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FORT WORTH, Texas – Convenience store retailers must embrace technology "or dig a hole, because it is not going away," Scott Hartman, president and CEO of Rutter’s Farm Stores, said today during the closing keynote speech at the 2013 Southwest Fuel & Convenience Expo, held this week at the Omni Fort Worth hotel.
Mastering "customer touch," in particular, is the key to success for c-store retailers moving forward. "Upselling [customers] by using touchscreens is great," noted the head of the York-Pa.-based chain of 57 c-stores. "The machine upsells like crazy and it never gets tired [of] asking a customers for an upsell [like] employees do."
Customer touch goes way beyond touchscreens, however. Despite perceived flaws with security, Hartman said mobile payments will soon be a requirement for all convenience stores. Hartman on Wednesday was inducted into the PCATS Technology Hall of Fame in a ceremony at THE Tech EVENT in nearby Dallas.
"The future of mobile consumer touch is today. C-store customers are the most mobile of all," he relayed. "Just think about how fast they are in and out of our parking lots. Retailers who do not adapt to mobile payments will be turning away customers."
Rutter’s uses a mobile app to interact with its customers. The c-store chain has achieved tremendous results from what it calls "gamification." For example, the retailer -- known for its dairy store roots -- offers a game that allows consumers to virtually "tip cows" and win prizes for in-store merchandise.
"We have leader boards and customers really compete," Hartman explained. "Some who lose even complain the game is rigged. But that’s OK because the customer interaction is there."
Prior to Hartman’s speech, Jim Kolkhorst, chairman of the Texas Food and Fuel Association, dubbed the 2013 Southwest Fuel & Convenience Expo "a very successful" show, although he acknowledged the trade group may alter the time and/or date of the closing general session, perhaps due to less-than-expected turnout.
The comprehensive event, presented by the Texas Food and Fuel Association, kicked off Wednesday, May 8. The exhibition hall, located at the Fort Worth Convention Center – across the street from the Omni hotel – opened yesterday and featured 11 aisles filled with exhibits.
Next year’s Southwest Fuel & Convenience Expo will be held May 13-15, 2014 at the Gaylord Texan in Dallas.