C-Store Techies Meet in Dallas

Extended NACS technology conference begins

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

DALLAS -- A five-day conference that combines the goals of NACS' technology committee and those of the newly incorporated PCATS standards-making body commences today with sessions on everything from business analytics to the future of cash.

Expected to draw 1,000 to 1,500 attendees, the conference will be a mix of educational sessions, supplier networking gatherings and meetings designed to forward the goals of the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards (PCATS). 

PCATS began as a standards effort within NACS in 1995 and became an independent entity in 2004. NACS integrated PCATS back into its organization in 2010, but seeks to retain its direction and standards-building goals. PCATS began holding its meetings in January, separate from what was then called "NACStech," the Alexandria, Va.-based NACS' technology conference and trade show.

This year in Dallas, those meetings are combined into "The Tech Event," held for the first time as an extended, five-day conference. The sessions feature speakers addressing a range of topics, from loyalty to mobile-marketing, integration to data-security mandates.

One of the general sessions covers the topic of "big data," or the availability for companies to access large amounts of computing capability, leading to the potential of in-depth analysis of consumer buying patterns. According to NACS officials, the cost of storing digital information has decreased faster than the cost of processing it. The result is the collection of massive pools of potentially valuable data. These pools of data, which are difficult to efficiently process, are often referred to as big data.

"The question now is not how much data you have, but what can you effectively and efficiently do with it. In fact, as data gets more and more granular, now down to the transaction level, convenience retailers are able to gain even better insights and answer questions, such as: 'If I raise the price of fuel by two cents, how does my in-store merchandise basket composition change?,'" officials said.

A general session on big data will help retailers understand which of their marketing, merchandising, pricing, capital expenditure and operations initiatives work, which ones do not, and which ones can be fine tuned, officials say.

Other topics will address payment methods such as "mobile wallets." In a column published in the May 2013 issue of CSP magazine, Bob Johnson, president and CEO of The Pinnacle Corp., Arlington, Texas, said retailers should consider a few key points including "ease of use, adding value and addressing security concerns."

In keeping with work already started in regards to standards development, PCATS committees will begin to meet mid-week. Greg Gilkerson, president, PDI, Temple, Texas, said that he hopes retailers take the time to get to know PCATS and its potential going forward.

In a column also published in the May 2013 issue of CSP magazine, Gilkerson said PCATS efforts have already provided retailers lower-cost solutions, given them freedom of choice among suppliers and delivered more functionality to existing technologies.

"Retailers have much to gain by being part of the PCATS process," Gilkerson said. "We still need more retail participation so the standards truly reflect the needs of the industry."

For more on trending technologies within the c-store space, see the May 2013 issue of CSPmagazine. Retailers interested in a new "Mobile 2 Go" blog from CSP's senior editor Angel Abcede can visit www.cspnet.com as he posts live from The Tech Event.

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