Blog: The Times, They Are a-Changin’

November 23, 2020  |  REINT JAN HOLTERMAN

Fuel & Convenience Retailers Need New Technologies that Promote Low- and No- Contact Shopping Paradigms

The COVID-19 pandemic consumed 2020. It’s causing consumers to stay at home more, since many are working from home and reducing their weekend trips, family visits, and shopping trips. This so-called “new normal” has reduced fuel consumption on the one hand, yet it also has positive implications for fuel station owners.

Convenience sales are up
The people who do leave the house typically prefer to keep their distance from other customers and store staff. One way to minimize interactions is by visiting convenience stores in not-so-crowded areas, for example in suburbs or along highways. A recent study carried out by NACS underpins this attitude. According to a survey of U.S. convenience store owners, sales of convenience items have remained strong during the first three quarters, while fuel is still catching up. In fact, more than half of the respondents said that in-store sales through the first nine months of 2020 were higher than the same period a year ago. And even better still, almost two-thirds (64%) said in-store sales were up in September compared with last year. 

COVID is changing consumer behavior
Another impact of the pandemic we see on fuel and convenience stores is a change in the way consumers want to be serviced. To reduce person-to-person interactions, people now prefer contact-less or low-contact alternatives, such as curbside pickups, drive-through and home deliveries. Payments are also tending to lean more towards contactless methods, reducing cash payments. More than one-fifth of all convenience retailers invested in curbside pickup services this year. The same goes for adding contactless to their payment pallet. 

Jumping on the trend of going “contact-less”, a recent innovation was developed by a coffee vendor, who now offers coffee consumers the ability to order a beverage from a coffee machine in a self-service area without having to touch any buttons or displays. For this, they launched a new web application which allows consumers to choose their beverage safely and conveniently using their own smartphone. All that’s needed is a smartphone with a camera and an internet connection.

New solutions cater to changing consumer behavior
At Diebold Nixdorf, our focus has long been designing innovative hardware and software solutions that require less physical interaction between consumers and store staff. Self-service kiosks and self-checkout (SCO) solutions are gaining a lot of traction these days, since they eliminate physical contact between staff and consumers. In addition, self-service solutions expedite the checkout process and reduce overall cost per transaction. 

We also recently introduced VynamicTM FCx, a brand-new software platform specifically for fuel and convenience retailers. As a 100% cloud-native, service-oriented platform based on Open APIs with a minimal hardware footprint, this solution drastically reduces time-to-market for adding new store innovations.

From the point of view of reducing physical contact between consumers and staff while in store, Vynamic FCx flexibly supports existing and new types of consumer journeys, including online-2-offline (O2O) journeys that start at home or on-the-go and continue in or near the convenience store, e.g. by picking up pre-ordered items curbside. Moreover, thanks to its standardized, open APIs, Vynamic FCx lets you easily integrate with other technologies and online services, e.g. mobile payments or the coffee example mentioned above, that promote contactless shopping in fuel and convenience stores. In addition, since it is fully cloud-based, it can be deployed, managed and upgraded entirely remotely, so there is no need to have a service engineer come on site, further reducing physical contacts for your store staff and consumers.

It’s time to move from “fuel plus…” to “…plus fuel”
The fuel industry is rapidly moving beyond traditional forecourt interactions. Besides introducing O2O services, we see many fuel retailers expanding their services in other new ways, offering recharging hubs with an enhanced focus on convenience and food-2-go services. Adapting their business model from “fuel plus…” to “…plus fuel”, fuel retailers need a highly flexible, adaptive and scale-as-you-go cloud software platform to run their business operations efficiently, both today and tomorrow, while reducing total cost of ownership at the same time. Vynamic FCx offers all that—and more—it’s an extremely open and flexible solution that lets you adapt and scale your fuel retail business the way you want, at the pace you want!

Start your journey to “…plus fuel” today! Connect with us today