The Future of Fuel Payments

The looming October 2020 deadline for retailers to become EMV compliant at the pump is set to play a key role in the future of payments for convenience store chains. But as retailers look to avoid liability by updating noncompliant payment processors, it’s important to remember that EMV compliance is just one factor at play when considering the future requirements and opportunities of these systems.

When used strategically, modern payment solutions can also amplify the customer experience, drive loyalty, and boost the overall success of a business.

The convenience and fuel retailing industry has come a long way since the heyday of the gas station attendant. Today, mobile apps, self-service options, loyalty programs and the rising value of prepared foods and quick-service restaurant concepts have transformed the small-format convenience store into much more than just a place to fuel up and grab a candy bar.

This is why the opportunity presented by the EMV deadline means much more than increased security for customers and liability insulation for retailers. From the pump, to the checkout line, to the in-store restaurant, retailers need to seamlessly integrate and upgrade all parts of their on-the-go infrastructure. Doing so allows them to deliver the breadth of services and the kind of experience customers demand now, and those they will someday demand: whenever, wherever and however the payment might take place.

This requires that retailers adopt a cohesive and powerful retailing platform that can grow with them to support the future of payments. Here are a few considerations they must keep in mind when evaluating the best way to modernize their payments systems:  

Mobile Pay & Contactless Payments

There’s no question that mobile and contactless payments are among the most convenient options for customers. Without needing to pull out their wallet and find a specific card or the exact amount of cash, shoppers can quickly access their accounts and check out quickly. And now that mobile payments are faster and more secure than ever, it will only continue to grow in popularity. As adoption becomes more widespread, retailers must be ready to transact.

As more retailers and restaurants accept mobile payments, eMarketer projects that this year, 61.6 million people in the United States will use mobile payments, comprising more than 20 percent of the population. In Europe and Canada, contactless payments account for two out of five face-to-face Visa transactions, and the U.S. is trending in this direction as well.

With mobile payments continuing to evolve, retailers must have sound technology that can adapt to changes to ensure they drive customer loyalty and provide a seamless and convenient customer experience.

New Concepts to Drive Different Revenue Streams

As I said, convenience retailers have already begun to see their stores shift to incorporate more restaurant and hospitality offerings. Consumers are visiting convenience stores to grab a cup of coffee, a to-go sandwich or to fill up their tank – and sometimes all three. As complex as today’s environment already is, it seems highly likely that the number of different devices and transaction flows will only continue to increase. Retailers need software that can accommodate it all.

Managing separate systems in the store and at the pump is common practice, but it’s also more complicated and less efficient to manage all transaction and customer data together. This reality has far more to do with the fact that vendors haven’t traditionally offered a full suite of best-of-breed capabilities for both purposes. As a result, retailers mainly elected to deal with inefficiency instead of committing to a single platform and sacrificing capability.

Luckily today, there’s no need for sacrifice. Omnichannel platforms streamline all payment processes at the pump and in the store, including advanced services such as self-service and self-checkout, allowing retailers to deliver more personalized experiences and targeted promotions.

Making Investments Now to Improve Future Success

The upcoming EMV deadline is the perfect opportunity for retailers to evaluate their current business processes and invest for the future. While they must work at a rapid pace to meet the deadline, they must also remember to prioritize the value of best-of-breed capabilities and ensure accuracy.

Managing customer transactions while providing exceptional, differentiated services means that payment solutions can be used to create competitive advantages for a retailer at any transaction point for any service.

Michael Jaszczyk is CEO of GK Software USA.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.