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RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Cloud computing, near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth technologies, the Internet of Things and big data are the four hottest technological trends right now, revealed Pat Lewis, CEO of convenience store chain Oasis Stop 'N Go LLC.
Lewis was the keynote speaker Tuesday during the inaugural Convenience Store News Fuels & Tech Summit, a two-day event that took place at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. Representatives from The Pantry Inc., Murphy USA Inc. Thorntons Inc., Alon USA Energy Inc., Kum & Go LC, Sheetz Inc., Rutter's Farm Stores, Ricker Oil Co., Plaid Pantries Inc., RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. and Flash Foods Inc. were among those in attendance.
In his presentation entitled "Future Trends in Technology and Fuel, and How They Will Impact Convenience Stores," Lewis said the convenience store industry is still lagging behind in technological adoption vs. other industries and there are multiple reasons why.
"We have a bifurcated industry with a lot of single-store operators," he said. "There are also a lot of family-owned businesses where people don't want to change what has worked in the past."
For the adopters, however, efficiencies from technologies have saved the c-store industry billions, and the four hot technologies outlined should save plenty more dollars and time in the future, stressed Lewis, who is also CEO of Twin Falls, Idaho-based KickBack Rewards Systems, a loyalty and rewards program provider.
Of the four technologies, the hottest one for the future is big data. "Data-driven decisions are a buzzword now," he told Summit attendees. "Big data allows for complex queries and instant feedback. It also links many powerful servers together at one time."
Hence, the quantity of data is getting massive and will continue to grow. "Over 90 percent of data in existence today was created in the past two years," he added.
To emphasize how big data can be put to good use for c-store retailers, Lewis shared an Oasis Stop 'N Go example. The retailer's challenge was to grow its fuel loyalty program. Information derived from big data allowed the chain to develop advertising campaigns for specific demographics.
"For example, big data allowed us to tailor a campaign aimed at reaching females, ages 25-35, who have a job," he said. "It worked out very well."
IN THE CLOUD
Discussing cloud computing, Lewis predicted that more introductions of managed solutions and point-of-sale products will lead to better mobile payment systems, many of which are NFC based. And NFC and Bluetooth technologies provide plenty of marketing advantages for c-store operators.
"Mobile payments are here to stay; everything is moving in that direction," he observed. "There are so many players in this space and it has a lot of momentum."
Geofencing and smart digital signage are other hot technologies, but few retailers know what they are doing and why when attempting to attract new customers.
"Our biggest opportunity remains customers fueling at our locations, but not coming into our stores," stated Lewis. "The reverse is also true as some customers only come inside the store and don't fuel with us."
The final hot technology for the future is what Lewis referred to as the Internet of Things, referencing the apps that allow c-store operators to monitor multiple facets of their business in real-time, no matter where they are located in the world at that moment.
Although technological advancements at c-stores have not progressed to the level Lewis would like, he is decidedly optimistic about the future of the industry.