Customers expect mobile options from c-stores.
Customers expect mobile options from c-stores.

Technology has transformed just about everything as we know it today. From the business climate to personal life and consumer trends, technology is the prevailing theme of the times. Knowing this, c-store owners have often been intrigued, if not downright enthused, by the opportunities digital tools offer them.

In a 2016 survey from SAP, one-third of small and medium-sized businesses said they were “well under way in applying technology to connect people, devices and businesses.” That same cohort achieved revenue growth of 10 percent in the last year, ahead of less technologically inclined peers.

However, investing in software can be a complex riddle for c-stores. With so many options, vendors and iterations available, how can a retailer know which is the best software to use? For more insight into that question, here’s a look at some of the popular technology you’ll need to grow your c-store business.

Data-driven tools

Big data is another overarching theme for modern businesses, but it can be difficult for c-store operators to know exactly what it means for their operations. Big data can be a vague concept, but all c-stores need to know is that data insight and analytics can power gains in everything from inventory management to customer service. It all starts with the type of tools used.

For instance, mobile scanners are more than just a functional item for processing and stocking. When the data they collect is fed into a platform that can sort, organize and analyze, c-store owners can use insights to optimize their inventory. Instead of guessing, managers have precise indicators and metrics to judge their inventory by, and can capitalize on customer trends relevant to any one location with data. Collecting POS data with an integrated business intelligence system can also help you optimize the customer experience. The more you know about your customers, the better able you are to meet their needs.

Connected devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another of those hazy, overarching technology trends that c-store owners have heard of, but don’t necessarily know what it means on a store level for them. Essentially, the IoT refers to a network of connected devices that “talk” to one another, and communicate real-time data back to users. Business will deploy nearly 7 billion such devices by 2020, according to Gartner, which includes things like sensors and other smart devices.

While IoT is getting a lot of play in manufacturing, retail has just as many uses. C-stores can leverage connectivity in all areas of their business. Smart tank gauges can give operators a real-time view into reserves, as well as push alerts when reaching low levels. Smart thermostats can also help c-store operators better control food upkeep by automating temperatures in certain parts of the store, and can similarly alert employees when something is amiss.

Mobile and self-service options

Mobile is entering a next phase of store integration, as Generation Z and millennials continue to make up more of the consumer base. These tech-savvy customers not only want mobile to inform their experiences, but expect it. It’s important to note the onus has shifted to c-stores: They must find a way to meet mobile expectations. One way to do this is through smartphone purchasing and having terminals to accept contactless payments.

These customers also like to participate in the experience. Empowering customers – through innovations like self-service kiosks and food-ordering capability at the pump – is another trend c-stores must address.

Technology is very much the now for c-stores. Beyond looking for the best software solutions, they must also look for the most capable and knowledgeable providers. Having a partner that understands your c-store business and can supply the requisite tools and support is a big advantage in the market.

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