NATIONAL REPORT — Over the past several years, there have been countless conversations around technology in the convenience channel. In fact, a record number of industry stakeholders converged in Nashville, Tenn., in late April for the 2019 Conexxus Annual Conference — lending even more proof to the growing importance of technology in the industry.
However, many of the conversations revolve around consumer-facing technology. How can convenience store retailers tap into innovation to reach their shoppers? Is it through digital signage? Messaging at the pump? Loyalty programs? A mobile app?
Yet, there is another side to the tech coin: employee-facing technology.
A growing number of c-store operators are turning to tech solutions to manage everything from communicating with employees to scheduling.
"In technology, you are always chasing the bouncing ball because consumer expectations, and client expectations, change fast and get more demanding every time. We clearly see that in our industry. Consumers have ever-increasing expectations of what retailers can do for them," said Rick Sales, president of Abierto Networks, a digital engagement technology provider.
"But what I think is interesting, and what we are discovering, is that sometimes retailers forget that their employees are consumers, too," he added, noting that retailers also need to look at their employees as consumers of the information they are trying to get across.
"If you look at your employee as a consumer of information, then you can appreciate that, with information presented at the right time and in the right way, you can modify the behavior of an employee just as you can modify a behavior of a consumer," Sales explained.
Among the U.S. c-store chains using technology to connect with employees are:
The Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store retailer is utilizing Abierto Networks’ employee engagement kiosks. The kiosks are deployed at all Sheetz stores as a key piece of the retailer's employee engagement and internal communications strategy. Through the kiosks, Sheetz can relay store metrics to employees and mix that in with other messages — such as store meetings, uniform ordering, training tips, and employee recognition like birthdays and anniversaries.
Kum & Go LC
The Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain is partnering with Branch, a mobile-first technology provider that helps organizations increase schedule and financial flexibility for hourly employees. Through Branch, Kum & Go associates can now find coverage for their shifts by sending notice out to everyone in the district. Since deployment, general managers have gone from covering two to three extra shifts a week to maybe one per month.
Golden Pantry Food Stores
The Watkinsville, Ga.-based operator of 37 c-stores earlier this year selected HotSchedules, a provider of workforce and back-office solutions for the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, to support its scheduling, forecasting and labor management initiatives. Employees can leverage HotSchedules — whether through the app or online — to request time off, trade shifts and change availability. Managers can build schedules based upon employee availability. In addition, built into the platform are compliance needs specific to state regulations like overtime, child labor or predictive scheduling.
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