As I sit at my desk writing this, the 2023 NACS Show has been in the books for nearly a week. I'm still digesting everything I saw and heard at the convenience channel gathering, but there are two things that stood out to me as Convenience Store News' chief technology editor: electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and hyper-personalization will play major roles in the channel's future.
Getting into the EV space is something c-store retailers need to do, as I have written about several times before, and more retailers are exploring just that.
Some are just getting started, like RaceTrac Inc., which announced this week that it installed its very first EV charging station in Oxford, Ala. Others have been in the space for years and are making plans to expand their offering. Also this week, CSNews reported that Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. received grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to grow its EV charging network across the state. The retailer installed its first charging station in Pennsylvania in 2012.
Hyper-personalization likewise is an opportunity for most, if not all, c-store retailers. I heard this word more at this year's NACS Show than I have in the past 12 months. But hyper-personalization can only come with data-driven insights into who your customers are and what they want — this presents a challenge.
During a meeting with PDI Technologies Inc., one company executive pointed out that data is the channel's blind spot. As they say, you don’t know what you don't know. The channel has had access to data for years, but utilizing it to its full potential is still a big speed bump along the way to hyper-personalization.
On the face of it, these two themes do not appear related at all. But combine EV charging with consumer hyper-personalization and you face another blind spot: Who is the EV consumer? The channel may have a ways to go before it answers that question, but I'm confident with the experience and innovative minds of those technology companies that occupied the 2023 NACS Show expo floor, the picture will become clearer sooner than you think.