Mobile 2 Go: Painting a Mobile Future

PCATS director helps SOI attendees understand ways cellphones, convenience match up

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Gray Taylor PCATS (CSP Daily News / Convenience Store Petroleum)

Gray Taylor

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Listening to Gray Taylor can be both mind blowing and mind numbing. No offense Gray, you're a fountain of information and so many times I've listened to you and have had enough light bulbs go off to light up Times Square.

But sometimes it's too much. As anyone who's listened to the executive director of PCATS (Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards) group knows, Gray has a finger on the pulse of so many trending threads that it's difficult to see a bigger picture, to understand why a move by Walmart here or a decision by MCX there is a game changer or a meaningless echo.

I've likened it to people who really know baseball. That person knows what the stats mean, what a fumbled catch truly cost and what events are actual milestones.

That said, Taylor was speaking last week to attendees at the 2014 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) State of the Industry (SOI) Summit and pointed out a few things that stuck with me:

  • The "embedded" customer is in control. Two things here. Taylor is elevating the perception of the regular c-store customer to someone who, to varying degrees, is ready to become digitally adept. From using a cellphone to find a Starbucks while in the car to price comparing in the store aisle to paying with a mobile app, these shoppers are integrating their in-store experience with some form of digital engagement. Second, they want to be in charge.
  • Selling "in the moment." Such evolution in how people shop changes the meaning of that "in the moment" experience. It's no longer a shipper placed near the checkout. It's a timed, digital coupon sent to passing motorists. It's a contest notice sent to my phone because I have a history of wanting that specific grand prize. It's a happy birthday message sent from the pump via a short-range "beacon" to a customer's phone.
  • Corner stores may lose value in a virtual world. Consider how the mobile phone is guiding people to their shopping destinations. It's luring them based on what products they want, what deals exist and where their affinities lie. Why does a store have to be on an expensive corner anymore?
  • The whole payment, security, authentication shakeout. Much of what Taylor talks about rides on mobile's evolution not just as a payment device, but something that can authenticate the holder's true identity. Consider age verification happening at the same time your phone pays for the beer, checking into a hotel with your phone, or when you go to an emergency room, your phone bringing up your medical history.

In his talk with attendees at SOI, Taylor ran the gamut of topics all tied to technology and its impact on the c-store experience. It was a wide-ranging talk, hitting on a number of key points. Some of them I got, others went over my head.

I think it's up to each of us to catch the bits that are meaningful to each of us--today--in the state of understanding we all are in at the moment; and light bulb by light bulb, creep towards expertise.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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