[:en]3 Ways to Engage Tech To Preserve the Future of Your C-Store[:]

[:en]The chaos caused by COVID-19 has made future strategic planning by c-stores difficult, if not a distant afterthought.

With the situation now stabilizing, and states like California promising the re-opening of their economy in June, near-term strategic planning is becoming more feasible.

Smart leaders have a plan in place before big changes happen. And if the situation changes unexpectedly, they react swiftly and decisively.

Looking ahead to the next several years, what should you consider for your c-stores’ technological strategic objectives?

Here’s major areas other leading c-stores are looking at:

1. Omnichannel Customer Engagement

Here, while you would include all your customers’ favorite digital channels, you also have to consider every last interaction you have with them. The more interaction you have with your customers, the more they spend with you, according to Harvard Business Review.

So, this can include your smartphone app; in-store opportunities such as an interactive catalog, price-checker, or tablet PC; buying online and picking up curb-side; and even simply purchasing in-store the traditional way.

The point of all this is that you have to maintain a consistent experience among all these channels. According to that Harvard Business Review article, 73% of the customers at the store studied interacted with multiple marketing channels. Just 7% shopped online-only, while 20% shopped in-store only.

On top of that, you have to account for all the latest channels your customers may expect you to add – TikTok, for example.

2. Keeping Your Tech Assets Light

While you need to engage the latest technology to keep your competitive position in your market, you also have to do so in an asset-light way.

This means using the cloud and SaaS to help you rather than developing your own tech infrastructure (or using a hybrid of the two).

If you really want to stay up-to-date on this, attend the Connexus Annual Education and Strategy Conference. Though the name doesn’t sound targeted for c-stores, that’s exactly who this conference is for.

3. Automation

Amazon is now entering the c-store market with its Go stores. Customers simply walk in, grab what they want, and leave (they don’t even checkout!).

All they need is an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app, and an iPhone or Android smartphone.

The app tracks the customer’s purchase and charges them when they leave.

How much more of an automated in-store experience can you get?

While there’s only a few dozen such stores in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, Amazon wants to have several thousand of these across the country in the next 2-3 years.

Where will you be able to add more automation in your own c-store chain?

It’s not easy competing in the most innovative country in the world. Knowing where to go is half the battle. Taking action to get there is your part.

What will you do next?[:]