Digitally transforming a convenience store’s operations is the only way to start turning these future-proofing innovation dreams into reality. But it isn’t always easy. One of the factors keeping c-stores behind is complexity.
Indeed, Fuels Market News recently found that 96 percent of c-store owners and operators said they’d be open to adding more innovations if it was easier to implement them. And only 49 percent said that “their current store IT infrastructure was an engine for innovation and delivering new in-store customer experiences.”
That’s the case for many c-stores who have outdated, siloed infrastructures that lack the agility to adopt digital-first technologies. So, while it may have been easier for goPuff to develop a business model that uses an app to deliver over 2,000 products—from ice cream to pet products—charging a cheap ($1.95) flat fee, they had the luxury of not being tied to a legacy system. Because, like many challenger brands, these digital natives were born on the internet—not trying to adapt to the internet.
Siloed legacy systems make it hard to share data, which is the bedrock of the digital-first technology driving the convenience consumers love so much. Mobile payments, digital signage, biometrics that give you real-time, actionable data so that you can understand your customers better than goPuff—are often out of reach with legacy systems.
But, ripping and replacing can simply be too expensive. Plus, it’s a daunting task.
Let’s say you weigh the costs of keeping your legacy system against the spend you’ll need to make on a new system and it turns out that the latter is actually going to cost less in the long run. So, you decide it’s time to leave your legacy behind—and then you begin looking into what that means beyond the price tag.
The disruption to your operations and services may take one, two or even more years. And then there’s the chance of losing data and, more important, customers. Once implemented, training staff on your new system will also require time and employee buy-in (with rising labor costs that isn’t a small consideration). And the amount of planning for all of it, well it’s easy to see why c-store owners and operators get overwhelmed by the idea of replacing their legacy system.
So, what can forward-thinking c-store brands do? In a word: virtualize.