholder data, corporate data, and employee data. Another concept that is bringing seismic disruption in the C-store arena is mobile-ready payment systems. Along with this remains a nagging question – why will customers be interested in mobile payment option and discard cash or plastic? To make contact-free checkout come on stream, convenience stores should give tailor-made sweeteners to shoppers.
Again, in this high-definition world, digital signage is essential for C-stores to display targeted message in an effective and fun-filled way. As content on digitally enhanced boards is customized automatically, it can grab eyeballs of different cohorts of shoppers easily. Customers are now a 24/7 connected lot and want the same level of connectivity while inside the store. By installing a committed in-store Wi-Fi platform, convenience stores can give customers the smooth passage to cyberspace at all times.
C-stores have fared just the passing mark in terms of latest technology adoption, still a long way to go
It’s not that convenience stores are wriggling off the hook when it comes to investment in state-of-the-art technologies, but they require persistent unidirectional efforts to pass muster. A study conducted by a leading publication associated with the industry to find out how tech-savvy C-stores were in the last year has put forth interesting figures. In 2013, more than 90% of convenience retailers have used their war chests to support technology-related expenditure. On an average, each of them expended $1.425 million. Nearly 50% of the respondents surveyed have made up their mind to increase the outlay even more in the current year. Nonetheless, not every statistic exudes exhilaration. For instance, as low as 29% of C-stores are utilizing mobile apps to connect with the customers. In case of loyalty schemes, the performance is again suboptimal with about 56% joining the fray. If we concentrate on social media, the virtual interactive outlets that are growing in monstrous proportions, convenience stores exhibit decent numbers. Barring 32%, all the rest are maintaining accounts on social networking channels with Facebook, Twitter, and foursquare being the top three choices. Chains like Sheetz, Wawa, or 7-Eleven are very active on the social scene and have built an impressive fan following.
Root and branch transformation with the help of consumer-facing technologies is the solitary way to defend own turf
Smart customers want to extract something extra from each transaction they make at C-stores. Keeping this in mind, corner shops have to bring about a shift in their long-held philosophy that the stores are mere refueling stations. And, the only recourse for making that shift happen is to adopt emerging technologies. This will redefine customer engagement practices and sustain a favorable bottom line. Thus, to avoid eventual submersion in obsolescence and retain the precious “convenience” tag in their names, C-stores have to mould themselves into technology-driven destinations.
C-stores to utilize analytics to beat competitors
Although, retailers world over have been making best use of analytics for a long time, c-stores were always behind in this domain. But today’s big c-store chains are getting more conscious about their customers and are now using advanced analytics to stay a step ahead in terms of promotions, shopper engagement, merchandising, pricing, and marketing.
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