As a business with the goal of efficiency and speed for its customers, the c-store is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the current global shift toward mobile payments. Indeed, many have already done so, creating apps and mobile ordering modules that reduce wait time and increase loyalty. The trend in mobile payments—which shows no signs of abating—is a boon for the c-store looking to increase revenue among younger clientele.
Mobile payment is exploding, with total 2015 sales expected to triple—from $80.7 billion to $282.9 billion—by 2021. Early concerns about security breaches have been assuaged in recent years by technological advances in security such as EMV payments—the technology that reads a chip implanted into today’s credit cards, offering better data protection—and by the federal government’s decision to standardize it. Additionally, the mobile culture has gotten a boost from the advent of the millennial generation entering the workforce—a demographic more heavily invested in mobile technology than any before. All of this works to the advantage of the c-store, a business whose typical products—fuel, coffee and other beverages, and ready-to-eat meals—appeal to precisely the same demographic.
At the forefront of the increased security enhancements is a newer technology known as NFC (near-field communication) payments (or “contactless payments”), which have been shown to be just as secure as EMV payments. The advantage of NFC, especially for c-stores, is that it takes only a fraction of the time of EMV because it goes through a mobile device. These advances in security provide customers even greater protection from credit card fraud.
The Power of The App
C-stores nationwide are on a mission to facilitate in-app payments, an increasingly popular option among users of mobile devices and also device-wearers (Apple Watch customers, for example). Many stores are accepting Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and a customer who downloads the company app often discovers that the app can recognize the kind of device he or she is using—an important feature that streamlines the mobile process and enriches the customer experience. Several c-stores have also partnered with Chase Pay, a system that allows customers to earn rewards through their mobile (or credit card) purchases at c-stores. Recent studies have linked the integration of incentives, special discounts and coupons to an increase in purchases—programs driving sales—and best of all, it can all be done “internally,” through the company app.
Click, Not Brick
A new app called goPuff is aimed at bringing the c-store experience to the customer in the comfort of his own apartment. Launched by two millennials who found themselves constantly driving carless friends to and from c-stores for snacks while in college, the app lists thousands of products available at nearby c-stores and promises delivery—for a $1.95 fee—in thirty minutes or less. Typical c-store customers—especially millennials—are eagerly embracing on-demand delivery, the option of staying home and paying a bit extra to have groceries driven to them. And though the physical presence of a customer at the brick-and-mortar store typically boosts sales, this “direct sell” is still a boon for c-stores, who would likely miss out on the sales entirely without the app and delivery service—the company recently estimated a jump of 80% in ice cream sales once winter hits—customers still want ice cream, they just don’t want to leave the warmth of their apartment. Mobile payment is alive and well, within retail and without, and c-stores stand to benefit significantly from it.