Money? Who Needs It?!

Alternative payment methods have gained traction throughout the industry. Is your convenience store embracing the change?

Back in the 1960s—when a few of us at SSCS were kids—there was this pretty cool educational show called Exploring (it was nominated for an Emmy and won a Peabody Award).

One segment that we remember was about how money worked. The basics. The broadcast’s details are a little fuzzy, but the ending was not. Host Dr. Albert Hibbs turned to the screen and said, “Someday there may be no such thing as money.” With that he held up a credit card, in this case one known at the time as a BankAmericard.[1]

What an amazing concept it seemed then—right out of science-fiction—and yet here we are: not only is physical money no longer needed to make a purchase, we have a ton of different ways to do it outside traditional credit card networks (which were once synonymous with cashless payments) using platforms such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Zelle.

Cashless payment alternatives got a boost in popularity during the COVID-19 lockdowns with their emphasis on clean, safe interactions. That’s when the cashless transaction became an integral part of many consumers’ lives and they ended up liking it so much, they continued to use the technology after COVID restrictions were relaxed.

Since convenience is central to the appeal of cashless transactions, it’s more than totally on brand for a convenience store to integrate them. The store benefits in other ways, too: it’s an opportunity to mitigate the swipe fees of traditional credit card networks; an easy path of entry into device-based loyalty programs; plus you never know when coins are going to get scarce again.

Amazon Go may have helped combine the concepts of “touchless payments” and ”convenience stores” in the consumer mind, but there’s a lot more to the story, and we’re not just talking about unmanned stores.

PayPal and Venmo, for example, are accepted at Giant Eagle and GetGo stores and recently were introduced at Fareway. Forbes reports that PayPal is doing what it can to become an in-instore, touchless payment alternative. Speedway has been accepting Apple Pay for literally years, as do all of these petroleum retailers. And Apple continues to add capabilities to what its devices can do in terms of quick easy touchless payments. No doubt other providers are doing the same.

While the proliferation of cashless payment options can seem a bit overwhelming, especially as they constantly evolve, at the heart of every payments system is a constant: sales and other store-related data. The challenge is keeping the data accurate, managing it during the often chaotic work day, and presenting it in easy-to-understand snapshots of what’s happening in the store—regardless of origination point.

SSCS has been aggregating c-store information into its Computerized Daily Book (CDB) back office for over 40 years. Whether data comes from a tank monitor, a POS, or a mobile device, our software puts it together and organizes it to give you operational insights. As new points of data origination surface, you can be sure that we’ll be working hard to integrate them into the flow of information coming into your store. If you want to talk about it a little bit more, please call us at 1-800-972-7727.

By the way, the new cashless payment systems aren’t the only development in the brave new world of c-store commerce. C-stores are also dealing with another kind of alternative: alternative currency. Next week we’ll take a look at what impact that may have on the industry and how they have so far responded.

[1] For a concise history of the credit card, check out this article from TheStreet.

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