Report: High Costs & Need for Faster Service Are Among Tech Challenges in C-stores

BATH, United Kingdom — A majority of convenience store retailers can only offer the most basic functions due to the limitations of current IT infrastructure and the difficulty of bringing new technology into stores, a new survey conducted on behalf of Zynstra by Censuswide found.

According to the C-store Technology Insight Report, c-store retailers face IT barriers when trying to adapt their store footprints. A whopping 96 percent of c-store directors and IT managers agreed that if it was easier to implement new applications and services, they would do it more often. Only 49 percent of respondents said their current store IT infrastructure was an engine for innovation and delivering new in-store customer experiences.

As c-stores map out their plans for in-store technology innovation, the top priorities are identifying how to overcome IT cost challenges, solving aging hardware pain points and meeting the need for faster service during peak shopping hours, according to the survey. Other findings include:

  • Only 37 percent of respondents answered that their current IT system is "very prepared" to cope with consumer checkout demand during busy periods;
  • Similarly, 55 percent said their IT infrastructure is “somewhat or not very prepared” to cope with the increased need for uptime; and
  • A little more than half of respondents (55 percent) said their IT infrastructure is "somewhat or not very prepared" to roll out seasonal promotions.

Just about half of c-store directors and IT managers (49 percent) noted that the high cost and risk of downtime associated with replacing store infrastructure to bring it up to date is their top IT challenge, preventing them from deploying new technology to improve the customer experience and lower costs.

Other IT challenges identified by survey respondents are:

  • High costs associated with compliance and security protocols;
  • Inability to cope with lines during peak trading hours and high season;
  • Inability to offer upsell promotions from multiple touchpoints in the store and at the pump;
  • Aging hardware infrastructure that’s expensive to maintain; and
  • Inability to bring new features, apps and digital engagement inside the store due to point-of-sale limitations with existing systems.

Looking ahead, c-stores indicate that their top IT priorities include upgrading customer loyalty initiatives, improving staff productivity through technology, reducing cost and improving operational efficiencies, enhancing the security of their IT stores, and utilizing technology to improve the shopping experience.

Among the top services that can support future business strategies and deliver higher levels of convenience, according to Zynstra, are home delivery capabilities; mobile pay at the pump; self-checkout; order online and pick up in-store; mobile payment apps; and order at the pump.

"Unprecedented consumer expectations are putting pressure on c-stores to create new levels of consumer engagement and convenience. Increasingly, technology is seen as the answer," said Nick East, CEO and founder of Zynstra. "The caveat here is that c-store retailers can’t do it alone. They need the right technology to meet customer needs and gain a competitive advantage."

The full C-store Technology Insight Report is available for download here.

Zynstra enables retailers to deliver superior customer and employee experiences through faster innovation and radically reduces cost to serve in-store.