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Three Takeaways From the 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference

In addition to the fundamentals, artificial intelligence and digital engagement remain hot topics in retail technology circles.
Melissa Kress
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ARLINGTON, Texas — As a member-driven technology organization, Conexxus' mission is to develop and implement standards, technological innovation and advocate for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. 

Speaking at the general meeting of the 2024 Conexxus Annual Conference, Executive Director Gray Taylor explained that the organization's mission is set to expand as technology becomes a policy issue.  

[Read more: Shaping the Future of Convenience Through Technology]

Key takeaways from this year's event, which drew approximately 220 attendees, are: 

Taking the Pulse of AI Adoption

Artificial intelligence (AI) may be a hot topic in the technology space now, but it has been around in one form or another since the 1950s, according to Alan Lockett, an AI consultant.

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Speaking during the "Recipes for Success With AI: A Beginner's View" session on April 29, Lockett said AI is the story about data and it is also the story about computation.

But just where does the convenience channel stand on the AI journey? According to a poll fielded during the session, roughly half of the attendees are currently exploring AI implementation. Approximately one quarter are running AI pilots, and another quarter are already using AI in production. 

According to the poll, only 2% have no plans to adopt AI into their organization. 

Of those already using AI, customer support and marketing are the top two uses. Other uses are operations, data analysis, data lakes, security and troubleshooting.

David Ezell, director of new initiatives for Conexxus, said the organization's priorities for AI projects include:

  • Reduce staff workload;
  • Improve the member experience;
  • Focus on open source and minimize data exposure; and 
  • Apply current machine learning methods for large language models (i.e., ChatGPT).

Storm Clouds Building

As the convenience store industry prepares to face multiple disruptions on the horizon, Conexxus Managing Director Linda Toth sat down with a panel of industry players to get a high-level view of what is happening that will impact all of retail.  

Joining her for the lighting-round panel entitled "Multiple Storms on the Retail Horizon … Are You Ready?" were Paige Anderson, director of government relations, NACS; Mike Lindberg, senior director, payment solutions, CHS Inc./Cenex; Allie Russell, contract attorney, Conley Rose PC; Liz Sertl, senior director, supply chain visibility, GS1 US; and Lauren Holloway, director, data security standards, PCI Security Standards Council. 

One of the top concerns on the horizon is the Credit Card Competition Act, which is currently before the U.S. Congress. Similar to the Durbin Amendment in 2012, the new proposal aims to bring more competition to the credit card routing space. "Competition is a good thing for retailers and consumers to help lower costs," Anderson said, noting however that the legislation has some powerful opponents. 

There's also lots of rumblings around data privacy. As retailers, the most important data the industry is working with is personal identifiable data. In the absence of a federal rule, 18 states have consumer privacy laws, though no two are alike. 

According to Russell, these various pieces of legislation with "very unique provisions" make it hard for companies — especially national brands — to stay on top of the rules. The varying regulations also bring uncertainty to loyalty programs. For example, what information do users have to provide?

A federal privacy bill, in one form or another, has been making the rounds around Congress for some time — with the most recent proposal coming to light in the past few weeks — but nothing has been stamped into law yet.

Additional concerns facing retailers in the not-so distant future are:

PINless debit — A payment option that allows debit card payment to be routed through a network other than the one associated with the card brand.

PCI DSS v.4.0 — Introduced in March 2022, the new data security standard comprises 64 new requirements and replaces v.3.2.1, which was retired two months ago. 

Sunrise 2027 — The industry has set a date of 2027 to make the transition to accepting 2D barcodes at the point-of-sale or point-of-care. The UPC and 2D will coexist.

The Power of Digital

Traditionally, the customer journey followed a certain formula: awareness, consideration and purchase. Today, the journey is no longer linear, and digital is playing a significant role in that change.

"Ninety percent of consumers are using [a search function] on their path to purchase," said Jen Johnson, director, of business development, localized marketing solutions at NACS. "People find what they need on their phones and discover what they need on social."

As Johnson pointed out, where a business ranks among search is critical to success. 

Citing the "2022 SOCi LMBR & Ranking Correlations Study," she explained that businesses in the top three search results see 126% more traffic and 93% more action than businesses ranked Nos. 4 through 10.

Additionally, social media is becoming increasingly important in customer service circles. Backing up this point is a RevLocal blog post, "Why Social Media Is the Next Customer Service Tool," which noted:

  • 71% of people who had a positive customer care experience would be more likely to recommend the business to others;
  • 30% of people are more likely to visit a competitor after being ignored on social media; and
  • 36% of people have used social media to publicly shame a company after poor customer service. 

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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