Take a look around the convenience industry and you’ll notice technological advancements throughout all sectors of the business, from foodservice equipment to forecourt upgrades. Armed with only a cellphone or smart device, customers, handling cash, goods and products to provide a safer, more efficient transaction. One way retailers can take advantage of a rapidly changing technological landscape and deliver on consumer wants is to implement frictionless payments into their stores.

Frictionless — also called touchless, digital or contactless payment — an increasingly popular payment method, uses smartphone apps, mobile wallets, and contactless cards to replace a traditional checkout experience, expediting the time it takes for consumers to complete a purchase.

Statista, an international marketing statistics portal, projected that frictionless payments processed $3.9 trillion globally last year alone, while a number of analysts expect the technology to grow to $8 trillion by 2024. According to Retail Consulting Partners’ 2021 POS & Customer Engagement Report, contactless payments accounted for less than 2 percent of transactions in 2018 and have grown to almost 80 percent today. In fact, 86 percent of those who implemented contactless payment options for the first time since 2020 have said they plan to keep the services permanently, Convenience Store News reports.

Whether they’re paying at the pump, ordering a snack in advance or sampling the quick-service food counter, contactless experiences are an easy way to meet the fast-paced expectations of c-store customers, and retailers should be able to support multiple payment types across all contactless options.

  • Mobile apps sync with a credit card or checking account and process payments automatically.
  • Mobile wallets digitally store credit, debit and rewards cards’ information on a smartphone or device, allowing consumers to make purchases without a physical card swipe.
  • Contactless cards function by waving or hovering a credit or debit card near a payment system without swiping or using a chip
  • Near field communications (NFC) allow a smartphone to communicate with a payment reader when they’re nearby. One example of NFC is Apple Pay.
  • Quick response (QR) codes are a type of barcode or scannable pattern that contains various forms of data like website links, account information — even coupons.

Benefits of Adoption Efficiency is the leading factor for those interested in contactless experiences — if a driver stops at a gas station with a car at each pump, they’re more likely to move on to the next option. The same applies to customers who, upon seeing long lines at the checkout inside, never move from the forecourt to the store. App-powered digital solutions aim to entice customers and encourage repeat transactions.

Independence is another benefit to customers that contactless payments can provide. Self-checkout technology has been adopted rapidly in the c-store industry, with many chains across the company, including Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores Inc., implementing some variation of the payment process. In April 2020, the Midwest retailer introduced contactless delivery, pay- ahead options for carryout and low-contact checkout by accommodating Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Industry leaders expect an ultra-convenient experience, especially for grab-and-go items and prepared foods, and say that tech-enabled automation as a result of these purchases will fuel customization efforts. Because consumers search and pay for items on their smartphones and personal devices, retailers can access data around past purchases, then provide customized offers and discounts on relevant items. For example, a customer who purchases coffee regularly might open their phone one day to an offer for a discount on a doughnut with their next purchase.

Frictionless payments also give retailers the chance to contact the customer well after the purchase. In addition to digital receipts, retailers can send messages and offers via email, text or app notification and can curate messages like promotions or loyalty program updates at different times of the day, based on when the customer typically engages.

A contactless experience also means less physical contact with products for a more hygienic and safer transaction, a substantial concern amid many consumers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also growing in popularity; its versatility can be easily adapted for loyalty programs, frictionless checkout and more. Some of this tech includes programs that enable transparency and traceability in the supply chain by tracking freight to quickly identify any damaged or recalled goods, or use algorithms to personalize marketing to an individual customer.

With more focus on the forecourt during the ongoing EMV shift, retailers can benefit from the implementation of digital signage both inside the store and out, which industry leaders say can enhance touchless offerings like curbside pickup. The use of digital signage inside adds an inviting and enticing feature to any cooler.

In addition to the speed, safety and efficiency of contactless payments, the payment method can also increase customer loyalty. If a customer has downloaded a c-store’s mobile app, saves their payment information and has a pleasant experience during a pit stop for gas and grab-and- go items, that c-store becomes that customer’s go-to. With a customer’s email and other information shared, retailers can target, for example, their fuel-only customers and offer promotions and discounts on things like menu items to attract them inside.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Thorntons revamped its loyalty offerings in July 2020 with the launch of text-to-enroll registration for its Refreshing Rewards Loyalty Program. By texting the word ‘Fuel’ followed by a valid email address to 73757, customers enrolled and received a 15-cents-off- per-gallon offer to redeem on their next fuel purchase at a Thorntons location.

Thorntons also released a new Pro Driver Refreshing Rewards app exclusively for professional drivers in October 2021, a card and app designed to offer the same benefits as Refreshing Rewards, but also special fuel discounts and exclusive rewards like point accruals for every gallon pumped, 5 cents off a gallon of fuel every day, and a free dispensed drink, Fizz Freez or coffee with every fill-up. With a wide variety of contactless payment options at their fingertips, retailers should ask themselves what’s better suited for their business. Mobile wallets and transactions through mobile apps are expected to grow into 2022. How will retailers ensure they’re listening to consumer expectations both at the pumps and inside the store?

Sources: www.csnews.com www.cspdailynews.com www.cstoredecisions.com