Convenience retailers discover AI capabilities at NACS

10.11.2023 | Kirk Owens Enterprise Account Executive

Four key areas ripe for data-driven performance improvement

The recent NACS Show once again proved to be a great event for retailers to discover product trends and connect with trading partners. However, an added dimension to this year’s event in Atlanta was a strong technology undercurrent felt by the more than 20,000 attendees.  

The reason why has everything to do with technology and the advanced capabilities of AI-powered solutions being viewed as a powerful source of competitive advantage due to the unique characteristics of the convenience retailing channel.  At a high level, the growing complexity of C-store operations breeds new types of execution challenges and then there is the reality that the success of growth and productivity initiatives is dependent on more effective use of increasing volumes of data. 

Success on both fronts requires new approaches and new technologies and there were four areas that stood out at the NACS Show, including: 

  1. Store operations: Labor is tight and turnover is high, but store associates are still expected to deliver customer service, ensure shelves are well-stocked and execute elaborate merchandising strategies which often involve prepared foods. Convenience retailers looking to put store teams in a position to win are focused on increasing visibility of in-store conditions to create a new source of Store Intelligence. One innovation gathering momentum is AI-powered computer vision that can identify lapses in execution such as on shelf availability, planogram compliance and pricing and promotion issues. Automating these functions and leveraging AI to analyze images and prescribe actions frees store associates to focus on delivering stellar customer service and fulfilling other aspects of a convenience retailers’ value proposition that makes stores a destination. The use of AI-powered computer vision solutions isn’t widespread, yet, but it is viewed as a rapidly emerging source of competitive advantage that solves real problems and creates lasting value. 
  2. Merchandising: Every trip matters in convenience retailing, especially in smaller store sizes where less square feet require precise (by-store) assortment decisions. That’s why retailers at the NACS Show were interested in the latest advances in category management, space planning and assortment optimization.  Especially AI-powered solutions that solve difficult merchandising and operational challenges to grow by offering shoppers optimized, localized, space-aware assortments that increase the productivity of their limited selling space. That’s a goal for all retailers, but the stakes are highest in C-stores because merchandising missteps are amplified as stores get smaller and shoppers are enticed by competitors on every corner. 
  3. Supply chain: For many of the same reasons previously described another area of focus at the NACS Show involved demand forecasting. Again, the use of AI-powered solutions is seen as critical when it comes to supply chain matters due to the volume of data involved and complex shopper and regional variables which much be taken into consideration when creating a demand forecast. As the complexity of merchandising strategies increase and store operations grow more challenging, retailers are keen to leverage technology that improves demand forecast accuracy and overall supply chain efficiency, resulting in a better shopper experience and elevated loyalty.  
  4. Shopper insights: Highlighting shoppers, understanding their behavior through AI-powered loyalty card analytics has become an essential skill for retailers wanting to personalize promotions, increase visit frequency and grow transaction sizes. Convenience stores have evolved considerably over the past two decades and now fill a different role in the lives of multiple shopper segments. Gaining behavior clarity throughout those segments, understanding their motivations, emphasizing the role of various categories, evaluating the impact of promotions, linking how shoppers react to price changes and incorporating key loyalty drivers is why NACS Show attendees crammed into session detailing what’s possible with AI-powered solutions and learning how to quickly uncover insights that move the sales needle.   

Retailers discovered plenty of interesting products and learned about the latest shopper trends at the NACS Show. But they also learned that technology is the great equalizer when it comes to taming the complexity of their operations, uncovering dynamic shopper behavior, deploying optimal (by-store) assortments and making data-supported supply chain decisions. 

Learn more about how AI-powered solutions can help convenience retailers by getting in touch today! 

For perspective on how AI is affecting the broader retailer industry, check out our Groceryshop coverage from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

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