[Editor's Note: This is the first of two roundup reports focusing on the annual NACStech technology conference and trade show.] NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- At the close of last week's technology conference, NACS officials announced that the NACStech convention and the industry standards group PCATS will merge their annual meetings, calling next year's show "The Tech Event."
The Tech Event will take place in May 2013, and feature "more focused educational sessions, networking time and a different format for suppliers to showcase their products and services," said Hank Armour, president and CEO of the National Association of Convenience Stores.
"Next year, the power of NACStech will double as we merge our industry's two biggest tech events into one," Armour said, addressing about 600 remaining attendees on the last day of the conference, which ran from May 21 to May 23. "The Tech Event, is another step in our seamless integration of PCATS under NACS," he said.
PCATS is the Petroleum Convenience Alliance for Technology Standards, Stafford, Va., which has held its annual standards-focused meeting in January.
The PCATS focus has typically been working sessions surrounding software protocol, integration and data-security concerns. Time will tell how that focus will blend with the NACStech meeting, which has adopted an educational bent tied to a sizeable trade show.
Meanwhile, on the tradeshow floor, numerous vendors were showing how c-store technologies appear to be melding together, adapting to consumer demands and retailer needs:
Dispensers are absorbing technology to allow for mobile-phone payment. Austin, Texas-based Wayne, a fuel-pump manufacturer, announced near field communication (NFC)-enabled readers that allow consumers to pay, present loyalty cards and redeem offers with the wave of a smartphone. Tied to its "iX Pay Secure Payment" solution, the modular, in-pump device supports mag-stripe contactless, Euro MasterCard Visa (EMV) contactless and NFC mobile-payment programs. "Contactless and mobile payment technologies are going to help retailers provide their customers tremendous value and incentives, as well as attract new customers with their differentiated offerings," said Tim Weston, Wayne North America product manager. "With the emergence of contactless payments and NFC technology on smart phones, Wayne is … offering this technology as part of our innovative secure-payment solution."
Integrating with "the cloud." Axel Kirstetter, vice president of product strategy for Florham Park, N.J.-based KSS Fuels said even the smaller players are trying to develop customer-relationship management (CRM) intelligence as a way to stand out. To do so, many are opting for solutions based off-site, in the Internet's "cloud." The company provides analytical services that help retailers better understand consumer demand, competition and the impact of changes in local markets. It quantifies factors influencing how and why consumers shop certain locations, highlighting how location, facilities, merchandising, competition and other retail attributes combine to influence purchase decisions.
Multiple options. Plano, Texas-based Retalix was bringing many technology elements to the site level, with products such as self-service kiosks and mobile-phone technology that allows payment via "the cloud." Brad Prizer, vice president of global marketing communication, said its solution is currently assisting Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Farms and its mobile-payment program.
Network management. Growing from strictly processing payments to managing a retailer's entire data-transfer network has been the path for Heartland Payment Systems, Plano, Texas, according to Bill McCollough, executive director of petroleum. The evolution was a natural one, he said, explaining how a critical development was moving from dial-up to digital. Heartland had always done payment processing, but the technology evolution "was like building a six-lane highway with only one car going up." Another important trend was cost, in that bandwidth along the information superhighway grew as costs dropped.
EMV experience. As security becomes more of a concern for retailers, Pat Polillo, vice president of sales for AJB Software, Mississauga, Ontario, said network providers must address evolving security issues, including EMV, a technology that many of its Canadian clients have already had to adopt.
Data integration. Consumers today are looking to integrate loyalty with pricebook information, trying to figure out what's working well, said Chris Kiernan, director of retail applications for ADD Systems, Cranston, R.I. Often times, retailers can't access data that's coming off their devices, saying, "They know the data exists and they need to find it."
The mood over technology is changing within the industry, said Gray Taylor, executive director for PCATS. "Used to be that IT got dragged into projects to make sure it worked," he said. "Now [retailers] drive IT to take the lead."