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Shaping the Future of Convenience Through Technology

The 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference kicked off with a look at the building blocks for the channel's next chapter.
Melissa Kress
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ARLINGTON, Texas — For the past few years, the size of the convenience store industry has moved up and down on either side of the 150,000-location mark. However, despite being one of the largest — if not, the largest — retail channels, the industry is still finding its sea legs when it comes to technology.

Overall, the c-store industry accounts for 85% of the transportation fuel sold in the United States and 90% of the nicotine category, and rings up one quarter of U.S. fast-food sales, one half of beer sales and one third of packaged beverage sales. And with a current store count of roughly 152,000 sites, the industry sees 160 million-plus consumers a day, according to Gray Taylor, executive director of Conexxus.

[Read more: Convenience Retailers Strive for Seamless Operations]

Kicking off the 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference in Arlington on April 29, Taylor noted that even with its size and scope, the convenience store industry remains very fragmented. 

"In the grand scope of retail technology or even in the grander scope of technology in general, we're all small fish and we can have a bigger fish roll over us in the middle of the night," he said. "The idea here is: how do we build resilience by showing that we are, in the aggregate, a very powerful market with something to be reckoned with?"

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To that end, the industry has been working on initiatives to prepare the channel for the future. Those steps include:

  • THRIVR: In October 2022, NACS and SOCi, a marketing platform for multilocation brands, launched this localized market solution that can help convenience stores create a streamlined and amplified localized marketing strategy. As Taylor noted, "If you can't be found, you will miss the game," adding that THRIVR is about making your store seen.
  • The Transportation Energy Institute: Formerly the Fuels Institute, the nonprofit research organization is tackling several projects, including building charging analytics that can pinpoint the best places to build electric vehicle charging stations.
  • TruAge: Launched as a joint project between Conexxus and NACS, TruAge allows a customer to prove their age securely, and is a building block to tokenize all the digital attributes of consumers' lives so that they're unhackable.
  • 8112 Digital Coupons: These universal, single-use coupons that can be validated in real time will become more important as consumers continue to shop for value. 

Common to all these threads, Gray said, is that Conexxus is in the middle. He compared the organization's strategy to a popsicle — the stick stays the same regardless of the flavor.

"If we provide the technological backbone, then and with the appropriate connectivity in there, it's up to the retailers to put together the flavors they want to put in that box," he said. "And if we do it really well, it becomes an endless landscape possibility. In fact, my objective is that this whole ecosystem should make connecting to another ecosystem a business decision, not a technical decision if we do it right.

"Our job at Conexxus is not to stop at the store. Our job at Conexxus is to make sure that with the new digital commerce frontiers, we can connect any other ecosystem out there," Gray added.

The 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference is taking place April 28 through May 2 at Live! By Loews Arlington. Next year, the 2025 Conexxus Annual Conference will move to the beginning of the year when it comes to Tucson, Ariz., at the end of January.

About the Author

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress is Executive Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2010. Melissa handles much of CSNews' hard news coverage, such as mergers and acquisitions and company financial reports, and the technology beat. She is also one of the industry's leading media experts on the tobacco category.

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