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NACS SHOW REWIND: Convenience Channel Enters the New Age of Advertising

Technology leaders tackle retail media networks.
7-Eleven's Ben Tienor, RaceTrac's Mandee Harvey-Smith and Art Sebastian, retail strategy consultant, discuss retail media networks at the 2023 NACS Show.
7-Eleven's Ben Tienor, RaceTrac's Mandee Harvey-Smith and Art Sebastian, retail strategy consultant.

ATLANTA — One of the first educational sessions at this year's NACS Show took a closer look at an emerging avenue for advertising in the convenience channel.

Art Sebastian, retail strategy consultant with Nexchapter LLC, led a panel discussion on retail media networks, "Foundations of a Retail Media Network," with Ben Tienor, director, Gulp Media Network and director, Brand & Customer Insights at Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc., and Mandee Harvey-Smith, director of Analytics, Insights & Media Strategy at Atlanta-based RaceTrac Inc.

Sebastian is the former vice president, Omni-Channel Marketing at Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's General Stores Inc.

According to the tech trio, retail media network is an advertising infrastructure that consists of owned digital, off-site digital and in-store channels.

Retailers across the spectrum continue to launch these networks — including Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Best Buy, CVS and Lowe's, to name a few. In convenience, Sebastian pointed to Casey's Access as the retailer's attempt to cash in on the incredible access c-stores have to their customers.

"The advertising spend on retailer media will surpass $100 billion by 2027," said Sebastian, "and will eventually surpass linear TV."

C-stores have an inherent advantage when it comes to utilizing these networks because so many have already invested heavily in digital technology. They also boast the ability to influence behavior because their shopper frequency is greater than all other retail channels. In addition, the products they sell are very impulse-oriented, which make them good targets for nontraditional promos, according to the panelists.

Sebastian asked the panelists about the importance of first-party data.

"Without customer data, we're blind," explained Tienor, who noted that 7-Eleven created Gulp Media, an advertising network that allows partners to create highly targeted ad campaigns using the chain's first party data, in October 2022.

7-Eleven also utilizes panel data to get a true holistic view, he said.

Harvey-Smith added that RaceTrac spends a lot of time pulling together first-party data with syndicated data and external research to get a full look at its customers' wants and needs. RaceTrac tries to utilize all sources of data, even from in-store security video.  

"We're finding things we want to fix and unlocking issues we didn't even anticipate," she said. "It also gives us the ability to do segmentation more effectively. It's an opportunity to understand what matters to our guests, what they want, and more important, what they are actually doing."

Sebastian outlined the many examples of in-store and other channels a retailer can utilize, including video monitors, text messaging, website, apps and audio. He also advised retailers not to overlook third-party digital partners, like Upside or DoorDash.

All three experts attested to the value of sharing information with consumer product goods (CPG) partners. The data often unlocks "what problems of our CPGs can we solve."

To get started, Sebastian advised that retailers should prioritize growing and unifying their first party data. After that, "look at your advertising inventory. Make sure you're thinking about all the many potential channels you can use."

And, finally, retailers need to be thoughtful and build a strategic plan. "Then adjust as the business requires," he concluded.

The 2023 NACS Show took place Oct. 3-6 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The 2024 NACS Show will be hosted at the Las Vegas Convention Center Oct. 7-10, 2024.

About the Author

Don Longo

Don Longo is Editorial Director Emeritus of Convenience Store News. He joined the brand in 2005. With the highest recognition of any c-store industry media journalist, Don has given presentations to business groups throughout the U.S., Europe and South America, appeared as a guest on Fox Business News and National Public Radio, and is a highly sought source for major consumer and business news.

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