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NEW YORK -- This week marks the start of another NACStech Conference, and Jenny Bullard, CIO of Flash Foods Inc., operating 175 stores based in Waycross, Ga., is serving as NACStech Chairman for the third year in a row.
Convenience Store News sat down with Bullard to identify the biggest technology issues facing the c-store industry today, where the industry is headed and how PCI compliance plays a role.
CSNews Online: What are some of the biggest technology issues facing the convenience store industry today?
Jenny Bullard: Credit card fees are still an issue, and we are all continuing to try and find different ways to accept payment to reduce those fees, and PCI is still top of the list for many retailers. At Flash Foods, we went through our first year of PCI as a Level 1 merchant, and we felt the pain but were excited about completing the task. As we moved into the second year, we quickly learned that you never complete the task and the rules can change on you from year to year. PCI will continue to be part of our yearly business plan as long as we accept debit and credit cards.
Additionally, as more retailers implement loyalty programs, and we all move to capturing more information about our customers, the security of that data becomes even more important. PCATS (Petroleum and Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards) has a newly developed committee that is working to set standards around securing that data.
CSNews Online: Where do you think the convenience store industry is headed in terms of technology?
Bullard: Mobile and online technologies are creating a new and exciting way to engage customers, and social media is a hot topic right now. It offers endless possibilities for interactive marketing strategies.
CSNews Online: What are your feelings regarding PCI and where the regulations are headed?
Bullard: Meeting the PCI regulations as a Level 1 merchant in the c-store industry is costly and very difficult to do. We are adding cost to the high interchange fees we already pay the credit card companies because of their mandated regulations. This is a difficult pill for the c-store industry to swallow year after year. But from a technology aspect, meeting PCI compliance regulations has made our company a more technically secure company -- a task and cost that most likely would have been tabled until a later time if PCI had not become a reality.
For more from Bullard about the project Flash Foods is working on this year, how she got involved in the industry and technology, and other topics, read Convenience Store News' May 3 issue cover story, "Flash Forward."
Technology's Role More Critical