SSCS Was There: The 2015 Conexxus Annual Conference
Getting up close and personal with the future of the C-store industry.
Conexxus, formerly PCATS, is all about standardizing data exchange between the different technologies—POS, back office, forecourt—that are indispensable to our industry’s daily work and more! Conexxus continues the XML standards work as well as taking on solutions for retail petroleum that are best practices and educational in nature. Conexxus’ NAXML standards are a non-proprietary language that convenience store retailers and suppliers can use to address the problems of system-to-system integration and data exchange. The ultimate goal of the stand-alone standards entity and its membership is to make business easier and more economical for all involved.
As you might expect, getting a consensus on complex, often proprietary data issues from the multitude of players comprising the industry is no easy undertaking—it takes a lot of cooperation and hard work. These efforts begin and end with effective communication and networking, which makes the Conexxus Annual Conference indispensible to Conexxus’ mission.
This year’s four-day event (April 26–30 at the Loews Annapolis Hotel) was no exception. As a member in good standing of Conexxus and a provider of C-store back office solutions whose value increases as their ability to interface with partner technologies increases, SSCS makes it a point to send representation to the Annual Conference. We participate in business and technical working groups to discuss critical technology issues that are changing the way companies in our industry do business. We also get exposed to keynote addresses and educational sessions that contain important information and provide perspective on where the industry is going.
When industry trade partners come to Conexxus with a request or problem they need solved, the issue is assigned to a Conexxus committee. The members of these committees hash issues out among themselves throughout the year, mostly through conference calls, but the Annual Conference gives us an invaluable opportunity to meet face to face about the issues on the agenda.
Presently SSCS is an active participant in the POS Back Office, EB2B Retail Merchandise and EB2B Lottery committees, so that’s where we spent a good part of our time during the Annual Conference, fielding requests from retailers in those specific areas, discussing them, and, when needed, assigning them to a committee for action. It’s good when retailers participate in any or all committee activity because they are the most effective advocates for their specific business cases and can effectively help guide other participating business partners toward practical solutions that address their own business needs.
This year’s committee highlights included the EB2B Retail Merchandise working group’s effort to exchange discrepancy alert files, like those currently utilized by big box stores, so vendors can receive an automated alert when invoices contain mistakes. This is another encouraging development along with the existing XML standards such as the ones for invoices and purchase orders which allows even a single-site operator to exchange the same detail the big chains do without having to commit resources for an internal I.T. staff.
As you might expect, there has also been a lot of discussion surrounding the mobile platform, including the search for a way to standardize mobile payments from retail customers that will give all retailers easier access to mobile payment solutions. If a retailer wants their customers to pay from their mobile wallet-device instead of using cash or a card, the onus is on that retailer to influence the direction of discussions to ensure the technology meets his or her specific business needs. A mobile payment also should be able to encompass discounts from third-party loyalty programs, use of point-to-point encrypted transmissions, and/or tokenization to keep the transactions secure. All parties involved should get their input so the standards work for them from the outset. That includes, not just retailers, but also POS manufacturers, dispenser manufacturers, loyalty companies, and credit/debit network companies.
Another point of interest that surfaced in this year’s meetings surrounded Payment Systems Product Codes. Fleet retailers or wholesalers who need to track products by product code are getting new codes. This creates a timely opportunity for retailers/wholesalers who need a code for a grade they support in their network that needs to be separated from other grades of fuel.
Of course, there was much more on the agenda, a summary of which is beyond the scope of this recap. There is little question, however, that the Conexxus Annual Conference places participants on the front lines of the technological development that is driving the industry forward.
SSCS’s involvement to date has proven fruitful for our company. As a result of our participation, our technology can now record invoice files from DSD vendors/manufacturers such as Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Frito-Lay, and Pepsi, among others, and we’ve been using NAXML with all POS systems in the industry starting with NAXML in the field in 1999. NAXML started as a NACS committee and in 2004 Conexxus (then called PCATS) was created to maintain the NAXML standards. SSCS is an inaugural member.
We openly encourage direct representation by our industry partners in the Conexxus committees as well as actively engaging SSCS directly with whatever on-going retail business needs you may have so we can do our part to make solutions for you. Plus it’s a great way to get to know your industry partners and peers!