What’s the Buzz at Conexxus?

C-store innovation and issues surrounding artificial intelligence dominated the discussion on day one of the conference.

May 02, 2023

CORONADO, Calif.—Conexxus kicked off its 2023 Annual Conference yesterday in Coronado, California. Through a mix of keynote speakers, education sessions and panel discussions, convenience retailers, suppliers and manufacturers heard from experts and their peers on the challenges facing the convenience industry and how innovation, adaptability and new technologies must be part a company’s game plan.

Attendees on day one heard from two dynamic keynote speakers emphasizing how and why innovation and technology are critical to any business. Anat Baron, futurist, tech entrepreneur and former head of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, gave a presentation titled “The Next Transformation.” It focused on the intersection between technology, the new consumer, the multigenerational workplace and the constant disruption around us.

Baron discussed the challenges and opportunities that impact our professional and personal lives and showed what success can look like in this fast-moving, exponentially changing, hyper-connected digital-first world, all while making the case that our humanity will matter more than ever as technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), becomes a ubiquitous part of our daily lives.

“Think of AI as a co-pilot,” said Baron. “It can’t be just AI. It takes humans to have the power to figure out what’s next.” In the conclusion of her presentation, Baron stressed, “There are five traits that will matter the most in the next decade. Curiosity, creativity, compassion, collaboration and connection—both human connection and creating communities of connection.”

Vish Ganapathy, director and head of customer engineering, retail and consumer goods industry for Google, was the second keynote speaker. Ganapathy’s presentation highlighted how Google combines culture, data accessibility and flexible infrastructure to create the innovation culture.

“Building an innovative culture requires a path of breaking down silos and making data and projects accessible to all,” he said. “Removing silos and replacing them with collaborative teams will lead to a corporate culture of innovation.”

In addition to the two thought-provoking keynote presentations, three panel discussions focused on developing a corporate culture of innovation and revolutionary technologies, such as computer vision and artificial intelligence, and how together they can provide opportunities for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. 

Panelists on the “Executive Culture” education session included convenience retailers and technology expert Ganapathy, who all shared their experience in stressing the importance of developing a digital culture that includes innovation and adaptability to face today’s ever-increasing technology changes and industry challenges.

The education session “Computer Vision Technology” included a robust discussion by panelists from three preeminent computer vision companies: Spark Cognition, Radius AI and Standard AI. Each company is deploying its technology in the convenience and fuel retailing channel. In the discussion, these experts shared how computer vision provides the platform opportunity to revolutionize store operations, such as a 24/7 management oversight capability tied to real-time associate interaction, which offers a store team to “reshuffle the task deck” of a shift. They also shared examples of how the technology is being used today by retailers, refiners and logistics companies to enhance productivity and safety and how the technology has matured to real-world benefits.

In the education session “Opportunities and Challenges: How Artificial Intelligence Is Shaping the Future of Convenience Retailing,” Frodi Hammer, founder and CTO of A2I Systems, delved into the opportunities and challenges that AI presents to convenience retailers, including how it is being used to enhance customer experience, streamline operations and drive sales. Hammer also explored the ethical and societal implications of using AI in this context and provided strategies for addressing these challenges. Attendees walked away with a better understanding of the role AI can play in shaping the future of the industry and how they can leverage AI to drive success in their own businesses.

You don’t want to miss out on future opportunities to connect with peers and experts looking at the future of the industry and how technologies can come together to benefit your business. For more information about Conexxus, its future events and how to become engaged, please reach out to Linda Toth, managing director of Conexxus, at ltoth@conexxus.org.