Gas EMV can't be just about chip cards

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Retail is transforming at lightning speed across all sectors, and the fuel and convenience industry is not exempt.

Customers now expect digital buying experiences with modern options like delivery and curbside service via app or text — in other words, they expect every business to use technology, even if it’s not a core competency for every store or business owner. Meanwhile, for fuel retailers, the cost of doing business continues to rise even as margins shrink, saddling owners and operators with more to do, and less with which to do it.

That creates challenges whenever a fuel and convenience site or store requires new equipment investments — and right now is a prime example of a time when those investments are not optional, but absolutely necessary.

As fuel and convenience retailers work to upgrade their automated fuel dispenser (AFD) equipment ahead of the April 2021 deadline for the EMV liability shift, many are looking to maximize their return on investment and get the most out of their projects — and that means upgrading not just the pumps themselves, but also the payments technologies that support fast, secure transactions at the pump.

To get the biggest bang for their buck during EMV upgrades, retailers should look to implement a comprehensive payments processing technology in addition to the necessary hardware. When perusing your available options for a service provider, look for one with these eight key components:

Longevity. How long has the supplier been in the market? Tenure and experience will ensure your vendor is not a fly-by-night, but instead has been in the industry for a significant amount of time and understands the complexity of payment processing.

Support. Fully managed payments services that include 24/7/365 distributed support infrastructure from global network operations centers will provide you with the help you need during installation, as well as for any troubleshooting. Fully managed providers also support ongoing necessities like software updates, so retailers don’t need to remember to do it themselves.

Certification of security. Security is paramount to any payments transaction, so look for a service provider that has been successfully PCI DSS certified.

Ease of use. Look for a service provider that offers ease of use for both installers and operators.

Communications system options. An owner/operator may have their own preference on the kind of data communications network they use for an individual site; additionally, sometimes the type of network is dictated by the best available options in an area. Look for a service provider that supports multiple types of data communications networks — from DSL to dual radio routers and everything in between — so you can get the best option for a given site.

Reliability. This one probably goes without saying: Fuel and convenience retailers need high availability for critical infrastructure like payments technology, because a nonfunctioning payment system at a fuel pump can cost a retailer sales. Look for providers that have demonstrated over time that they can maintain non-stop high availability for their infrastructure, including automated failover, so that store personnel don’t need to get involved in the case of an unplanned outage or an event that could impact uptime.

Fast replacement service. Related to the last point: Sometimes, things happen; equipment occasionally will go down. Choose a provider that has demonstrated quick turnarounds for replacing impacted equipment. Again, the longer a pump has to be shut down, the bigger the revenue losses a retailer will incur.

The previous seven qualities focused on what a service provider should have now, but the nature of innovation means ongoing improvements.

So much of the payments business has been built on dial-up and point-to-point telecom technology, but those are becoming a thing of the past. Convenient, modern options for customers such as app-based or mobile phone payments, and new capabilities for retailers such as sales data analytics, use cloud environments; additionally, more retailers are using infrastructure options like software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) to expand and interconnect their networks.

The future of payments processing lies in these new technologies, but it shouldn’t be up to the retailers to formulate a comprehensive understanding of how to implement and support them. Instead, look for a payments provider with solutions that keep pace with how technologies are evolving across the wider world while fitting within fuel and convenience environments — both now and in the future.

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