General Merchandise/HBC

Convenience-Store Insiders See Retail Media Networks and Regulation as Disruptors

Nathan Arnold of Duchess Convenience Stores, Kim Cuellar of BeatBox Beverages and Derek Gaskins of Yesway go beyond the buzzwords
Photograph by CSP Staff

Buzzwords such as KPI, disruptor, AI and more were the topic of discussion at Thursday’s innovation forum presented by Rovertown at CSP’s Convenience Retailing University (CRU) in Nashville, Tennessee.

Convenience-store retailers and suppliers listened to a candid conversation from panelists Nathan Arnold, director of marketing for Englefield Oil Co.'s Duchess Convenience Stores, Heath, Ohio; Kim Cuellar, director of trade marketing for ready-to-drink cocktail brand BeatBox Beverages, Austin Texas; and Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer at Yesway, Fort Worth, Texas, about how to move beyond the buzzwords and harness tangible success.

Moderator Jeffry Harrison, co-founder and president of mobile app-builder Rovertown, St. Louis. kicked off the conversation by asking the panelists which key performance indicator or KPI is their “north star” or guiding principle?

When it comes to KPI on a high-level Gaskins said, “we always start with sales.”

As a supplier, Cuellar said that the sell through rate is very important but to also focus on what’s most important to the retailer. “Your KPIs become our KPIs,” Cuellar said.

From a loyalty perspective, Arnold said when it comes to KPI “we’re always looking at penetration.”

Another buzzword the panelists discussed was engagement, and what has been the best engagement from consumer packaged goods (CPG) partners.

Gaskins cited Red Bull for the company’s “relentless” focus on engagement and that they know their customers.

When it comes to engagement, Cuellar said BeatBox Beverages looks at it from a 360 approach. “Utilizing and leveraging different brand sponsorships for new partners is a huge way to bring potential new customers to your store,” she said.

As for the buzzword disruptor, Cuellar said what is going to disrupt the convenience-store industry is retail media networks (RMNs).

“I feel like every day my inbox is filled with a new chain releasing a retail media network,” she said and from the supplier side the questions that need to be answered is “how are we going to make investments and how are we going to work together as a supplier and a retailer to best leverage all of our resources together.”

Arnold said that his disruptor is in the back bar. With roughly 30 stores within Columbus, Ohio, Arnold said that flavor bans are “really challenging and has been a disruptor for us.” The city of Columbus initially banned flavored tobacco products, but the state legislature voted to reverse the ban. Duchess has roughly 30 stores within the metro area of Columbus.

Gaskins also cited the government and regulatory environment as a disruptor but was quick to add that the biggest disruptor is the consumer. “Everyone is selling convenience,” he said. “Yes, we're selling speed and we're selling our notion of time but when that value equation gets out of whack and your consumer feels like I'm not getting the convenience, that’s a big disruptor for us.”

Turning to technology, the panelists unpacked their approach to leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

“From a loyalty perspective, we’ve been using AI for the past couple of years,” Arnold said. “If we can have a machine that can do more for us and speed and get to market quicker with the promotion that’s great for us.”

When it comes to the loyalty of digital sales, “AI is really impactful,” Cuellar said.

“I think there is an internal piece when it comes to AI that will make us better merchants, better marketers and speed up the decision making by synthesizing all the data that we have,” Gaskins said.

In regard to the buzzword synergy, which is defined as a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, the panelists offered their take on how they get the most synergy with their CPG partners.

Cueller says to get the best synergy there has to be a clear understanding of goals.

“As a CPG partner, I want to do what is best for you as the retailer but then use our shared resources together,” she said.

During the session, a winner was announced from a drawing held earlier for a a signed Avril Lavigne guitar. Lavigne's partnership with BeatBox began last year and gives consumers across the country access to enter to win exclusive signed merchandise from their favorite retailers. 

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