New touchpoints are challenging traditional point-of-sale (POS) systems used in the convenience/petro retail industry, as customer-experience-driven technologies, global solution providers and industry leaders look to move their companies forward.
For example, as more convenience store retailers wade into foodservice, they’re being challenged to improve the speed of service, an important part of customer expectations. In-store foodservice kiosks, in essence POS devices, are being deployed to let customers customize their orders, upsell to drive profits and speed up the checkout experience.
The traditional and leading POS providers to the industry have their own kiosks and back-of-house kitchen systems, but many retailers are looking for alternatives. There are both new solutions and movements underway to address this concern.
At the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show, held last month in Atlanta, there was no shortage of solutions on hand to help c-store retailers prepare for the future. Of note, one solution provider looking to emerge in the U.S. market demonstrated a large-screen solution integrated to the back-office and payment provider — not the POS.
Self-checkout was a big part of the conversation around POS. More c-stores are considering these solutions as they look to ease labor concerns and provide their customers with checkout options. The leading POS providers all have self-checkout hardware and software solutions while cashierless checkout experiences are being trialed and implemented throughout the industry.
The buzz at NACS from the educational sessions to the show floor is that retailers are thinking and talking about a POS shift.
Nick Peters, IT director at Holmes Oil Co., with 26 Cruizers Convenience Marketplace locations throughout central North Carolina, spoke of its recent implementation of the SKIP scan-and-go mobile app, describing this touchpoint as “sticky,” referring to customer reuse once they’ve tried it.
“Traditionally, the cash register has been the most important part of the store tech stack. It should be the least important,” Ed Dzadovsky, Circle K’s vice president of North America IT, told NACS Show attendees. “We need to be focused on data and a transaction engine that enables customers … wherever they are.”
To his point, POS touchpoints provide lots of data, and retailers are finding value in consolidating data from multiple touchpoints in one place. The traditional back-office solutions they use are often being supplemented by new-to-industry data management and analytics solution providers. Difficulty in extracting historical data from back-office systems and software as a service (SaaS) opportunities to help smaller independent operators manage cigarette rebates are some of the drivers leading to implementation of these new and extended back-office solutions.
During the Digital Transformation session at NACS, a group of retailers leading the charge with Conexxus for more data access and easier integration capabilities through an Application Programming Interface (API) outlined some of their unmet needs. Daniel Gaddy, IT director at Spicewood, Texas-based Kwik Chek and Jim Wenner, vice president IT at Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, both spoke of solutions that they currently have deployed that need Price Book data from their back-office systems, and how a more common and seamless methodology to extract and import between these touchpoints would significantly speed up implementation efforts.
Git’N Go, based in Clinton, Tenn., recognizing that its mobile app needed more relevance, teamed up for a test with its POS provider, using available APIs, a digital coupon service provider and The Coupon Bureau to provide its customers with offers and enhanced customers’ mobile devices as a touchpoint in the checkout process.
There are clear indicators of global and start-up POS-system providers preparing to make an entry into the U.S. convenience market. Some readily admit the challenges that full-featured fuel capabilities present to them, but see an opportunity to provide a POS alternative. One global provider at the NACS Show demonstrated a POS system unlike others available today that looks and works just like an app — swipe motions and function icons leading to action ‘buttons.’
Several vendors with solutions already implemented in other parts of the Americas, in U.S. supermarkets and in independent non-fuel c-stores (one with 600+ stores implemented), were at this year’s NACS Show ready to demonstrate capabilities and discuss their plans to advance their solutions.
As additional POS touchpoints continue to be developed, ease and speed of implementation will be critical to retailer adoption as they look to solution providers approaching the market with open architected systems in the store or the cloud, in a customer’s hand or at their desk, virtualized or as a service.
Ed Collupy, executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group can be reached at [email protected] Visit www.capraplus.com for more retail technology and business insights. Collupy has IT leadership and business team experience providing strategic, operational and project leadership to retailers, emerging businesses and technology companies.