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NACS Show 2023: the future of C-store and gas station payments

We reflect on the key trends shaping the future of the convenience and gas station industry and the transformative role of payments.

The 2023 NACS Show came to a successful close earlier this month, commemorating its 30th anniversary since its debut in 1993 as the premier event in the global convenience and fuel retail space.

Held in Atlanta, Georgia, the event drew thousands of attendees to the Georgia World Congress Center for four days of education, networking, and a glimpse into what’s ahead for the future of convenience store (C-store) and gas station operations. We also had the opportunity to learn about emerging transportation trends, like EV payments, and offer our thoughts on how artificial intelligence (AI) and the proliferation of modern payments technology are impacting the industry.

As we reflect on the highlights of this year's event, here’s a breakdown of the key trends shaping the future of the C-store and gas station industry.

The case for AI technology in C-store and gas station payments

A prominent and recurring theme throughout this year’s NACS Show is the industry’s increasing focus on technological innovation, most notably in the realm of AI-powered solutions. These technologies seek to streamline everyday store and fuel site operations while providing retailers with innovative means to cater to their customers' diverse needs.   

Many of the offerings on display addressed a range of pain points currently facing C-store and gas station operators today, spanning from cashier-less point-of-sale (POS) terminals that help mitigate staff shortages to autonomous inventory management and self-shelving vending machines. Additionally, through real-time analysis and data collection, retailers can leverage AI to achieve significant improvements in all areas of their store’s performance, freeing up time to focus on the in-store customer experience.

This latest wave of innovation indicates that the industry is using lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to embrace and experiment with new and emerging technologies that not only enhance the overall checkout experience but also provide expanded payment options.

Consumers’ payment preferences are changing

Today’s consumer is more knowledgeable, informed, and discerning than ever before, driving an increased demand for quick service at the checkout. To adapt and ultimately cater to these demands, C-store and gas station operators are implementing digitally enabled, contactless payment solutions that provide the ultimate convenience by allowing customers to pay how they prefer.   

While debit and credit card transactions remain the most popular payment method across the globe, there’s been a paradigm shift towards contactless payments among many consumers in the U.S. One notable example is the growing adoption of popular mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, which enables a customer to complete everyday purchases with their smartphone while on the go.

As enhancements in checkout technology become more accessible, many C-store operators can leverage the acceptance of digitally driven solutions to drive customer loyalty and return business. In fact, in our Lost in Transaction 2023 research, released earlier this year, which surveyed over 200 U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses, we found that 70% of merchants across various verticals plan to incorporate new payment technology within the next 12 months. Survey respondents also indicated that the most sought-after enhancements ranged from upgraded payment terminals that enable contactless payments, or tap to pay, via a mobile device or contactless chip card to the availability of actionable customer insights.

Growing industry interest in processing EV payments

The future of electric vehicle (EV) charging was also a prominent topic of discussion. As the convenience and gas station industry continues to evolve, retailers nationwide are increasingly embracing EV charging solutions, with a growing number of operators announcing their intentions to either launch EV charging stations at their existing locations or expand their current networks.

Although there are varying predictions about the direction of this transition, it presents significant opportunities for operators, especially those running fuel-free convenience stores. That’s because EV charging stations offer the unique advantage of creating a new revenue stream for businesses that exclusively provide a diverse range of consumable products and related services but do not sell gasoline.  

In fact, charging stations can even serve as effective platforms for disseminating promotional marketing campaigns aimed at enticing motorists to step inside and explore the store's offerings. For retailers equipped with a mobile app, customers can also receive real-time notifications about exclusive offers while they're charging their vehicles and earn rewards when making in-store purchases.

Thankfully, the right payments partner can help these merchants overcome potential payment hurdles as they transition to new and emerging channels by delivering a variety of solutions that are customizable to regional preferences, enhance the customer experience, and increase profitable revenue streams. The right solution can also provide secure payment processes to protect user data and ensure a seamless experience, suitable for the future of convenience.

To initiate payment processing for your small business, reach out to one of our payment experts today. Additionally, you can access our 2023 Lost in Transaction: Consumer Payment Trends report to gain deeper insights into how evolving consumer priorities are influencing travel and discretionary spending.