Insights from the Think Tank session

The following has been re-posted from NACS magazine.

 

“Surround yourself with smart people” is career advice that I continue to put into action. At this year’s Conexxus Annual Conference, nearly 160 attendees had the opportunity to do just that during the Think Tank session.

Joining me on stage were business leaders Stephen Hines, chief technology officer at Parker’s; Donna Perkins, pricebook manager for Calloway Oil/E-Z Stop; and Aaron Simpson, vice president at Maverik Inc., who shared what was on their minds as their companies consider new opportunities with mobile, marketing and information technology.

No matter the size of the company, I am always amazed at the commonality of challenges facing convenience store operators. We quickly learned that both Perkins, with 23 stores, and Simpson with 300-plus stores, are thinking about the mobile customer experience. “Are we speaking their language?” Perkins rhetorically asked, while Simpson used a mobile app with gamification as one example of how he would respond to that question.

Ed Collupy (standing) led a Think Tank session with (from left to right) Aaron Simpson, vice president at Maverik Inc.; Stephen Hines, chief technology officer at Parker’s and Donna Perkins, pricebook manager for Calloway Oil/E-Z Stop.

Even simple changes, Hines said, require clear communications. He highlighted how a point-ofsale keyboard change at Parker’s, where just one new item was added, consumed its help desk one morning.

Simpson pointed us to the book T h a n k Yo u f o r B e i n g L a t e by Thomas Friedman for insights on why all of us—including the c-store industry—are having a difficult time keeping up with technology changes. At Maverik, he collaborates with the IT team to identify what’s out there and to find ways to quickly implement technology-based marketing solutions.

During the “Fast 3” wrap-up portion of the Think Tank session, I fielded a question on Artificial Intelligence (AI) from an attendee who wanted to hear how panelists would use AI in their stores. Hines from Parker’s envisioned how AI, along with natural language processing, could assist employees in a variety of ways: providing step-by-step instructions on cleaning foodservice equipment, receiving an immediate response to company benefits, and engaging, training and informing a workforce that is ready to think, listen and learn in a new way.

 

Ed Collupy is an executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group; he can be reached at ecollupy@wcapra.com.