By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor
Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco USA in Lawrence, Kan., is driving food and beverages purchases from forecourt customers who might never have set foot inside the store, if it wasn’t for his touchscreen order-at-the-pump program that makes it easier than ever to select and pay for c-store products and foodservice items while customers are waiting for their gas tanks to finish filling.
The first version rolled out for testing in July 2012 at Zarco locations and a second-generation version of the technology is now up and running. The new version, which Zaremba is also now offering to other retailers, looks more like an iPad, has an easier customer interface, updated apps and texts the receipt directly to the consumer’s phone.
“The big thing we did is make the interface more graphical and user friendly, so the screen has less wording and easier pictures so customers can select things more easily, and now there are check boxes to further simplify it. It offers better speed and ease of use—customers don’t need any education to figure out what to do,” Zaremba said.
Zaremba and Peter Tawil created the program together. “Peter is an innovator, an electronics innovator, and we met at one of the trade shows 3-4 years ago and started to talk about all these things we wanted to do and how to do it. He and I have been working through it ever since,” Zaremba said.
The two began working on the process in early 2007 and have been developing it ever since. “When we started this, there were no tablets at any stores or restaurants, so we’re seeing almost instant acceptance now that tablets are more common in the retail environment. But when I started there weren’t yet tablets at retail other than a touchscreen inside one of the progressive c-store chains,” he said.
Easy To Retrofit
The 10-inch Sirus tablet installs onto the front of existing fuel dispensers—no need to purchase a new dispenser. It works through a wireless connection and doesn’t interact at all with the point of sale (POS) or the dispenser. “We’re on a separate rail all together the way it’s structured. Nothing goes through the dispenser or POS or the dispenser. The biggest problem I’ve had in the past 35 years as a retailer is the communication we have to have with our POS and pumps that is always a contentious point because even if they are the same manufacturer, it’s always the most difficult piece when you have to get everything to talk and sync and upload and download, so I wanted to take that out of the equation,” Zaremba said.
Another benefit of this independent system, is if pumps and registers are down, Zarco can still sell products outside at the gas pumps via the tablet. “Rouge wireless is not a concern because we don’t go through the POS, so we don’t run into those problems. We are able to have our own encryption and don’t have to dance with anyone else’s POS, so it makes a huge difference because it makes it so much simpler to keep it secure,” he said.
Live At C-stores
Zarco USA is currently using the tablet at two of its three stores. Zaremba, over the past year and a half has sold five stores, moving from eight to three locations, as he moved his focus to the tablet. He’s in the process of rolling the tablet out to his third store, which has a drivethrough.
Currently, Zaremba is using the tablet at the pump to sell food and beverages, but he noted it could be customized to sell anything a c-store wanted to include, like candy, snacks and so on. He is also testing group specials via the technology, including combo meals.
“We’re excited to roll this out to our drivethrough location because I think that is going to really speed the drivethrough world. The way we look at it, it allows a c-store to go from 1-2 POS interfaces to as many as 20. We think it’s going to have a huge impact because we can have all the consumers make choices simultaneously,” he said.
Not only can customers order simultaneously via the gas pumps and then cruise through the drive though to pick up their order, but reaction time is faster because employees aren’t trying to understand what customers are saying through a speaker.
“If you pull up to the drivethrough and use a touchscreen, it’s OK, but you’d have to have multiple tears and people take more time on the touchscreen because they’re choosing their own items and they think about it more. That’s why we like having it on every dispenser because it gives those consumers the choice for exactly what they want, but it ends up being a quicker transaction because they’re not inside standing around waiting for things, they get exactly what they want and they are in and out,” Zaremba said.
As a retailer all too familiar with cost-prohibitive technology, keeping the system cost effective was top of mind for Zaremba as he developed the solution, as well as a solution that would continue to evolve with the times.
As such, the Siris tablet is constantly being enhanced with add-ons. “That’s one of the really cool things about it; it’s not just a set in stone and we’re done. It’s continually being enhanced. We’ll continue to provide add-ons to the current equipment we have so you don’t have to buy all new equipment. That’s one thing we’re trying to do. Keep the cost down and keep enhancing that customer experience so you can enhance your revenue at the gas islands,” Zaremba said.
There are different ways to add the units to equipment and costs can vary depending on the retailer’s choice. One is a simple, small fee-based program where a retailer adds the tablet and then pays a fee for the units per month. The other is an outright purchase, which can run roughly the cost of an ipad, depending on the bells, whistles and apps selected.
Retailers can learn more about adding the program at their pumps at http://siristablet.com/