While ATMs are a visible, popular part of a c-store, their operating model hasn’t changed much: Customers come in, pay a fee and get cash. And because fees have traditionally stayed at a consistent level, ATMs remain a popular investment for c-stores and attraction for customers. But as cash’s popularity lessens, ATMs will need to evolve.
“The need for cash is strong, but we are mindful of the future and the emergence of digital transactions, and we want to make sure our ATMs work well with mobile phones,” said Bruce Renard, president of the National ATM Council. “With Venmo and those types of services, the payment landscape is changing, and we have to be mindful of technology-based changes and make sure we’re meeting people’s needs.”
Owners should look at what technology will bring in the next generation of customers so that ATMs remain a good investment and attract customers.
“ATMs are predominantly single-use items,” said Adam Sturdivant, vice president of strategic planning and development at The Kent Cos., which operates more than 40 Kent Kwik c-stores in three states. “Over the next few years, that will likely shift to more multi-use machines. ATMs that perform more bank transactions including deposits, check cashing functions, coin redemption, gift card purchase or bill pay may all be available in the near future.”
Currently, it’s access that makes them popular, especially in under-banked areas. But providing new reasons to come into the store and use the machine will soon become vital.
A first step is syncing the mobile phone and the ATM. ATM companies are already introducing the ability to use the ATM by tapping a radio frequency-enabled (RFID) card or by scanning an app. While those are mostly at banks, adding them to convenience stores will increase usage and return on investment for store owners.
“We’re beginning to see new products and services offered at ATMs,” Renard said. “As ATM architecture becomes more software-based, we can make functionality more app-based, similar to the smartphone, and have it be more open-source, where developers can write programs that can be used on ATMs.”
Future enhancements could include biometric authentication, smart safes and cash recycling to help reduce skimming, fraud and theft. But a good first step would be to increase use of ATMs that can handle cardless transactions.
“Cardless transactions are available now at many retail locations, including fuel pumps,” Sturdivant said. “It seems only natural that ATMs will adopt some form of these transactions.”