Opinion: Enhancing the P&C store experience through AI

This article was written by Corinna Reeves, Regional Products Industry Lead and Integrated GTM Lead, Avanade Australia.

The Australian retail sector, with a specific focus on petrol and convenience retailing, is currently undergoing one of the sector’s most dynamic transformations. The shift is driven by changing customer expectations, increased competition, and innovative technologies. Customers are looking for more than just fuel and snacks; they want personalised, seamless, and engaging experiences across all channels and touchpoints.

In Australia this year, AI has dominated across industries, with the retail sector leading the charge, with 91 per cent of ANZ businesses investing in generative AI.

When it comes to petrol and convenience retailing, the convergence of innovation, disruption, and generative AI is propelling this industry into the future. AI integration is poised to be a game-changer in enhancing customer experiences and streamlining operations for frontline workers.

Here are some of the ways we can expect AI to redefine and move the needle in how Australia’s petrol and convenience stores operate:

  • In today’s economic landscape, customers will often be on the lookout for a great deal. AI can help optimise pricing and promotions by analysing data from various sources – such as weather, traffic, inventory, customer behaviour and competitor activity, to dynamically adjust prices and offers based on demand, supply, and profitability. This can especially help petrol retailers maximise revenue, reduce costs, remain competitive and increase customer loyalty.
  • Similarly, AI can help in improving inventory management and replenishment by forecasting demand and optimising stock levels across different locations, categories and products – considering factors such as seasonality, trends and events. This can help retailers avoid overstocking or understocking, minimise waste and ensure the availability of the right products at the right time.
  • AI can also power conversational agents, such as chatbots and voice assistants – enabling natural language interaction, query resolution, and effectively assist with information and facilitating transactions. This can help retailers create more relevant, convenient and satisfying customer experiences.

While the possibilities with AI are endless, AI is not a futuristic concept; it is already here and is presenting numerous opportunities for a better shopping experience in convenience stores. The question is – are retailers ready to meet the changing customer demands and employee needs with the power of AI?

Avanade research shows that while 94 per cent of retailers are either very or mostly confident that their organisation is ready to harness the benefits of AI faster than competitors, there are several significant gaps that need to be addressed with the implementation of responsible AI guidelines, strategic workforce planning and training retail workers to use tools such as Copilot for Microsoft 365.

Conversations with our customers have shown that retailers are keenly aware about the benefits AI offers and are already planning a pragmatic AI adoption journey. More importantly, it has been promising to see retailers setting strong foundations for AI – with data and analytics platforms and cloud modernisation at the top of the digital investment priority list for 2024.

I’m excited to see how retailers enable enterprise-wide and store-wide technical AI integration this year. A high level of optimism combined with a strategic approach in embedding AI across all aspects of the business will be critical in building an AI-first retail world.

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