Tech and Transformation Are Key to C-Store Survival

These two things should be top of mind for every retailer.

October 08, 2021

Gray Taylor of Conexxus at the NACS Show

CHICAGO—Your business may be surviving the pandemic, but if it’s going to survive the future, a digital transformation is not just a consideration, it’s a necessity.

Ed Dzadovsky, vice president of North America IT for Circle K, and Gray Taylor, executive director of Conexxus, laid out the path forward for that transformation at the NACS Show education session, “The 2021 NACS/Conexxus Technology Roadmap.”

Dzadovsky said there should be two things top of mind for every retailer: transformation and culture.

“If we’ve learned anything since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s that both of these are more important to our people than ever before,” he said.

Taylor said one of the biggest changes facing c-store owners in the coming years will be energy.

“We have a pivot in energy coming,” he said. “We’re going to see a 20% reduction in fuel demand by 2030. And that’s not going to come because of EVs, it’s going to come because [vehicle fuel] mileage is going to improve greatly by then. We’ll be traveling more miles, but the mileage will be so good that we’ll be buying less fuel.”

Taylor said one of the main keys for c-stores going forward is the hyper-customization of data, and owners need to get in front of that now so they can control what data they have and how it is being used. He cited a Harvard Review study showing that, on average, only 4% of the data gathered by an enterprise is useable.

In addition, raising the visibility of mobile platforms among consumers will be absolutely essential to the survival of the convenience industry in the future.

“We’re competing with Amazon; we’re competing with Starbucks,” Taylor said. “How many convenience store apps do you have on your phone?”

The presenters outlined a roadmap for the coming years and said that in the immediate future, stores can expect to see more digital or “free range” coupons using QR codes and more companies turning to AI checkout systems.

Further down the road, in two to five years, retailers will see a greater reliance on deeper data, and in more than five years, they’ll start to see greater use of real-time pricing, differential pricing between locations and predictive analytics. But before retailers can start any of that, Taylor said they need to invest in people first.

“I would put my first dollars into culture and your staff,” he said. “They can do amazing things with their brains.”