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CHICAGO – Mobile payments and mobile wallets were foremost on the minds of convenience store technology executives during Convenience Store News’ 2013 CIO/Tech Summit, held yesterday at Chicago’s Hyatt Regency O’Hare.
Executives from a variety of c-store retailers, including Flash Foods Inc., The Parker Cos., Road Ranger LLC, QuikTrip Corp., QuickChek Corp., KwikTrip Inc., Alon Brands, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores, and The Pantry Inc., had a lengthy dialogue about the topic, with most agreeing mobile payment implementation will be inevitable in the future at their stores.
In fact, one Summit participant said mobile payments are a “one-time opportunity to change” the convenience store industry because retailers potentially would no longer be fully at the mercy of credit card and debit card providers’ cumbersome interchange fees.
The executives, however, debated whether mobile payments are actually simpler than point-of-sale (POS) credit or debit card swipe transactions, and whether consumers are hungry to switch to a new payment alternative.
Although those concerns are prevalent, data from the CSNews 2013 Technology Study – the initial results of which were revealed during the event -- concluded that retailers are intrigued by mobile technology’s future. According to the study, just 2.1 percent of c-store retailers currently offer mobile wallet payment options, but 32 percent of all respondents plan to add mobile wallet payment capability in the next one to three years. That figure is even higher among 50-plus-store outlets, of which 46 percent expect to add mobile payment technology in the next one to three years.
While mobile dominated much of the discussion, the Summit delved into several other areas currently on the minds of the industry’s chief technology officers and CEOs. As in years past, PCI compliance was again widely mentioned as a crucial topic, as well as fuel price management.
In addition, Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip and PIN technology was a hot new topic this year. EMV standards state that retailers who do not upgrade their POS terminals by October 2015 for in-store transactions and by October 2017 for pump transactions will be forced to accept the responsibility for fraudulent activity potentially occurring with credit and debit cards.
Summit participants lamented that EMV compliance is confusing, and all said they have yet to become EMV compliant because credit card purveyors have not clearly defined what retailers must accomplish to meet these standards.
Also discussed during yesterday’s Summit was how to measure return on investment from social media activities, as well as whether GPS/geolocation technologies will be a part of the c-store industry’s future technology strategies.
For in-depth coverage of the CIO/Tech Summit, see the July issue of Convenience Store News.