2012 c-store tech conference tackles range of needs
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Convenience retailers looking for ways to implement mobile initiatives, managed networks or supply-chain efficiencies will find an abundance of supplier developments and IT advice as the 2012 NACStech conference gets underway today through Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.
Expected to draw several hundred retailers and c-store industry suppliers, the event will reflect both the evolving demands for store-level technology as well as the advances made in connectivity and device capability.
One of the more recent trends has been with mobile payment. Earlier this spring, CSP Daily News reported that Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms had begun a mobile payment program (see Related Content below), while just last week, news emerged that Salt Lake City-based Maverik Inc. was in a test with Isis--a mobile commerce joint venture created by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless--to do the same.
With the Isis launch, hundreds of merchant locations in both Austin and Salt Lake City will accept contactless payments. "[The] announcement signals the mobile-commerce experience has arrived," said Jim Stapleton, chief sales officer for Isis, New York. "A strong merchant base in Austin and Salt Lake City will make the Isis mobile wallet real for consumers as they choose to use their mobile wallet at many of their favorite merchant locations to pay and redeem offers."
"With increasing news from Isis, PayPal and Google Wallet, retailers continue to be eager to adopt mobile technologies that allow them to enhance the effectiveness of their loyalty and marketing programs," said a spokesperson from Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Greensboro, N.C.
Other trends Gilbarco officials suggest:
- Forecourt marketing: Over the last year, an increasing number of retailers have experienced the enhanced site profile and increased in-store sales that forecourt marketing brings. As competitive as the market remains, those that have not yet invested in this technology are seeking out ways they can reap the same benefits.
- Site solutions: With increasing competition in the retail petroleum market, effective retailers are no longer looking to their vendors solely for equipment purchases. They are seeking out retail petroleum site solutions experts to enable them to more efficiently run their businesses from top to bottom.
- EMV migration to the United States: With the recent announcements by Visa, MasterCard and Discover migrating EMV (Euro MasterCard Visa, a chip-based payment technology) to the United States, retailers have begun to make their purchase decisions with this in mind.
- Upselling at the point-of-sale (POS): Retailers are always looking to sell more products and with an upselling solution at the POS they can. The solution can be tied to inventory, current promotions and a loyalty program.
- Foodservice: Instead of being caught in a franchise agreement with a big branded QSR solution that brings along with it their own POS system, separate reporting and credit network support, retailers are now looking inward for their own solutions.
Along the lines of foodservice, Drew Mize, COO of The Pinnacle Corp., Arlington, Texas, said foodservice management is growing and producing more gross profit dollars, "but it's hard to put that to the bottom line with infrastructure and operations cost, and requires tight control on food inventories or you end up throwing out a good portion of the inventory."
For technology, Mize sees a couple of things:
- Thin client applications that are browser based with a centralized database to eliminate applications at the store level and having to synchronize data to the home office. In conjunction with this, more hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings from new or existing backoffice solution providers.
- More inventory optimization solutions--declines in fuel and cigarette margins are forcing retailers to be more efficient with the rest of the store; item-level inventory and computer-assisted inventory solutions will provide capabilities to add more SKUs in the store which means they have to be more efficient with the space available; having 'just enough' inventory.