Not All C-stores Buying Into Consumer-Facing Tech

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Convenience store retailers placed an emphasis on technology in 2013 and say they will continue to do so this year, but plenty of opportunities still exist for c-stores when it comes to consumer-facing technologies, according to Convenience Store News' 2014 Technology Study.

Take mobile apps, for example. Just 29 percent of the c-store retailers surveyed have chosen this method of reaching consumers directly, with almost 71 percent reporting they have not yet done so.

Among the retailers that do offer mobile apps, all indicated their apps contain a store locator, and 60 percent offer coupons to be redeemed in-store. Other top app features include customer feedback, loyalty program tie-ins, limited-time specials and fuel prices.

Loyalty programs are another place where opportunity knocks. Nearly 56 percent of those surveyed offer a loyalty program, but more than 44 percent still do not.

Among c-store retailers with such programs, more than 93 percent utilize a points-based or other reward-based system. More than 68 percent offer a proprietary loyalty program, 12 percent have a program tied to a major oil brand, and 19 percent offer both.

Although social networking is becoming a more mature technology, it is yet another avenue some c-store retailers have yet to take. Approximately one-third (32 percent) of those surveyed still do not use social networking to connect with customers.

For the two-thirds that do have a social media presence, Facebook is used by nearly all (94 percent), followed by Twitter, foursquare, Instagram, Google Plus, MySpace, Pinterest and Tumblr. When posting to these sites, more than 80 percent of c-store retailers place an emphasis on promotions and events, with contests and questions for members also being a strong focus.

According to this year's CSNews Technology Study, 91 percent of the retailers surveyed in February spent money on technology/automation upgrades last year, with the average spend reaching an impressive $1.425 million per company and the median spend totaling $100,000.

For 2014, nearly half of those surveyed (49.4 percent) said they expect to spend more money on technology this year compared to the prior year. Meanwhile, 29 percent said they will spend the same amount and nearly 22 percent plan to cut their year-over-year spending.

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