Above: Jimmy Frangis, chief executive officer, PDI Technologies, and Linnea Geiss, chief operating officer, PDI Technologies
As the convenience industry continues to transform at a rapid pace, recessionary fears and rising inflation rates threaten to delay investment and business growth. However, convenience retailers would be wise to embrace technology innovation as a way to improve efficiency and position themselves to act upon new business opportunities in this macroeconomic climate.
Achieving that vision will require new levels of collaboration and connectivity across the industry, with digital transformation at the forefront. Led by CEO Jimmy Frangis and COO Linnea Geiss, PDI Technologies is focused on simplifying the industry’s technology ecosystem and delivering the right solutions to help retailers future-proof their businesses for whatever comes next.
LOOKING TOWARD 2023, HOW CAN CONVENIENCE RETAILERS MAINTAIN SUCCESS WITHIN A RELATIVELY UNCERTAIN ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT?
Jimmy Frangis: First, it’s always good to remember that c-stores provide a solid value proposition that appeals to a lot of consumers. Even in times when fuel consumption might be down, operators can focus on growing their in-store business in terms of profit generation.
There’s opportunity during an inflationary environment to provide good value and convenience. You can’t stand still as a business, but you need to make smart investments that can benefit you for a long time. And, once you decide to invest, you really need to shorten your time to value. Even during recent economic downturns, the convenience industry has performed well because it’s resilient, and consumers view it as baked into their daily lives.
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS RETAILERS CAN STAY AHEAD OF CHANGING CONSUMER SHOPPING BEHAVIORS?
Linnea Geiss: It’s extremely important to get to know your customers better, which often means building off your loyalty or CRM data to deliver greater personalization. Can you gain insight into their behavior before they even enter your store? Can you identify a pattern of what motivates their purchases? The more data and insights you can extract from areas such as advertising and CPG offers, the better you can predict and influence their behavior—and ultimately deliver a more personalized experience.
Differentiating your brand is also essential—from your pricing strategy and foodservice offerings to your mascot. The best brands express a unique personality that distinguishes them as industry leaders. They also focus on future-proofing their business. That might mean building sustainability into your loyalty program, being an early provider of EV charging stations, or simply using your entire digital toolbox to really stand out.
ONE ONGOING CHALLENGE HAS BEEN RANSOMWARE AND OTHER CYBERTHREATS. HOW CAN RETAILERS REDUCE BUSINESS RISK?
Linnea Geiss: Yes, cyberattacks are still on the rise, and they pose an existential threat if you don’t have a strong security posture. On one side, you need to protect your physical assets and infrastructure. You also need to secure the digital realm beyond the walls of your business by proactively monitoring for bad actors and potential threats across your supply chain.
Unfortunately, it’s increasingly difficult to find skilled cybersecurity professionals. When you add regulatory and compliance mandates into the mix, security management becomes extremely complicated. You can’t be an expert in everything, and cybersecurity is one area where you can’t afford any missteps. Complementing your own IT team by working with a reputable security services provider is often the fastest way to increase your security posture.
SPEAKING OF SUPPLY CHAINS, HOW CAN RETAILERS AVOID DISRUPTIONS AND KEEP EVERYTHING RUNNING SMOOTHLY?
Jimmy Frangis: We’re still seeing a lot of consolidation in the marketplace. As operators get bigger, they’re moving into new lines of business, and that added complexity results in a more complicated supply chain. But that consolidation also opens a big opportunity to drive efficiency and consistency across multiple supply chains. We’re seeing greater use of AI and machine learning technologies to increase efficiency and productivity across the supply chain.
Investing in efficiency is critical, especially with the current workforce shortages. It’s getting harder to hire and retain skilled employees, so technology can be a game changer. Anytime you can leverage technology that lets one person do what five people did, that’s a huge benefit—especially as it allows your team to focus on what really matters. You can also invest in managed services to complement your own staff to support specific areas of your business.
WITH SO MUCH CONSOLIDATION STILL OCCURRING, HOW DO WE SIMPLIFY THE OVERALL INDUSTRY ECOSYSTEM?
Jimmy Frangis: There’s still a lot of complexity in our industry, in terms of brand relationships, partnerships and IT systems. The key to success is turning potential confusion into an opportunity. During the pandemic, we saw how technology helped our industry adapt to rapid change and gave convenience retailers an opportunity to outmaneuver other competitors. Using flexible technology is critical for creating a more collaborative industry that benefits everyone.
If you think about the economic challenges for 2023, you can’t expect to do everything on your own, and neither can we. You must be open to collaborating with others in the convenience industry. At PDI, we have a vision of connecting convenience across the entire industry ecosystem. We’re investing in new levels of collaboration and partnership with a wide range of companies that offer solutions for our customers to solve industry-wide challenges, and I can’t think of a group that’s more prepared or resilient than the people in our industry.
To learn more about the latest industry trends and technologies, visit www.pditechnologies.com/trends.