Roughly five years ago, I attended my first Conexxus annual conference, just a few months after picking up the technology beat for Convenience Store News. While I had some knowledge of this corner of the retail world, it was mostly around mobile apps, mobile wallets and, well, just about anything mobile and customer facing.
It was at this conference that I heard industry technology executives talk about moving past "the bells and whistles" of retail technology. I have often used this phrase, as many of you may have heard, yet customer-centric solutions have continued to reign supreme.
Now, the tide is turning. At the NRF 2023: Retail's Big Show in January, much of the talk swirled around focusing tech on operations and back-of-house solutions. And if you need more proof, the 2023 Connected Retail Experience Study, conducted by Incisiv in collaboration with Verizon Business, found that real-time inventory management has risen to the top of the investment agenda amidst the uncertain supply chain issues over the last few years. The study also found that the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) for improving operations will likely increase.
Convenience store retailers will always need to invest in updating their customer-facing solutions, but what good is a refreshed mobile app or checkout-free experiences if there aren't products on the shelves for customers to buy?