As technology evolves, the point of sale (POS) is transforming also.
POS systems are becoming more lightweight, and the overall hardware cost is decreasing, with many of the newer POS systems using cloud technology, said Perry Kramer, managing partner with retail consulting firm Retail Consulting Partners.
“The use of cloud technology, in most cases, reduces total cost of ownership and the time needed to develop and deploy new features. However, multiple outages this fall at cloud service providers resulted in significant POS and payment outages across all retail spaces, including c-stores,” Kramer said. “This has retailers looking at cloud POS systems through a slightly different lens. Support for offline has moved from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ for most major retailers.”
Many POS systems today have moved their architecture to a microservice-based technology, Kramer added. “This will be critical in the long run for c-stores, which have many more peripherals than other retail verticals,” he said.
Typical POS integrations for c-stores today include things like digital ordering, kiosks for ordering prepared foods, car washes, digital signs, loyalty, fuel dispensers, storage tanks and more.
Upgrading newer architecture will help pave the way for c-stores’ long-term success by lowering costs and reducing time to market when it comes to making changes, Kramer explained.
Kramer advised c-stores to remain focused on eliminating friction and improving speed at the POS by using contactless, mobile payments and prepayments. “These advancements must include the traditional checkout touch points and the expanding digital and mobile checkout touch points,” he said.
A Frictionless Approach
Delek US is one such c-store chain offering a frictionless checkout experience. Delek has 250 company-operated c-stores throughout Texas and New Mexico and is in the process of rebranding all of its locations under the DK banner.
In the summer of 2020, DK was the first c-store chain to pilot touch-less checkout powered by Mashgin technology, and in 2021, Delek rolled the technology out to 25% of its DK stores. It plans to continue to integrate the technology, which it calls “DK Touch-less” into additional stores this year and beyond.
“DK Touch-less is an artificial intelligence-driven checkout experience that uses computer vision to instantly recognize consumer products, including packaged goods, dispensed beverages and food items,” said Darshan Gad, senior vice president of retail sales, marketing & innovation, Delek US. “Consumers simply place their items on the unit to begin a transaction and use the adjacent pin pad to complete the process in as little as 15 seconds.”
Each store features one to two checkout units featuring the technology, which has reduced checkout times by 67%. Customers have responded, with 30% of store transactions going through DK Touch-less.
“Delek began exploring the future of checkout as early as 2014 when we owned MAPCO. Our vision has been to fundamentally transform the retail checkout experience by driving speed and eliminating friction,” Gad said. One benefit to customers is there’s no need to find or scan barcodes.
DK Touch-less sits alongside the chain’s legacy POS, with data flowing through to its backend systems, Gad explained. “The success of DK Touch-less has been driven by extremely strong in-store execution and the amazing focus and support of our store associates,” he added.
Frictionless options are continuing to grow.
In early February Apple announced plans to introduce Tap to Pay on iPhone. The new feature will allow U.S. merchants of all sizes to use their iPhone to accept Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets through a tap to their iPhone with no additional hardware or payment terminal required.
The feature will be available for payment platforms and app developers to integrate into their iOS apps and offer as a payment option later this year.
Retailers will be able to unlock contactless payment acceptance through a supporting iOS app on an iPhone XS or later device. At checkout, the retailer will simply prompt the customer to hold their iPhone, Apple Watch, contactless credit or debit card or other digital wallet near the retailer’s iPhone and the payment is completed using NFC technology.
“This is something for convenience stores (especially independent chains or mom-and-pop businesses) to consider as a new POS option,” said Richard Crone, CEO of Crone Consulting.
“The customer doesn’t even have to have an iPhone to do this,” added Heidi Liebenguth, managing partner for Crone Consulting. “Customers could be using any number of mobile wallets, and so the merchant … can take payments with their own iPhone, potentially out at the pump, at the curb or in the shop. They don’t need to be tied to a point-of-sale device any longer.”