Tuesday , January 19, 2021

COMMENTARY: Three Things C-Stores Must Do Now to Contend With Covid-19

The pandemic has forced the world—individuals and businesses alike—to reassess their approaches toward life and reevaluate daily processes. The same goes for convenience stores with a particular focus on solution-driven innovation and adaptation. They must evolve their businesses with modern technologies, such as contactless payment processing, pre-store visit staging, and cryptocurrency.

The circumstances we have faced in 2020 have made us more reliant upon technology. In a sense, this will hasten the expediency with which convenience stores can improve their shopping experiences for customers. Three innovations to help convenience channels adapt to the current situation and prepare for impactful improvements in the future include the following technologies:

1. Contactless Payment Processing

While cash will still be a primary source of payments at convenience stores, contactless payment methods are becoming more popular than they were pre-pandemic, mostly because of  customers’ fears of contracting the virus. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Fitbit Pay all allow customers to make payments directly from their credit cards, debit cards, or banks without touching anything. Integrating these payments into convenience stores will enable safer transactions and make  customers more willing to shop in-store.

Grens: “Now is the time to strongly consider adopting digital innovations like contactless payments, staging, and cryptocurrency.”

2. Pre-Store Visit Staging

As grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers have embraced staging, so will convenience stores. To be able to set up or “stage” your purchase from an app or Web site prior to your visit to the store is, quite simply, convenient. It is only common sense that convenience stores adopt this strategy, as well. 

Look for c-store chains to develop their own apps or integrate their shopping experiences with other apps to optimize a convenient shopping experience where curbside pickup is the only real store contact. Unfortunately, staging can curtail impulse buys, as an app’s pop-up ad for a candy bar on sale will probably not have the same emotional effect on a prospective customer that an in-store display might have. Still, software developers and marketers are continually looking for ways to improve these staging experiences and better replicate such in-store moments as impulse buys.

3. Cryptocurrency

Convenience stores can offer cryptocurrency like Bitcoin over-the-counter or implement crypto ATMs in their stores to capture new customer demographics and prepare for the future needs of their current customers. 

Digital currencies like Bitcoin are to cash and credit cards what emails are to handwritten letters. This modern form of currency offers many benefits, including:

Lower processing fees. Payment processing fees at the counter for credit cards alone are exorbitant.

Safer transactions. Cryptocurrencies are not nearly as susceptible to fraud, even with credit cards now offering chips.

True convenience—Cryptocurrency is one of the most convenient payment methods available to customers, if not the most convenient. This trend will continue as more businesses (including bigger banks) continue to adopt digital currencies, bitcoin becomes more accessible, and people understand how to use it.

During these turbulent times, nearing the end of 2020, convenience stores must take stock of their payment-processing methods and their customers’ overall shopping experiences. Now is the time to strongly consider adopting digital innovations like contactless payments, staging, and cryptocurrency. It’s clear that Bitcoin and other fintech innovations are not a passing phase in this digital economy. In actuality, they are the way of the future. Any convenience stores that fail to adopt them risk losing their competitive edge—and possibly even their businesses. 

Marc Grens is the co-founder and president of DigitalMint.

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