Visual AI Builds Business Intelligence for Convenience Store Operators


Whether freestanding, in a strip mall, or included as part of a fueling station or car wash footprint, the neighborhood convenience store is a staple of the modern U.S. retail ecosystem. In fact, convenience stores are so ingrained in the shopping behaviors of consumers across the country that the industry even grew throughout 2020 when most of the country was going through lockdowns and the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Data show convenience stores grew from an $848B industry in 2019 to roughly $900B in 2021, with no dropoff even through the most difficult months of the pandemic.

This growth occurred even though there is sizable competition for the food, beverage, personal care, and other grab-and-go items that are often available just as readily—and often at lower prices—in supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and drug stores located in many of the same types of retail spaces.

SparkCognition has unlocked the power of visual artificial intelligence to improve how business intelligence is gathered and applied within the fast-moving environment of a convenience store. By gathering data on customer behavior and best-selling products or alerting staff to a safety incident or other possible issues, SparkCognition Visual AI Advisor turns existing cameras into analytical tools to automatically and objectively process what’s happening in every square foot of the store.

Success means managing roles and responsibilities

Historically, convenience stores have used a number of standard, time-tested tactics to remain competitive against similar retail outlets with longer hours or 24-hour models to serve customers whenever a need arises. They also routinely alter or expand their product mixes based on demand and profitable price points.And while the name of the sector implies right from the start that customers should have a fast and easy buying experience, successful convenience stores know that creating the best possible experience for everyone who walks through their doors is a key component of building loyalty and repeat business, with data on dwell times needed to help optimize store capacity and shelf utilization.

Positive staff interactions, an intuitive and pleasant store layout, and low- or no-friction payment options are pieces of the puzzle that owners have to constantly manage to keep their store operating as profitably as possible. In a hiring environment where it is harder than ever to place and retain quality workers, managers need to know that all standard operating procedures are being followed when there is no direct supervision and that customers are being treated professionally at all times.And with the average convenience store stocking about 500 SKUs in a small commercial space, it is difficult to monitor sales velocity as closely as possible, with stock outs representing a big pain point since that prevents sales on popular, profitable items. Another hot issue: managing staffing and training, cleaning and maintenance, and the many other responsibilities that are part of a high-volume retail business.

AI watches and gathers intelligence throughout the store

AI can provide a wide range of powerful, impactful opportunities to improve the management of modern convenience stores already equipped with closed-circuit television cameras that are mostly used for after-the-fact incident analysis. By shifting to the real-time analysis and data gathering provided by SparkCognition Visual AI Advisor, these stores can achieve significant improvements in all areas of performance that result in higher customer loyalty and return business that improves profits through lower marketing costs and larger average purchases.

Visual AI Advisor has demonstrated dozens of use cases across five primary categories of health and safety, security, productivity, inspection, and situational awareness.
They include:

  • License plate recognition for alignment to loyalty programs and promotions
  • Conversion from the forecourt to store
  • Queue depth and wait time
  • Cleanliness
  • Footfall and traffic flow on the forecourt and store
  • Customer and employee behavior analytics
  • Compliance with standard operating procedures
  • Theft detection
  • Health & Safety compliance


Customers who have deployed Visual AI Advisor in hundreds of convenience stores have seen dramatic improvements in revenue growth, improvements in safety and compliance, customer experience, operational efficiency, and many other phases of their business. With the ability to gather data from a single location and track it against other stories in a region or throughout the larger company, managers get the insight they need to know if the right steps are being taken or if new safety protocols and sales tactics should be put in place.

The data gathered under the many use cases Visual AI Advisor serves can be aggregated into convenient, insightful dashboards that translate customer behaviors and repeat business into an overall satisfaction score that measures a store’s overall performance. Because repeat business is one of the most important facets of running a successful convenience store business, Visual AI Advisor provides a definitive advantage by delivering the data and business intelligence needed to achieve excellence in operations and thrive in the current retail environment.

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