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Three Retailers, Three Technology Journeys

Alimentation Couche-Tard/Circle K, Nouria Energy and Sheetz executives came together for the Conexxus Think Tank v9.0 panel.
Melissa Kress
Logos for Circle K, Nouria Energy and Sheetz

ARLINGTON, Texas — Almost every convenience store operator is on a technology journey, though where they are on that journey and what stops they have mapped out may differ. 

At the 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference, tech executives from three convenience retailers sat down with Ed Collupy, innovation facilitator at Conexxus, to discuss their journeys during the "Think Tank v9.0 Panel: Realities From Top C-store Leaders" session.

Sheetz Inc.: The Roadmap

According to Ryan Uphouse, lead business analyst at Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz, the company rings up 1.8 million transactions a day, has 26 or more store cameras, 60 connected devices in each store, and more than 500 systems that integrate with each other across the enterprise, including the supply chain, warehouse and store. 

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Sheetz currently operates 725 c-stores across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland. The retailer, which was named the 2022 Technology Leader of the Year by Convenience Store News, hit the 700-store milestone in September and plans to reach 1,000 locations by 2028. 

"That growth is definitely more than we typically do, probably double or triple on an annual basis. A lot of what I'm going to be talking about in the roadmap here is really geared around making sure that we can support that as best as we can," Uphouse said.

Providing a high-level view of Sheetz's roadmap — including agenda items in the works and others in the experimentation and exploration phases — Uphouse called out three general directions:

  1. Foundation: Architecture, standards, platform stability and system evaluation
  2. Innovation: Store automation, corporate automatics, robotics and artificial intelligence
  3. Data-driven: The cloud, prediction models and master data management

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K: Information Superhighway

As Couche-Tard's Director of Emerging Technologies Christie Loukota explained, the Laval, Quebec-based company's "Information Superhighway" is the retailer's proprietary API-based cloud services platform that leverages application service architecture to power its digital experiences around the world. 

[Read more: Couche-Tard Enhances Inventory Management With Supply Chain Solution]

"We enable speed to market and innovation and easy integrations through the Information Superhighway, all while creating a unified ecosystem that's consistent," she said, adding that a uniform platform that can be used as an integration layer to power its digital experiences across the company helps the operator of Circle K stores avoid having duplicative APIs or working in silos.

The Information Superhighway is centered on six principles:

  1. Adapt and scale to what's next
  2. Optimize investments
  3. Modularity drives flexibility
  4. Real-time everywhere
  5. Limit vendor lock-ins
  6. Build a highly efficient and engaged team

According to Loukota, experiences powered by the uniform platform include smart checkout, a global mobile app, a carwash subscription program, Circle K's new global gift card program and electric vehicle charging, to name a few. 

"There's countless experiences that are powered by our Information Superhighway, and the beauty of this is that we can leverage the same APIs to power different experiences," she said. "We can also test something out and if it doesn't work, it's still reusable enough that it's not just throwaway work. We're still going to use those APIs again for a different future experience to come."

Nouria Energy: A Customer Culture

Worcester, Mass.-based Nouria Energy is a family-owned, family-run organization with an ambitious growth goal over the next 10 years. However, the company knows it will need to navigate some challenges as it grows — chiefly, maintaining its culture.

[Read more: Nouria Energy Charts a Roadmap Guided by Technology]

"The main thing for us is culture. How we can build the culture that will allow us to be more valuable to our customers?" posed Abhi Patel, director of IT at Nouria.

According to Patel, the company's cultural mindset will be reinforced by three factors: 

  1. The adoption of new technologies: Initiatives include Nouria's new mobile app, supply chain support and streamlining store operations. 
  2. Building a data-driven culture: One of the first steps is to define a data strategy to support enterprise growth and make meaningful decisions backed by the data.
  3. Acquiring and retaining talent: Based in New England, Nouria competes with the financial and life sciences industries when it comes to talent. Part of its strategy to find the right team members includes partnering with the right recruiting firm and implementing a standardized process to promptly onboard new talent.

Patel admits there is no easy answer for adopting new technology into a 10-year roadmap, but he said "the technology is secondary. The customer is our primary focus."

The 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference took place April 28 through May 2 at Live! By Loews Arlington. 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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