Jan 25, 2022
Connectivity, Safety and Sustainability: Three Trends That Will Shape 2022
As the new year rolls around, the DFS team acknowledges many of the shifts caused by the pandemic will continue to have an impact, from supply chain concerns to labor shortages. We want to highlight three major trends that fuel retailers can harness for profit across 2022: connecting with customers and communities, heightened security concerns and a continued push towards cleaner fuels. Read on to learn how these trends will impact you.
Connecting with Customers, Community And Partners
Every year, technology helps our world become more and more connected. This is changing consumer expectations — and creating new opportunities for the convenience retailing industry.
For example, stores of all kinds are now partnering with delivery companies to host a parcel locker for last-mile-delivery services — a convenience for consumers that helps drive more traffic into stores while creating brand loyalty. Food delivery services, food lockers and drive-throughs are also becoming more common, allowing customers to order before arriving, which in turn eliminates wait times and streamlines experiences.
How can the convenience retailing industry best benefit from this push towards connectivity? Here are a few ideas:
• Connect your forecourt to your entire operation, from the back office to the checkout counter to the carwash to the EV charger. Take advantage of customizable, open-platform solutions that will give your customers a consistent, positive experience from the moment they drive onto your parking lot until after they have completed their purchases. The time is now to extend your customer service from the checkout counter to the forecourt with cloud-based solutions.
• Promote private-label products as your community steers further away from name brands in favor of better prices. Sales of private label products now outpace the sales of branded products three to one1, allowing retailers to profit from 25-30% higher margins. Not only is this profitable, but it extends your brand into customers’ homes, offices or anywhere else your product ends up being seen, which drives loyalty. Leverage a loyalty program to drive customers back for their 10th (and free!) private label drink.
Security Continues to be a Top Concern
Due to the sheer volume of transactions processed at c-stores every day, they will always be targets for fraud and data breaches. Even as we innovate new ways to protect customer data, the same technologies that connect the world also create new breach opportunities for cyber criminals.
Secure infrastructure is no longer a choice, as the EMV deadline has passed, and fraud will move to sites that have not been upgraded. Retailer behavior was regulated to adapt to card-clamping, while consumer behavior has chosen to shift to contactless payments. According to a study from MasterCard², over half of Americans are now using contactless payments.
In 2022, expect to see the next level of security take off: point-to-point encryption (P2PE). Criminals are becoming more skilled at hacking networks, and the industry is encouraging the automatic encryption of payment data from the moment it is shared by the customer to the point it is decrypted for processing within a secure network.
The other side of that coin is protecting c-store employees, as physical acts of crime are also on the rise. Expect to see a rise in the use of cameras on-site for security. C-stores have always been community hubs, now more than ever with the rise of food-service offerings, which drive traffic but attract threats. Implementing a closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system — which can easily be tied into your overall platform — will help you keep your business, customers and employees secure.
The convenience retail industry already uses license plate readers to identify repeat fuel thieves, but why stop there? Some fuel dispensers now have the option to integrate cameras. While they are most commonly used as proximity sensors, there are open platform opportunities to get a better view of your forecourt than ever before. Dispensers can also be tied to your CCTV system for a more comprehensive view of your site. Profits matter, but protecting your customers and employees is the top priority.
Sustainable Business Practices
In 2022, the push toward alternative fuels and sustainable business practices will accelerate, and electric vehicles are leading the way. In Europe, which is now leading the way in new EV vehicles registrations3, nearly 20 countries have announced an end year for new vehicle sales with internal combustion engines. In the United States, the Build Back Better act is poised to provide almost half a trillion dollars in clean energy investments, helping accelerate a movement that was already growing rapidly .
Despite the pandemic, ethanol fuel sales are on the rise. A study from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA)⁴ showed E15 sales rising to record levels in some American states, and as of December 2021, Oregon has become the 48th state to approve retailers to sell E15⁵.
However, change will come at a different pace in the various markets served by DFS, and it creates more complexity for our customers to harmonize payments, monitoring, replenishment and more. The c-store has been the primary destination sought by consumers on their vehicular journeys for nearly a century and should remain this way for decades to come.
For fueling retailers, the push to “go green” means your customers will expect you to serve them differently. They’ll expect sustainable service decisions such as not printing receipts, not providing bags, and installing EV chargers. Consumers are voting with their wallets for environmentally friendly businesses, and you can’t afford to be left behind. WaWa is testing the limits of footprint minimization with their first drive-through-only location in New Jersey⁶.
Customers will also expect to see fewer flyers and physical coupons, in favor of more digital signage to minimize print waste. Looking for solutions that can help? Consider DX Promote®, an award-winning platform that can help you eliminate much of the printing and paper generation your stations are currently paying for.
2022 is bound to be an exciting year for the convenience retail industry. There’s the possibility of a roaring economic recovery that might propel our industry to new heights — but also the uncertainty of more pandemic-related disruption. Despite all the uncertainty, the three trends mentioned in this article are sure to continue. At DFS, we are ready to help your business prosper through any business conditions, with innovative products, services and solutions to give you a powerful edge.