2018 Midyear Report: Top 5 Technology Stories

By 
Jackson Lewis, Associate Editor

mobile payment

CHICAGO -- The pace of disruption did not slow down for convenience stores in the first half of 2018.

Payment with a mobile device is old news. The next step in payments is the dashboard of the car, and many companies have already made it there. And as more commerce moves from the counter to the screen, entire industries are reimagining themselves to keep up.

Here's a look at how the c-store landscape has changed from a technology standpoint in six short months …

Photo courtesy of Richard Tanzer Fotografie/VeroPay. 

5. Baby, you can pay in-car

e-z pass

Mobile and in-car payment options are on the rise at fuel pumps across America. CSP posted a detailed report on the state of connected-car technology in February following the launch of the Marketplace commerce platform from oil company Shell and carmaker General Motors.

Since then, other innovators have released similar options. In-car payment company Pay By Car released a payment solution that uses E-ZPass tollway transponders to facilitate c-store purchases such as gasoline, car washes or even paying for in-store items at the pump.

Then in March, GasBuddy launched its Pay With GasBuddy mobile pay program with Love’s Travel Stops. The tool allows customers to arm a Love’s gas pump from inside their car via a smartphone. This was followed in May be a partnership between Fleetcor Technologies and P97 allowing mobile payments at the pump and in-store.

4. If you can't beat them, try delivery

vroom delivery

Delivery concepts such as DoorDash and Instacart are changing the retail landscape and moving more business to mobile phones.

E-commerce has sent waves of disruption rippling across the world of traditional retail as it becomes more prominent. As store location becomes less important, it can be hard for small- to medium-sized retailers to level the playing field.

Vroom Delivery is looking to change that. While Vroom Delivery does not provide delivery services the way DoorDash or Instacart might, it works with stores to launch their own similar service.

3. Elon gets weird

elon musk tweet

Tesla CEO Elon Musk turned heads in January when he abruptly announced via Twitter that one of Tesla’s planned car-charging locations near Los Angeles would include an “old school drive-in, roller skates,” and likely a rock 'n’ roll restaurant. After one Twitter fan asked if there would be popcorn, Musk replied with an affirmative, and even wrote that it would include an outdoor screen playing a highlight reel of “the best scenes in movie history.”

While the tweets were strange, and the subject was a little fantastic, they illustrated what sort of ideas Tesla is discussing to attract drivers to car-charging centers.

2. Kroger rethink

kroger

In February, Kroger sold off its convenience stores and announced plans to redefine the customer experience.

Known as Kroger Restock, the grocer’s data-driven reboot is rearranging Kroger stores based on consumer preferences and rolling out a few tech-forward changes.

New Kroger stores opening this year include a “Scan, Bag, Go” initiative, which allows customers to check out and pay directly through the Kroger app. The grocer is also continuing its use of Click List, an online grocery ordering service, and adding Chase Pay as an in-store and e-commerce payment option.

1. The Amazon Go saga

amazon go

The public opening of Amazon Go, the e-commerce giants cashierless convenience-store concept, may have been delayed for an entire year, but the futuristic retail concept that allows customers to bypass the checkout experience has not stopped making headlines since.

CSP Daily News released an in-depth look inside the store days after its opening in January. The firsthand report included a rundown of Seattle-based cashless concepts, such as AmazonFresh Pickup and a cashless Starbucks site.

Four months later, Amazon revealed it will open additional Go locations in Chicago and San Francisco.

Even with just one store open and a few in development, competitors are already trying to beat Amazon at its own game. In June, it was reported that Microsoft is in talks with Walmart and other retailers to develop a no-checkout system to compete with the frictionless experience of Amazon Go.