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Technology/Services

The Impact of Cloud Computing on the Convenience Industry

A closer look at leveraging this technology for your c-store
Photograph: Shutterstock

Cloud computing is here to stay. Countless businesses have transformed their operations and digital back-ends with the internet-based system. Now, more convenience stores are seeing the advantages in doing so.

“There is no denying the impact cloud computing has had on our society and on our industry,” Chris Berry, chief technology officer for PDI, a c-store industry solutions provider, said at the company’s recent user conference.

The Internet of Things (IoT)—and interconnectivity—is everything in business these days. In fact, 74% of C-level executives say that IoT will play a large role in their businesses in the next three years. Specifically, 25% of enterprises will supplement point-and-click analytics with conversational interfaces, according to Forrester Research.

According to recent research from the International Data Corporation, there will be 80 billion connected devices by 2025, and the GSMA expects total IoT connections in this country to top 25.2 billion by that year. Artificial intelligence will play a role, too, with Forrester anticipating that 20% of businesses will use the technology to make decisions and provide real-time instructions in the future.

There are three different types of cloud computing available to businesses, and that includes c-stores: private clouds, public clouds and a hybrid version of both.

Private clouds are facilitated by paid-for services for infrastructure support, while public clouds are accessed via third-party services. A hybrid approach allows data and apps to be shared between private and public cloud computing programs.

The retail, healthcare and supply chain industries are responsible for the biggest growth in IoT, but that could expand to other niche segments. Additionally, an influx of companies—including PDI—have been finding better, cheaper ways of processing and analyzing data for customers, Berry says.

There are many advantages for c-stores with cloud computing at any of the aforementioned levels, Berry says. Those include cost savings (in the form of expensive hardware), enhanced efficiencies, increased accountability, reliable recovery of data and better data management and analytics.

There’s also the added benefit of enhanced customer service. As more consumers want what they want, when they want it (i.e. convenience), c-stores that leverage cloud computing technology will be able to create closer connections with their customers, integrate their various systems and have a clearer view of the future with the ability to predict long-term fuel prices and notice other correlations, such as comparing data between market baskets and fuel sales. Having this grip on data will help c-stores see patterns and better understand their customers’ wants and needs.

In that sense, Berry says, cloud computing also helps c-stores deliver a “frictionless customer experience” by streamlining services such as mobile pay and staffless checkouts, similar to Amazon Go or Skip, the latter of which recently announced its integration with PDI’s back-office software. This retail platform of the future stands to offer customers even more convenience in their daily transactions at their favorite c-stores.

PDI specifically has made some recent investments and acquisitions in IoT and cloud computing to offer better “micro-services” such as enhanced truck routing/dispatch programs and geo-mapping to reveal where employees and customers are located in proximity to stores.

“We have focused on ways to aggregate data to show a more complete picture of your picture,” Berry said at the conference. “Using cloud computing to integrate devices, data and teams builds the kind of collaboration that is the hallmark of innovative companies today.”

Taking a closer look at cloud computing and leveraging the technology as it makes sense for your business can mean the difference between stagnant versus enhanced profits, random versus regular customers (especially, younger, technology-driven and convenience-seeking ones), and a bottomed-up versus boosted bottom line.

This post is sponsored by PDI

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