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C-stores Lag Behind When It Comes to Digital Retail

Nine out of 10 convenience store retailers are in the "inactive" or "initiation" stages on the digital scale.

According to research presented during a recent Convenience Store News webinar, which was sponsored by Paytronix Systems Inc., convenience stores are falling behind other retail channels when it comes to connecting with its customers on a digital level.

Ryan DiLello, content specialist at Paytronix, noted that 90 percent of c-store retailers are in the "inactive" or "initiation" stages on the digital scale. He also pointed out that Hathway research has revealed that 83 percent of consumers are willing to use c-store apps, but less half of the top 150 convenience store brands have a mobile app.

That's surprising to me. While I do not doubt the findings, it seems Convenience Store News is often reporting about convenience retailers launching, revamping or enhancing mobile apps. Add to that the announcements from others that are rolling out online ordering to their stores, and it's seemed like lately the channel — which has certainly been known for approaching technology with some reluctance in the past — was finally embracing it.

Those c-store retailers that have long tapped technology, like mobile apps, and jumped on the online ordering train — even pre-pandemic — are among the top operators in this channel. With online ordering, specifically, expected to grow by 17 percent annually through 2025, it makes you wonder what the other retailers are waiting for.

Yes, they need to make a few decisions. Among them: Do you partner with a third-party platform or keep it in-house? Do you offer curbside pickup, in-store pickup, delivery or a combination of the three? Will online customers have access to the full menu or a limited number of items? Yes, these retailers in the "inactive" or "initiation" stages have some thinking to do but, in the end, it will be worth it to win the digital space race. 

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