2019 Year-End Report: Top 5 Tech Trends
CHICAGO — Convenience stores across the United States are offering more.
For some, this means expanded delivery or mobile ordering options. For others, it's a move toward frictionless checkout in stores. Despite setbacks such as the looming October 2020 EMV compliance deadline at the pump, the industry continued to innovate and grow in 2019.
Click through for five examples of tech trends that stemmed from or affected c-stores in 2019 …
Flirting with delivery
As the differences between retail channels blur, c-stores are increasingly experimenting with local delivery companies. Notable examples include Kwik Trip’s work with EatStreet in Madison and La Crosse, Wis., in addition to Circle K’s test in Texas.
Circle K began its delivery test with local firm Favor in Houston during the summer. By the fall, Circle K had expanded its test to nearly 600 of its locations in Texas.
Attack of the drones
As delivery increasingly becomes a must-have for any business offering foodservice, both aerial and terrestrial drones are edging closer to becoming more generally accepted.
Evidence of the rise of terrestrial drones is especially prominent. The year began with grocer Stop & Shop partnering with startup Robomart to test a small store on wheels that is capable of driving itself in specific conditions. Around the same time, Amazon tested its own sidewalk drone in a Seattle suburb. By summer, Postmates was testing a terrestrial drone in San Francisco. And the tests of terrestrial drones have not stopped there.
In June, Amazon announced it could be capable of launching flying drones “within months,” and Walgreens began testing flying drone deliveries in Christiansburg, Va., in October.
EMV and credit card trouble
Beset with high costs, regulatory headaches and more, retailers struggled to progress toward the 2020 EMV deadline in 2019. The deadline requires fuel retailers to update their pay-at-the-pump technology to accept chip-protected credit cards by October, an expensive update that many retailers are putting off or ignoring.
Issues with credit cards did not end with EMV, either. Kroger ramped up pressure on Visa beginning in August, when it stopped accepting Visa credit cards in select California stores. Kroger initiated the boycott in response to Visa's credit card interchange fees. The campaign escalated when Kroger expanded the boycott to select stores in seven states, but the grocer allowed Visa credit cards in all of its stores again by October.
Evolution of frictionless tech
Frictionless checkout technology burst onto the retail scene in 2018 with the first Amazon Go store opening in Seattle, but it began to take shape in 2019.
As Amazon Go and competing visions expanded throughout the year, retailers began adopting their own versions of frictionless checkout. Notably, Giant Eagle, along with its convenience division GetGo, launched a pilot of frictionless checkout tech from Grabango, which offers a pay-as-you-like frictionless experience that differs from the “just walk out” tech used by Amazon Go. While Amazon offers one way to check out, Grabango offers a variety of options, including cash, mobile or just walking out.
7-Eleven sets a path
7-Eleven expanded a mobile checkout test it began in 2018 to New York in 2019. The retailer also expanded its delivery destinations through its 7Now app with the implementation of 7Now Pins. The pins allow customers with the app to place delivery orders from most anywhere in markets where 7-Eleven offers delivery.
7-Eleven’s innovations in the past three years, from loyalty to delivery, represent a clear and focused attempt to move the decades-old retailer—and the convenience industry as a whole—into the next phase of brick-and-mortar retail.