New Technology Brings New Challenges

Retailer perspectives are key when it comes to how technological devices best interface in a secure environment.

By Jenny Bullard

Today, most all convenience store retailers have a back-office interfaced to their point of sale (POS). With back-office software, retailers have the capability of capturing sales data by transaction, by item, deposits and credit card information, etc.

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This enables home-office enterprise systems to receive this information electronically and reconcile various accounts quickly and accurately. This process reduces the potential of theft or just general incorrect data flow.

PCI data security introduced challenges for retailers in their efforts to secure back-office systems. In most cases back-office systems are part of the credit card environment; therefore retailers’ security teams must engage processes to securely encrypt any sensitive data or completely remove the back-office system from the PCI-scope environment.

In most c-store environments, back-office software is interfaced to the POS, utilizing Conexxus POSBO standards. Many retailers are not aware that Conexxus standards are utilized by their back office or POS applications. These back-office and POS solution providers are members of Conexxus (formerly PCATS) and contribute their expertise and resources to enhancing and introducing new functionally for all the Conexxus standards.
Today new challenges face retailers as to how data flows into a store’s back office with the introduction of handheld, cloud-based POS devices; and, also along those lines, scan-based checkout utilizing the customer’s handheld device. How do you capture these sales dollars and relieve product inventory from a location’s perpetual item inventory?

As a c-store technology executive working for Flash Foods and then Circle K, I actively participated in Conexxus since its conception. During that time I gained insight into the resources that Conexxus members dedicate to producing standards for the c-store industry.

And while the solution providers do a great job of relating what is needed in the on-going standards development, there is an overall need for more retailer participation in these working committees.

Retailers give a very important and sometimes different perspective to the functionality and data elements needed and how each device needs to interface/connect in a secure environment. Over the years that has been my message to all technology friends and associates in the industry.

In August of this year, I retired from Circle K. But because of my passion for this industry and my desire to stay connected with technology that impacts retailers, I accepted a part-time position with Conexxus as manager, member engagement. My goal in this position is to continue to carry the message to all Conexxus members to stay engaged and participate in all aspects of Conexxus.

Conexxus is a non-profit, member-driven technology organization that is committed to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and petroleum market. Conexxus aims to solve unique technology challenges of retailers and businesses in the convenience and fuel industry by creating data exchange standards, fostering innovation, creating expert communities, leveraging industry knowledge and advocating for equal and open standards and practices.

With 40-plus years in the industry as a technologist, I have seen retailers make phenomenal advancements in technology. Along the way, we have created data pools filled with data collected from all departments within a company.

What would we do without that insight for merchandising and pricing products to increase sales and bottom line revenue? Inventory control gives us the ability to account for inventory dollars, as does introducing computer-assisted ordering based on inventory levels.

Now with the introduction of IoT (the internet of things) we can add even more content to the data that we use today to manage our retail stores. IoT will enable the ability to connect devices that will take our industry to the next level. And with the introduction of AI (artificial intelligence) accessing that data we can learn more about our consumers and how to best distinguish our brand for their shopping experience.

Conexxus is committed to the research and education for the benefit of the industry on these technologies. I encourage all retailers, suppliers and solution providers to be a part of Conexxus as we explore this new era of technology.