By Sara Counihan
Time. It’s something that affects us all. It’s something we always want more of and yet money can’t buy it. Or can it?
This week’s episode of the Convenience Matters podcast discusses how forward-thinking retailers are focusing on self-checkout and mobile payment options with the goal of decreasing friction to give time back to customers—even if it’s just seconds.
A NACS shopper survey found that 65% of frequent shoppers would be interested in technologies that allow for instant pay, skipping the line and no cashier interaction. However, implementing these technologies can be an expensive, multiyear implementation.
So where are customers on the implementation spectrum? NACS completed a research project on tech trends in the industry, and it found that the most forward-looking retailers planned as much as six years in the future for technology projects. They focused their time and budgets on customer-facing technology, even before COVID-19 made the rest of the retail world quickly do the same.
“One out of five retailers stated they did not have a formalized technology roadmap, and a further 19% stated their roadmap plan for one year or less,” said Patrick Loftus, NACS survey research and data visualization manager, who spearheaded the project. “A large portion of retailers—nearly two out of five—are either not charting a technology path forward at all or doing so for only the next 12 months.”
According to Loftus, forward-looking companies are more focused on customer-facing-type technologies; however, those retailers started on operational challenges. Retailers that are now working on shopper experience-related area first focused on maintaining stock on in-demand products, implementing tech to automate inventory management and maintaining cybersecurity and regulatory compliance.
“By focusing on all of those areas previously, they were then able to turn attention to those more customer-experience-focused areas, really looking to meet shopper expectations across more customer-driven challenges, such as loyalty benefit programs, making payments fast and easy, creating a more omnichannel experience for the customer and ensuring that the customer has a fast in-store shopping experience,” said Loftus.
So, what are retailers focusing on from a customer-facing technology standpoint over the next two years? Loftus answers this question on this week’s episode, and the focus is different than it has been in the past two years.
NACS Magazine shares findings of the NACS Research white paper “Building Convenience Retail Success Through Technology” in “Mapping Innovation” in the October 2021 issue.
Chris Whitley of Gilbarco Veeder-Root also spoke on the episode about the consumer mindset on things like pumping gas, shopping in stores and the changes in attitudes since the global pandemic began. Rounding out the episode, Karen Meyer, retail operations manager for J&H Oil Company gives listeners real-world examples on how tech implementations really work in her business and if they save time for customers.
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 250,000 times by listeners around the world.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.