We asked Dawn Desai, Senior Vice President and General Manager, International, about impactful data trends for the global fuel and convenience retail marketplace in 2023. She addressed the industry’s ongoing digital transformation and why data will play an elevated role in determining business success.
Q: What are some lessons from the past few years in the convenience market?
DD: Starting around 2019, we began to see how emerging technologies could potentially impact our industry similar to adjacent industries—especially those in the general retail space that were already transforming their supply chains and offerings. However, with a few exceptions, the fuel and convenience market has often lagged behind in the adoption of technology innovation.
The biggest revelation from the pandemic was just how vital digital transformation was to remaining competitive. The businesses that had started their digital transformation journey were much more adaptive and capable of managing the fluctuating market dynamics. When stores had to close, those businesses were able to shift to an online model while others were getting left behind.
Q: How do you think digital transformation will change in 2023?
DD: The last few years have been more dynamic than what we’ve been used to. With all the changes and disruptions—to both our lives and our businesses—it’s taken an emotional toll on all of us. We’re not used to feeling so reactive to events outside of our control.
From talking to our customers and other retailers, it seems like most people are looking to or taking time to reflect on everything that’s happened in the past couple years. That said, they also know they need to return to being more proactive by planning ahead to keep up with trends in 2023 versus always playing catch-up.
Q: How can businesses be more proactive?
DD: I think it starts with reviewing your IT infrastructure and how everything connects within your business and supply chain. We’ve been adding systems so quickly that many IT teams aren’t even sure where to begin maximizing their investment and simplifying their infrastructure. The impact of this is even more significant in highly acquisitive companies or following M&A activity.
Once you know what you have, you can explore how to integrate new technologies with your current systems to deliver what your customers want. Data will be the key business driver.
During the pandemic, we saw a change in behavior where consumers became more reliant on their local c-store and virtual offerings. The data resulting from the shift between in-store and online commerce has been invaluable for understanding changing consumer behaviors in terms of footfall, frequency of visits, basket mix, and other evolving habits. Our insights practice at PDI has harvested a lot of data and we’re now discovering trends and actionable insights to make retailers more efficient and profitable.
Q: What role will data play in accelerating digital transformation in 2023?
DD: It’s all about achieving a higher level of connectivity—connecting with your customers, connecting them with the products they want, and connecting across your extended supply chain. Connecting convenience involves using data and analytics as the thread that ties everything together. But you must be able to collect, access, and refine data more efficiently to gain insights that can help grow your business. That starts at the point of sale.
Q: Why is the point of sale so important?
DD: It’s the central hub for payment transactions and the common point of connectivity that provides the data source for loyalty, offers, insights, fuel pricing, and other functions. The data from the POS allows you to understand and predict consumer behaviors. And when you integrate your POS with your back-office systems and ERP software, you can unlock all kinds of opportunities for everything from rewards programs to logistics.
Q: Looking forward, what are some areas where data might become more impactful?
DD: One area our customers have expressed a lot of interest in is sustainability. It’s becoming a key topic about whether businesses are promoting sustainable practices and solutions.
We’re really excited to help retailers engage with consumers on how to reduce or offset their carbon footprint. Through PDI Sustainability Solutions, we enable consumers to offset their fuel purchase as part of a loyalty or rewards program.
Again, it all comes back to data, because that’s how we measure the value for retailers and consumers participating in these sustainability programs. We track the loyalty promotions, what offsets they’re earning, and how retailers can provide their customers with even more opportunities at the pump or in the store.
It’s an affirmation that data should be at the heart of every business decision. As a company, PDI is betting big on data and how we can help retailers leverage it across all their systems and business functions.
To learn more about additional 2023 trends, be sure to visit our Trends page.
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