On the Radar: Three Technologies to Watch

Tech executives share the emerging technologies that could be gamechangers in the convenience store industry.
An electric vehicle charging at a public EV charging station

NATIONAL REPORT — Beyond 2023, the convenience store industry has its eye on emerging and upcoming technologies that may have an impact on the business in the future.

Here are a few retailers are watching:

LED Cooler Doors

Adopters of this cold vault option, where LED screens show the product on the shelf rather than a glass door, are able to know that products are out of stock because of built-in sensors. They also can run product advertisements on the doors themselves, according to Steve Morris, president of Retail Management Inc., who operates stores for small chain retailers.

"It will probably be five to 10 years before the costs will come down for smaller retailers, but the more accurate data collection gathered and shared from larger chains can have a downstream effect for smaller retailers when it comes to planograms because vendors will have store and market specific data that is more timely," he said.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger Integration

While c-store retailers are already installing EV chargers at locations where demand calls for it, there remains a lack of integration with the other offerings at the store. This is because most EV equipment providers require customers to download their brand app to engage with the charger, said Jeremie Myhren, co-founder of Onramp, a Chicago-based fleet payment company, and the former longtime chief information officer of Rockford, Ill.-based Road Ranger, operator of 70 stores.

"We need to get EV vendors to implement charging into our store branded apps because 99.9 percent of the retailer EV implementations are completely disconnected from everything else on the site, so there are no rewards connected or the ability to pay for other things," he said.

Foodservice Robotics

Replacing labor in the kitchen for c-stores that have proprietary foodservice offerings is a possibility thanks to the introduction of robotics. While it's unlikely robots will be running an entire kitchen in the near future, there are emerging options that can help.

"Having robotics to make things like a cheeseburger and fries can help take labor out of the equation and do some of the mundane tasks, which is something bigger brands are doing, and we have to keep our eye on it," advised Myhren.