Pandemic Pushed C-Stores to Change Technology Priorities

Legacy infrastructure held many back from making needed changes, a survey finds.

July 10, 2020

SEATTLE—A new survey has identified how convenience stores have shifted technology priorities during the pandemic. Sixty-three percent of respondents to the survey from Censuswide on behalf of Zynstra said legacy infrastructure held them back from quickly making needed changes in order to adapt their store operations.

Technology has taken center stage at c-stores. Eighty-one percent of c-store retailers said COVID-19 has elevated the role IT plays in the eyes of C-level decision makers, with 100% of c-store retailers with 500+ stores identifying this as a new reality. Sixty-four percent of respondents identified the need to adapt their technology to keep up with newly formed consumer behaviors.

The speed, cost and complexity of IT are slowing innovation. Respondents were asked about the main IT challenges faced during COVID-19, the overall impact on staff productivity, speed to market and ability to quickly remediate store IT issues:

  • 44% said speed of adoption of new technology by store associates due to resistance to change
  • 43% said cost of new devices required to meet the needs of new customer buying habits
  • 40% said complex manual order process for takeaway/home delivery due to third-party tablet integrations (Door Dash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, etc.)
  • 36% said cost of sending technicians out to site to maintain IT equipment & systems
  • 33% said speed of deploying new technology & devices due to legacy infrastructure
  • Only 2% of respondents identified that there were no IT challenges facing their store estate during COVID-19.
Mobile technology is a must-have for c-stores, but legacy technology poses barriers. The technologies c-store retailers said they have been unable to implement quickly enough in response to COVID-19 include:
  • 33% Mobile payment apps
  • 31% Home delivery
  • 29% Self-checkout
  • 28% Mobile POS tablets for checkout by store associate
  • 28% Mobile pay at the pump

“The past few months of the pandemic have merely accelerated many of the technology realizations c-stores were struggling with prior to the crisis. While the need for convenience stores remains stronger than ever, rising labor costs, PPE equipment and revised store layouts coupled with day-to-day infrastructure, support and maintenance costs continue to eat into c-stores’ operational efficiency,” said Nick East, co-founder and CEO of Zynstra, in a press release. “In parallel, the rapid changes in consumer buying habits due to social distancing, such as curbside collection, full-service fueling, click and collect, home delivery, grab and go and more, continue to place pressure on convenience fuel retail businesses’ bottom line.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.