How Open Architecture and APIs Are Changing Convenience Retail

Written by Natasha Janic on September 05, 2017

Talk of open architecture and APIs may seem more suitable for other industries such as quick service restaurants (QSRs). In the past, APIs may have seemed like the furthest thing from reality within the fuel and c-store space. Proprietary hardware, which has been the standard in the industry made it difficult to implement innovative solutions beyond their core functionality. Therefore, in the past, it has been difficult and expensive to implement an integrated customer engagement strategy, including loyalty programs that span channels and customer touch points. Non-integrated loyalty programs results in a fragmented and impersonal customer experience such as fuel rewards programs that can’t track customer behavior beyond the pump due to the barriers from proprietary hardware.

As retailers face the reality of hardware barriers, there is a greater demand for cloud-based software that allow for greater flexibility. While the industry is in the early stages of pivoting away from proprietary hardware and software, the fuel & c-store industry still has a long way to go.

With the rise of cloud-based services, this monopoly will crumble. Let’s look at QSRs, an early adopter of technology, as a reference: they have opted for cloud-based services that are more feature focused and allow for fast iteration and innovation. Rather than taking years to plan and implement changes to their software, the cloud allows QSRs to make updates and changes to their customer engagement strategies within months. Therefore, their innovation cycles are much shorter and give the perception that they’re on the cutting edge of technology. As a result, QSRs typically offer a much more personal and enjoyable customer experience, boosting loyalty and brand affinity.

The adoption of cloud-based softwares also increases demand for APIs that make it easier to integrate with other tools and services. Connecting environments and customer experiences has typically been a challenge in the fuel & c-store industry, but cloud-based APIs make it easier to connect those environments. Data Center Knowledge says it most succinctly, “the ability to have secure, multi-tenant, cloud environments helps create a robust infrastructure capable of growth and expansion.“

The benefits of APIs span across the industry:

For Jobbers & Dealers

Looking forward, as more of the industry transitions over to cloud-based services, it will not only enable larger convenience retailers to reap the benefits, but will also open the door for dealers and jobbers to improve the customer experience. Additionally, APIs allow brands to participate within loyalty programs and enable completely new service models through its ability to integrate with other business systems. With more flexible APIs jobbers and dealers can introduce new services, delivery lines, innovation, etc.

For Large Convenience Retailers

Larger convenience retailers can get to know their customers and improve the customer experience so that they gain larger share of wallet by building meaningful relationships with their customers. Convenience retailers can also incorporate brands through open APIs and create a situation where everyone wins: the retailers fund their offers through the brand, the brand gathers customer data, and the customer gets a reward they want.

Hatch is ready to embrace rapidly changing technology and consumer preferences. We have built our entire platform on APIs with the belief that in order to maintain relevance and success, convenience retailers will need to embrace change in a way that is simple, fast and cost effective. To read more about our API documentation, head over to our Developer Kit.