By Jackson Lewis, Winsight // NACS Online
“There’s no point only looking to the past to predict the future,” said Oliver Schlake, Ph.D. and clinical professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
In a fast-paced yet informative hour-long presentation on the second day of the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) conference, Schlake challenged leaders in the c-store industry to revisit the way they think about and prepare for the future.
Read on for four possibilities Schlake sees for the convenience-store industry’s future.
A drone on every roof…
“In my world,” Schlake said, “the drone of the future is the pick-up drone.” He predicts that delivery drones will launch, not from a warehouse or retailer, but from the homes of consumers.
He sees a future where homeowners can purchase a drone dock for their home and retailers can purchase corresponding docks for their stores, allowing customers to send their personal drones to stores nearby, pick up their items and return home.
Schlake pointed out that most everyone lives within a mile or two of a c-store, and sending a home-docked drone to a nearby c-store and back could take as little as two minutes.
…and a smart fridge in every kitchen
Schlake suggested that smart fridges could play an important role in the food purchase decisions of consumers.
He said smart fridges that can connect to the internet will be able to sense when they’re running low on certain foods. They will then notify the drones docked on the roof to go to a nearby c-store or other distribution center to retrieve the food.
Big Brother sells sandwiches
Schlake envisioned a future where automated c-store systems could size up a customer and deliver an advertisement tailor-made for them in “eight seconds or less while you have their attention,” citing predictive analytical tools like IBM’s Watson and the emergence of artificial intelligence and computer learning.
He said these smart tools could use little details like bumper stickers, vanity license plates and even the clothes customers wear to decide what type of consumer they are and what they’re likely looking for to generate the best advertisement for their needs.
The new post office
As the physical post office declines, Schlake said that c-stores could pick up the slack. He used Amazon lockers as an example of how c-stores are already starting to fill the role of pickup and delivery center.
He also said that many urban apartment complexes don’t accept packages due to the hassle of securing them, making the service that much more important in cities.